"BETWEEN FREEDOM AND EQUALITY: How resolve conflicts between state law and religious practice in relation to gender and sexual orientation?"


Here follows a short presentation of Plesner's postdoc project: Gender roles and sexual orientation are among the most controversial issues in faith communities. In many such questions at least the leadership of religious groups has positions, based on their interpretation of the religious doctrine, that differ from the general state approach enshrined in law. According to national and international law the state is committed to respect and promote non-discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. The official doctrine and the practice of many faith communities express, however, the belief that same-sex partnership is against nature and the will of God, and that the roles and rights of women are different from those of men.

What positions should modern states take with regard to religious practices based on norms that are said to conflict with the national law, e.g. in relation to equal treatment on the basis of gender and sexual orientation? Is it legitimate - or perhaps necessary - for the state to prohibit such religious practices, or should the state passively accept or even accommodate them? These are the main questions of this project.

As a point of departure for my discussion I shall discuss whether – on the basis of both consequentialist and deontological moral theory – states should have to balance the three main concerns listed in part 2 of this paper in order to find legitimate ways of dealing with the legal and ethical dilemmas deriving from conflicts between law and religion.

I will focus on the fields of labour law and family law dealing with conflicts between state norms (law) and religious norms, in particular:

- labour law regulations and other laws concerning the self-determination of faith communities in employment (regarding especially non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender in relation to employment in various positions within the faith community)
- family law regulations on partnership and marriage (e.g. differences between state and religious approaches to same-sex partnership and marriages and divorce rights for women inside faith communities)



ingvill thorson plesner


Plesner is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights

Postal address:
University of Oslo
Faculty of Law, NCHR
Postboks 6706, St.Olavs Plass
0130 OSLO

Visiting address:
Cort Adelers gate 30

E-post: i.t.plesner@nchr.uio.no

Tel: + 47 22842021 (direct)
Tel: + 47 22842001 (reception)
Fax: + 47 22842002
Mobile: +47 97728290 (private)


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