"How Can a State Have a Religious Identity and Remain Democratic: the European Model?" Prof. Joseph Weiler, President of the European University Institute

Author: Law School



"How Can a State Have a Religious Identity and Remain Democratic: the European Model?"

     Prof. Dr. Joseph H. H. Weiler

President of the European University Institute , Florence

European Union Jean Monnet Chair at New York University Law School

23 March 2015 11:00

Founder’s Hall 



There is a common misconception that the European approach to the relationship between “Church & State” is one that regards religion as a private affair and that, whereas it is the duty of the State to guarantee freedom of religion, the State itself has to be laique – secular. As a matter of constitutional theory, and part of that misconception, is the notion that laicite – the secular State – is a position of neutrality and that, indeed, it is a constitutional imperative of neutrality which makes the laique State the only acceptable model within the common understanding of liberal democracies.

The purpose of the lecture is to dispel these misconceptions and to outline a far more nuanced European approach to be found both in the practice of European States and in constitutional theory. 


J.H.H. Weiler is President of the European University Institute (EUI). Previously he served as Professor of Law and Jean Monnet Chair at Harvard Law School and subsequently as Director of the Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law. Weiler is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) and the International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON). Weiler is also an Honorary Professor at University College London, the University of Copenhagen, and the National University of Singapore, and Co-Director of the Academy of International Trade Law in Macao, China. He holds a PhD. in European Law from the EUI, Florence and honorary degrees from various European universities. He is the author of several books and articles in the field of European integration, notably The Constitution of Europe: "Do the new clothes have an emperor?” (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., translated into 7 languages) and L'Europe chrétienne ? : une excursion (Cerf, Paris, translated into 9 languages).