State of the Art Report: The Public Space. The Formal and Substantive Neutrality of the Public Sphere

Silvio Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli
RELIGARE State of the Art Report

The public space issue cannot be appropriately addressed without keeping into account these three different perspectives. This is why WP5 has chosen, as case-studies, the dress codes (that are relevant both to the spatial and to the personal approach) and the religiously oriented private schools (that are relevant to the functional approach). But why to include a third case-study, the places of worship? Places of worship are the most visible manifestation of religion in the public space (in the sense of streets and squares). In theory, building a place of worship should be a no-problem issue: as this type of public space is accessible to all, all religious communities should be entitled to have their own places of worship, provided they respect some general rules concerning safety, health, etc. In practice, it is not so: almost everywhere in Europe building a Muslim mosque or a Jehovah Witnesses’ temple is much more difficult than building a Catholic (or Orthodox or Protestant) church and some countries (Switzerland, the Carinthian region of Austria ) have recently limited the right to build a place of worship according to the architectural canons that are traditional in some religions. The place of worship issue is a privileged observatory to study how much the accessibility of the public space –even in its part that should be open to all without limitations- is questioned in a society that is not accustomed to religious plurality.

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