Inclusion and accountability in the public sphere

In his essay Religion in the Public Sphere ,” Habermas joins the debate between liberals and critics of liberalism on the proper role of religion in the public sphere. His proposal focuses on what each side of the debate gets right: the liberal emphasis on the obligation to provide nonreligious reasons in support of coercive policies with which all citizens must comply, on one side, and the critic’s insistence on the right of religious citizens to adopt their religious stance in public deliberation about such policies, on the other. Habermas agrees with the liberal position in defending the separation of church and state, and thus the institutional priority of nonreligious reasons in politics. Consequently, he accepts the Rawlsian view that nonreligious reasons must be offered to justify coercive policies in political deliberation at the institutional level of parliaments, courts, ministries and administrations, that is, in the formal public sphere. But he proposes to eliminate this requirement in the informal public sphere. Religious citizens who participate in political advocacy in the informal public sphere can offer exclusively religious reasons in support of the policies they favor in the hope that they may be translated into nonreligious reasons. But the obligation of translation should not fall exclusively on the shoulders of religious citizens, as the Rawlsian approach suggests. According to Habermas, secular citizens must share the burden of translating religious into nonreligious reasons. In order to do so, they have to take religious reasons seriously and should not deny their possible truth from the outset.
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