2nd European-American Conference on Religious Freedom

Church Autonomy and Religious Liberty
May 27 to May 30 1999 in Trier / Germany


I. Church autonomy may be regarded as the right of Churches and other religious Communities to decide upon and administer their affairs independently from State Government. It thus is an expression of religious liberty in many a country. Understanding and range of Church autonomy varies considerably, though.

II. The questions that may arise in the reports could be:

  • fundamental understanding of church autonomy
  • normative frame (outspoken or implicit)
  • alternative approaches
  • main fields of interest:
    • religious teachings
    • internal organisation
    • traditional church offices
    • own jurisdiction
    • definition of "own" activities or matters of the Church
    • labour law
    • schools
    • charitable activities: hospitals, homes, kindergartens etc.
  • limits to church autonomy:
    • normative frame
    • practical issues
    • fundamental rights of others
    • rule of law
    • public policy
    • ordinary law
  • institutional range:
    • which institutions are regarded as being "church"?
    • do you distinguish between theological core institutions and others, non-directly related institutions; do they also enjoy church autonomy?
    • the status of church hospitals, schools, associations, trusts
  • contexts in public opinion and contemporary politics
  • historical and cultural preconditions
  • what kind of practical issues do occur?