Keywords: Secularism; Value Pluralism; Freedom of Conscience; Equal Respect; Conflicts of Values.
The current debate on the relation between religion and politics has not given enough space to the analysis of the status and the nature of the principles constituting secularism. In "Secularism and Freedom of Conscience" Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor attempt to put some conceptual order in this debate. They argue that equal respect and freedom of conscience are the fundamental values of secularism, and distinguish them from the neutrality of the state and the church-state separation, that are secularism's operative modes. The present paper discusses their approach and challenges the value pluralist assumptions upon which they rely for their conceptualisation. Despite the intentions of Maclure and Taylor, freedom of conscience ends not being independent from equal respect. Rather, the former is a constitutive dimension of the latter. Furthermore, the paper argues that freedom of conscience is politically irrelevant when it aims at becoming normatively independent. The more freedom of conscience achieves normative independence, the less it is significant in a discussion about the nature and the principles of secularism.