Among law scholars, religious supremacy clauses have a bad name. This is because scholars assume that special constitutional protections for a single religion (e.g. Islam) necessarily give unfair legal advantages and social benefits to the members of those religious communities. Yet, how reliable is this assumption? Are religious supremacy clauses always an unequivocal boon for majority religious groups?

Drawing on my recent book, this talk explores this question in the context of Sri Lanka, a country that, for the last four decades, has given Buddhism special constitutional status. Through an analysis of Buddhist doctrine, monastic life, legal theory and methodological trends in comparative constitutional scholarship, I aim to challenge existing wisdom about religious supremacy clauses while also urging scholars to rethink the assumed binary opposition between secular constitutions and religious constitutions. 


Dr. Benjamin Schonthal
Senior Lecturer in Buddhism / Asian Religions
Associate Dean (International), Humanities Division
Religion Programme
University of Otago


Level 2, Forgan Smith Building (#1)
The University of Queensland, St Lucia
Sir Harry Gibbs Moot Court (W247)