Chapter 2. Understanding Secularism

What is Secularism?
• Indian Constitution contains Fundamental Rights that protect us against State power as well as against domination of majority.
• Indian Constitution allows individuals freedom to live by their religious beliefs and practices.
• India has adopted a strategy of separating power of religion and power of State.
• Secularism refers to separation of religion from State.

Separation of Religion from State
• most important aspect of secularism is its separation of religion from State power. It is important for a country to function democratically.
• misuse of power by majority and violation of Fundamental Rights is one reason to separate State and religion in democratic societies. This is important to separate religion from State in democratic societies is because we need to protect freedom of individuals to exit from their religion, embrace another religion or have freedom to interpret religious teachings.

Indian Secularism
• Indian Constitution mandates that Indian State be Secular.
• According to Constitution, only a secular State can realise its objectives to ensure following:

[a] that one religious community does not dominate another;

[b] that some members do not dominate other members of same religious community;

[c] that State does not enforce any particular religion nor takes away religious freedom of individuals.
• Indian State is not ruled by a religious group and nor does it support any religion.
• Government schools cannot promote any religion either in their morning prayers or through religious celebrations. This rule does not apply to private schools.
• State can make certain exceptions for particular religious communities like wearing turban by Sikh community.
• Indian Constitution grants right to religious communities to set up their own schools and colleges.

Indian Secularism vs USA
• In U.S.A. separation between State and religion means that neither State nor religion can interfere in affairs of one another, whereas in Indian Secularism State can intervene in religious affairs.
• In Indian Secularism, though State is not strictly separate from religion; it does maintain a principled distance from religion.
• This means that any interference in religion by State has to be based on ideals given in Constitution.

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