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The expression of religious identities and the control of public space

Thompson, Simon

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Simon Thompson
Associate Professor in Political Theory


© The Author(s) 2018. To what extent may an historic nation impress its religious identity on the public space of its society? For example, does it have a right to ban the wearing of hijabs in schools, to insist on the display of crucifixes in school classrooms, or to ban the construction of minarets? My aim in this article is to critically examine the answers which liberal nationalism gives to these questions, focusing in particular on David Miller’s version of this theory. His key claim is that the religion associated with the historic nation may legitimately be given a predominant place in public space. After outlining the principal elements of Miller’s position, I shall criticise the general principle on which it is based, before challenging his views on several particular issues. My conclusion will be that, whilst the historic nation has the right to express its religious identity in the public space of its society to some degree, this right is significantly more constrained than Miller believes. Constraints are derived, in particular, from consideration of the particular nature of different kinds of public space, and consideration of what people need from such spaces, including the need for spaces in which they can express themselves and in which they can feel at home.


Thompson, S. (2019). The expression of religious identities and the control of public space. Ethnicities, 19(2), 231-250.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 10, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 12, 2018
Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 26, 2018
Journal Ethnicities
Print ISSN 1468-7968
Electronic ISSN 1741-2706
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 231-250
Keywords David Miller, crucifixes, hijabs, liberal nationalism, minarets, national identity, public space
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Copyright © 2019. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


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