Freedom of Conscience: A ‘Western’ Value?
This chapter examines one of the great claims advanced by individuals against compelled communitarian conformity: the claim to freedom of conscience. A necessary component of the new order is flexibility on the part of states towards their citizens' increasing desire to design their own identities and to bond with various layers of affinity-based — but non-traditional — community. The precondition for realising that self-expression is a willingness of states (as well as religions and tribes) to respect individualism, conceding to persons the right to make key decisions regarding identity and to express that right in a broad range of political, cultural, social, and moral choices, including the right of exit. Unlike in the past, a formal accommodation by the state to personal individuation is now a reality. It is not even exceptional, although this transformation of expectations is not invariably evident in state practice.
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