Professor Pamela Harris Participates in Conference on Religious Pluralism

Pamela Harris

Pamela Harris

Professor Pamela Harris was recently invited to participate in a conference on religious pluralism and democracy, sponsored by the Fondazione Basso, Confronti magazine, and the Italian Ministry of Justice.

The aim of the conference was to consider whether the Italian norms for the protection of religious freedom are fit for an increasingly pluralist society, and whether they respect the European norms for the protection of religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs.

The Italian approach to religious pluralism foresees bilateral agreements (Intese) between the State and different religious confessions for the purposes of public recognition, state aid and practical accommodations.  Public debate and legal challenges have revealed major limits in this system, in that the State has full political discretion to exclude even confessions as important as Islam, not to mention smaller or more heterodox religious or belief communities. Professor Harris’s talk focused on another, hitherto unremarked, problem with the Intesa system: its failure to protect those minorities within State-supported confessions, and in particular the women, LGBTQ persons and non-traditional families who challenge their traditional, patriarchal authorities. Taking an intersectional approach, this talk argued that the current Intesa system is incompatible not only with constitutional guarantees of equal religious freedom, but also with the State’s constitutional duty to remove obstacles to gender equality.

Professor Harris studied at Berkeley and Harvard Law School, and clerked at the Italian Constitutional Court. She is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at John Cabot University and teaches courses in international law, constitutional law, American government, and political theory. She writes on religious freedom in Italy and the U.S., American politics and international law.

Watch a recording of the conference.