Winter 2015

Religion and Diversity Project E-Journal

Regulating Religion


Click here to access the articles.

It is with great pleasure that we present this issue of the E-Journal – Regulating religion; the first issue entirely in French. The three articles published this month were first presented during a colloquium entitled “Religion dans la sphère publique” that was held as part of the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS) Congress in Montréal in May 2014. This event brought together students working with the Religion and Diversity Project or working on the topic of contemporary demonstrations of the religious through field studies in Europe, North America, Asia or the Middle-East. This comparative and interdisciplinary perspective not only sheds light on the main issues related to the relation between religion, civil society and the state, but also allows us to put into perspective the debates on the management of religion that shook the province of Québec in 2014.

This issue offers three articles that address methodological and conceptual issues related to the contemporary regulation of the religious in Québec and in Canada. The article by Bertrand Lavoie adopts a socio-legal perspective to explore two approaches used in Canadian constitutional law to regulate and contain religious freedom. The first approach, which remains a majority approach, recognises religious expression as a personal identity and uses a  “justification by conceptualisation” in order to limit religious freedom. The second approach, which is a minority approach, recognises the social and objective dimension of religious freedom and uses a “justification by reference” in order to limit religious freedom. Through this discussion, the author demonstrates that Canadian constitutional law is marked by discordant dynamics when it comes to religious freedom. In other words, the limits imposed to religious freedom and the justifications of these limits are far from being fixed, but seem to change according to the decisions and the socio-legal and political Canadian context.

The article by Raphaël Legault-Laberge deals with the topic of the regulation of the religious in Canada from a micro and anthropological perspective. The article starts with an original object of study – road space – and explores how this area can be a space of negotiation and regulation of the religious. The author sheds light on this topic by studying members of the Old Order in Ontario for whom their faith, among other things, prohibits them from owning a car, forcing them to travel by carriage. The article clearly and persuasively outlines the negotiation process between the members of the Old Order and the state, both called upon to make concessions. The state is able to include an atypical practice in its standard while the members of the Old Order agree to modify the carriages in order to meet the requirements of the highway code.

Finally, the article by Stéphanie Gravel explores certain methodological issues faced by researchers conducting fieldwork in religious studies. The author’s interest lies in questions related to a researcher’s neutrality and objectivity. She invites us to think about these questions through her doctoral research that focuses on the implementation of the requirements of impartiality that must be met by high school teachers teaching the new Ethique et culture religieuse (ECR) programme established by the Quebec Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport. Stéphanie Gravel discusses and reflects on the methodological concerns that arose from her field research with teachers and that are linked to her own objectivity and impartiality as a researcher. Her article reminds us of the importance to reflect on the relation between our own subjectivity and our object of study; a reflection that allows a certain level of transparency when presenting research results.

Happy reading!


Amélie Barras and Julia Martínez-Ariño
January 27, 2015