ABSTRACT: This paper examines several instances in which the law has had a pronounced impact on minority religions, a term used herein to include both older and newer small religious faiths. It employs examples of practices and even beliefs that have been negatively impacted by legal action, as individuals or governments have attempted to exert social control on newer faithsa process referred to as ““affirmative discrimination”” by Thomas Robbins and James Beckford.1 In addition, the paper describes instances in which laws and legal protections have been used in ““positive”” manners by minority religious groups in attempts to accomplish the objectives of group leaders. The examples used demonstrate that minority faiths operate in a changeable legal environment, a fact that must be taken into account if we are to understand minority faiths in any modern society.2 Even in the U. S., with its constitutional protections for freedom of religion, governments are able to exert considerable managerial or regulatory controls over new faiths, especially if they become controversial in the eyes of societal power brokers and the public.3 In other societies without such enforced constitutional protections, minority faiths are even more vulnerable to management by governmental bureaucracies.
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Research Article| October 01 1998
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James T. Richardson; Law and Minority Religions: ““Positive”” and ““Negative”” Uses of the Legal System. Nova Religio 1 October 1998; 2 (1): 93–107. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.19184.108.40.206
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