Ships in the Night: Expansion of the Separation of Politics and Religion in Japan as the U.S. Supreme Court Abandons the Separation of Church and State

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned more than 50 years of precedent on the establishment of religion (commonly referred to as the separation of church and state) in a case involving sectarian Christian prayer by a public high school football coach. This follows a recent trend of moving away from separationist concepts. This shift has already begun to have a negative impact on religious minorities and nonbelievers in some parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, in Japan, recent decisions by the 最高裁判所 (Japanese Supreme Court) have continued to expand the concept of separation of politics and religion through the application of precedent to new situations. Several recent cases have involved a Shinto shrine in Sunigawa City, Hokkaido and a Confucian temple in Okinawa.
Of course, the United States and Japanese legal systems and socio-political dynamics are quite different. If anything, however, these differences should have led to the opposite result because the U.S. system has a formal reliance on court precedents while the Japanese system has no such formal requirement.

What explains this difference in outcomes? This talk will explore this fascinating question.

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Posted by IAFOR