Faith, the public sphere and plurality: Anna Neumaier talks about religious freedom in Austria
In the current discussion about religious symbols in public and the involvement of religions in ethical debates, the question of the religious and ideological neutrality of the state arises. According to legal philosopher Stefan Hammer, a neutral state must not discriminate against or privilege any religion and should not interfere in religious matters. At the same time, he emphasizes that freedom of religion also includes the right to publicly express one's beliefs. The presence of religions in the public sphere can be seen at various levels, from places of worship and prayer to religious symbols that people wear in public.
The role of social media brings a new dimension to the debate, as personal discussions of faith can become publicly visible. CERES junior professor Anna Neumaier explains that social networks are blurring the distinction between public and private space. This public presence of religions is generally viewed positively, but also poses challenges, particularly with regard to the pluralization of religions and world views.
The inclusion of religious positions in opinion-forming processes, such as in the debate on assisted suicide, raises the question of how equal representation of different points of view can be guaranteed. Religious and ideological neutrality requires that different views of humanity are taken into account without excluding certain positions. A central challenge lies in the question of how the state can ensure that all religions and world views are equally represented in view of the plurality of religions and world views. The existing recognition system in Austria, which favours churches and religious communities, is viewed critically. Hammer emphasizes that the state framework law must apply equally to all, regardless of religious traditions.
You can read the article, which was published online on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, here: https://religion.orf.at/stories/3222459/.