Common principles, different histories: Understanding religious liberty in the united states and France: R. Laurence Moore

Modern Intellectual History 7 (2):459-478 (2010)

Abstract
In her book Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum joins a chorus of American intellectuals who have criticized France and other European nations for their failure to embrace the concept of cultural pluralism. In Nussbaum's opinion, the meaning that the French attach to egalité has remained stuck in circumstances peculiar to the eighteenth century. The concept is outdated and has not in the contemporary world been able to protect cultural diversity in general and religious diversity in particular. Her book takes to task what she terms “the French tradition of “coercive assimilation” that is insensitive to what George Washington stressed as the “‘delicacy and tenderness’ that is owed to other people's ‘conscientious scruples.’” The French refusal to allow Muslim schoolgirls to cover their heads with a foulard, however stylish it might be, is linked back to the French emancipation of Jews that required, in Nussbaum's analysis, a heavy requirement of cultural erasure. The French, like most Europeans, grew used to the idea “that citizens are all alike,” an idea that now haunts France as it tries to figure out what to do with its Muslim population
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DOI 10.1017/S1479244310000168
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