International Ambassadors, November 2018

A talk about the ongoing work of the Religious Liberty & COVID-19 Research Project

4 min read

Chaired by  Leïla Choukroune, Professor of International Law and Director of the University of Portsmouth Thematic Area in Democratic Citizenship, and presented by Dr Alexis Artaud de La Ferrière , Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Portsmouth.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the globe have implemented unprecedented restrictions on public religious gatherings, communal religious practices, and access to religious spaces.

Whilst all state curtailments of rights and liberties merit critical scrutiny as to their legality and their legitimacy, restrictions imposed upon religious freedoms raise (at least) three specific concerns. First, in cases where individuals consider access to religious spaces and participation in communal religious practices to constitute a moral obligation, such limitations may constitute a violation of their moral autonomy, conscience, and dignity – or may violate the religious autonomy of the religious community as a whole. Second, and relatedly, collective religious practices have been shown to play a uniquely powerful role in individuals’ sense of self due to the compelling affective experiences and the moral authority associated with religious group membership. Third, the State’s valuation of certain gatherings as “essential,” such as shopping, manufacturing, or airline travel, at times leaves religious gatherings in a less-favoured category. It is incumbent upon religious persons to recognize that the right to the free exercise of worship is not absolute. At the same time, it is also imperative for the state to recognise that the practice of worship is fundamental for the spiritual, mental, and social wellbeing of many of their citizens. When the state uses force to outlaw what religion prescribes, without adequately considering these points, these two spheres of authority can come into collision, raising the risk of civic disaffection and conflict.

In this webinar Dr Alexis Artaud de La Ferrière presents the ongoing work of the Religious Liberty & COVID-19 Research Project, which he runs with Nicholas Miller (Andrews University). This project brings together an interdisciplinary group of international scholars and lawyers who seek to monitor the impact of public health guidelines and restrictions on the worship and faith practices of religious groups and individuals.

More information about the project

Preliminary publications:

Coronavirus: how new restrictions on religious liberty vary across Europe

Religion et sécularisme au temps du coronavirus

Stratégies des acteurs religieux face au Covid-19 : esquisse d’une typologie

Déconfinement : le jeu délicat de la France avec les libertés de culte


Dr Alexis Artaud de La Ferrière is Senior Lecturer in Sociology. Prior to joining the University of Portsmouth in 2020, he was Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS, University of London. Alexis obtained his BA in Philosophy and English at the University of Sheffield. He pursued his MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge, where he also worked as Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of International Relations in the Middle East and North Africa (CIRMENA).