Nationalism, Secularism and Liberal Neutrality: The Danish Case of Judges and Religious Symbols

Les ateliers de l'éthique/The Ethics Forum 6 (2):107-125 (2011)
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In 2009, a law was passed in the Danish parliament, according to which judges cannot wear religious symbols in courts of law. First, I trace the development of this legislation from resistance to Muslim religious practices on the nationalist right to ideas in mainstream Danish politics about secularism and state neutrality – a process I refer to as ‘liberalization’. Second, I consider the plausibility of such liberal justifications for restrictions on religious symbols in the public sphere and, in particular, for the ban on the wearing of religious symbols by judges. I argue that such justifications are flawed and so are not plausible corollaries of anti-Islamic justifications originating on the nationalist right.

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Nils Holtug
University of Copenhagen


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