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Secular Crosses and the Neutrality of Secularism: Reflections on the Demands of Neutrality and its Consequences for Religious Symbols—the European Court of Human Rights in Lautsi and the U.S. Supreme Court in Salazar

Posted by on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Notes, Vol. 45 No. 3.

This Note discusses analogous themes in two religious public display cases, Lautsi v. Italy, recently decided by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and Salazar v. Buono, recently handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Broader critiques of ECHR religious jurisprudence are addressed in the context of the interpretation and application of the principle of neutrality and the argument that secularism is not a necessary postulate of this demand. It is this theme of the relationship between neutrality and secularism that is also prominent in the American discussion about the relationship between government and religion. Finally, this Note returns to Lautsi’s themes as they are present in the American context to contend that applications of secularism and neutrality to the public square work against a preferable notion of constitutional pluralism that favors neither religious nor nonreligious public displays. The debate surrounding the Lautsi decision, particularly in its earlier iteration before the Grand Chamber’s most recent decision, provides a valuable lens for scrutinizing U.S. neutrality. True pluralism maintains an equivocal demeanor with respect to both religious and nonreligious public displays. This Note offers the Lautsi case’s context as a useful space in which to gain an outsider perspective with respect to how pluralism functions in U.S. religious display cases.


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