Accepted paper:

An examination of instrumentalization of religious liberty and the rule of law in African cultures through the harm principle


Modestus Onyeaghalaji (University of Lagos)
Friday Ndubuisi (University of Lagos, Nigeria)

Paper short abstract:

The paper employs the harm principle, basic to the infrastructure of African cultural values to examine the grounds and impacts of the tension caused by instrumentalization of religious liberty on African cultural realities within the context of rule of law.

Paper long abstract:

True religious liberty recognizes the total right of belief and at the same time, the necessary power of the society to regulate religious conduct and serve the public good. However, driven by desire for power and self-interest, religious liberty becomes instrumentalized and thereby creates tension between religious right and other rights, such as right of individuals to be free from harm, and the rule of law; the tension also exists among African cultural and 'moral tribes' constituting both cultural disruptions and new waves of social relations. The paper examines the grounds and impacts of this tension on African cultural and social realities through the moral perspective of harm principle essential to the infrastructure of African cultural values. It reveals that there are some interests that trump religious conduct in a just and free society. Therefore, using the harm principle, drawn from African cultures as a framework, it argues that some religious conducts require limitation. Thus, to achieve a balance, right to belief in contemporary Africa would require subjecting entities to the rule of law unless they can prove that exempting them will cause no harm to others.

panel Rel04
Gathering and separating in the name of god? Instrumentalization of religious rights in contemporary Africa