„Neutral State? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Autonomy of Religion, Art and Science” Conference of the RaT-Cluster "Transformations of Law between Religion and Society"

When: 19–20 June 2023
Where: 19 June: University of Vienna, Main Building, Dekanatssaal of the Faculty of Catholic Theology, 20 June: University of Vienna, Juridicum, Dachgeschoss.

The detailed program can be found here.



Conference report:

Disputed Neutrality

From June 19 to 20, the conference "Neutral State? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Autonomy of Religion, Art and Science" organized by the research cluster "Transformations of Law in Religion and Society" of the Research Centre RaT took place in the already midsummer hot Vienna. The aim of the event, which was organized under the direction of Prof. Stefan Hammer (Department of Legal Philosophy) and Prof. Andreas Kowatsch (Department of Canon Law and Law on Religion), was to bring experts from the three fields into conversation with each other and to offer an insight into current debates and problems. What they all have in common is their claim to autonomy and the resulting tense relationship with the state (a particularly virulent example of this is the measures taken to combat the Corona pandemic in recent years).

This constellation opens up a wide range of questions, which the contributions to the conference attempted to approach from a variety of perspectives: While some contributions were dedicated to the claims to autonomy and the resulting old and new challenges from the internal perspective of the respective spheres (such as Jakob Deibl on art, Marie-Luisa Frick on the field of science, and Marcello Neri from the perspective of Catholic theology), others went in search of commonalities and differences between the various fields (such as Reinhold Esterbauer from a theological-philosophical perspective, Stefan Hammer from a constitutional-theoretical perspective, and Astrid Mattes from a political-scientific perspective and on the basis of current examples of the Austrian debate). Another focus of the conference was the legal perspective on the title-giving concept of state neutrality (according to Markus Müller in the mode of critical questioning, while Andreas Kowatsch's contribution dealt with the legal situation in Austria as well as with the many legal facets of the concept of neutrality). Finally, representatives from different fields discussed the current challenges and problems from the perspective of everyday practice (Cornelia Offergeld from the field of art, Imet Mehmedi from the perspective of the Free Alevi Faith Community and Dieter Beck from the Protestant church in Austria; the discussion was moderated by Katharina Limacher).

From the many knowledgeable contributions and the lively discussion, two points in particular emerged as decisive: First, under the current legal and social conditions, skepticism about the possibilities of religious-ideological neutrality of the state is necessary. Second, there is a crisis in the claim to autonomy of the various fields, but especially of science: Self-determination is visibly coming under pressure under the increasing economic-political dependencies.This shows how important it is to critically question the concepts of autonomy and neutrality again and again.

The contributions will be published in a volume of the RaT print series.