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Religion and Self-Governance: Catholicism, Islam, and the Issue of Censorship

  • Ted G. Jelen (a1)

Two aspects of democratic self-governance are analyzed: Collective self-governance, or the authority of citizens over one another, and individual self-governance, referring to the ability of each citizen to govern her/his own beliefs and actions. Individual self-governance is thought to require some level of autonomy on the part of individual citizens, and authenticity of personal preferences and desires. Beliefs about autonomy and authenticity in Roman Catholic and Islamic theology are considered, and these perspectives are applied to the problem of restricting certain types of discourse, based on the content of that discourse. While censorship if usually considered to be incompatible with democratic governance, Catholic and Islamic perspectives on individual self-governance suggest the possibility that some forms of censorship may enhance, rather than detract from citizen autonomy and authenticity, and enhance the possibility of positive collective self-governance.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ted G. Jelen, Department of Political Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154-5029. E-mail:
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A version of this paper was presented at the Symposium on Democratization, Religion, and Governance, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, December 4–5, 2015.

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Politics and Religion
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