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  • Jaclyn Neo

Secularism Without Liberalism: Religious Freedom and Secularism in a Non-Liberal State

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Michigan State Law Review 333 (2017), available at:

In this article, I engage with the question of how non-liberal regimes can protect religious freedom. I argue against a common assumption that non-liberal regimes are inimical to religious freedom, even if secular. Instead, I posit that a non-liberal order that does not fully commit to state neutrality, but permits the regulation of and interference with religion, can nonetheless be protective of religious freedom if the secularism that it practices has the following four characteristics: (1) a rejection of political dominance by any one religious group; (2) citizenship should not be conditioned on a person’s religious identity; (3) the recognition of an individual right to religious freedom, even if such a right is not regarded as fundamental; and (4) a commitment to protect religious freedom as part of the public good. One such important public good is the peaceful coexistence of religious groups. To illustrate, I employ Singapore as a key case study to draw out the potential and the limitations of such a secular but non-liberal approach.


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