Living Together with Disagreement:
Pluralism, the Secular, and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs in Law Today
Iain T. Benson
Foreword by Rocco Mimmo
Pages: 60 pages
In this incisive and thought-provoking study, legal expert Iain Benson confronts crucial and controversial issues in the relation between religion and to-day’s pluralistic, secular state. He reminds us of the original and proper sense of the “secular”, not as meaning “anti-religious” but as encompassing without prejudice differing forms of religious belief and disbelief. Analysing recent judicial pronouncements, mainly but not exclusively from his native Canada, Benson demonstrates how this correct understanding of the secular has protected religious rights in the public square by preventing a totalistic state endorsement of any one form of belief.
In the second part of his work, Benson draws on the conclusions of leading legal philosophers to show that recognizing the dignity of individuals in no way precludes open, public dissent from their views on such disputed topics as same-sex marriage. Envisaging the development of “a richer conception of diversity and genuine tolerance with an appropriately communitarian focus”, Benson also issues an important warning against emerging tendencies to constrict such diversity in the name of a pseudo-liberal uniformity.
Professor Benson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, is an academic, lecturer and practising lawyer in constitutional law and human rights with particular focus on freedoms of association, conscience and religion, the nature of pluralism, multi-culturalism and relationships between law, religion and human rights.
His PhD thesis (Wits, 2013) was entitled: “An Associational Framework for the Reconciliation of Competing Rights Claims Involving the Freedom of Religion.” He has been involved in many of the leading cases on rights of association, conscience and religion in Canada and abroad for two decades and acted for a wide variety of individuals and groups as legal counsel before all levels of court. The Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa have cited his work. His scholarly work is referred to in many books and articles and he is listed in Canada's Who’s Who.
He was one of the drafters of the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms (signed by all major religions in that country in September 2010) and remains closely involved in advancing the Charter in that country and similar projects elsewhere.
He works in English and French and divides his time between France, Canada and South Africa and now Australia. He is also a published poet.