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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.34 n.1 Pretoria  2008


The state of exception and religious freedom: Revisiting the church-state confrontation correspondence and statements of 1988



Robert Vosloo

Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa




This article revisits the documentation related to the church-state confrontation of 1988 with the aim of showing how it reflects different views on the prophetic role of the church in society, as well as different presuppositions regarding freedom of faith and worship. After a discussion of the polemical 1988 correspondence between church leaders and the State President, the second part of the article attends to the thought of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, and more specifically to his provocative discussion of the notions of "homo sacer" and "state of exception". The last part of the article brings aspects of Agamben's thought into conversation with the church-state correspondence of 1988 in order to argue for an understanding of freedom of religion that encompasses the freedom of the church to speak prophetically against any attempt by the state to normalise a state of exception that threatens vulnerable life.



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