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Universal Rights, Unique Circumstances

Universal Rights, Unique Circumstances

(p.195) 7 Universal Rights, Unique Circumstances
Faking Liberties
Jolyon Baraka Thomas
University of Chicago Press

The overlapping jurisdictions and universalizing rhetoric of the Occupation created a situation in which the concept of religious freedom had to change. Two governments were in charge of the same territory and population, meaning that rights had to come from someplace beyond the state. Moreover, the occupiers did not trust Japanese political leaders to continue to guarantee religious freedom once the Occupation ended. The occupiers found a solution to this twofold enforcement problem through an outreach program premised on the intertwined notions that all humans were inherently religious and that religiosity preceded (or superseded) national citizenship. Through popular media and public-facing outreach lectures explaining the American-drafted constitution that had been promulgated in November 1946, Japanese legal experts and scholars of religion helped the occupiers frame religious freedom as innate, universal, and unquestionable. But while religious freedom appeared in this discourse as a universal human right rather than as a parochial civil liberty, stakeholders continued to discriminate between what they saw as "good" and "bad" types of religion, effectively circumscribing the scope of the supposedly inalienable right. Simultaneously, American political leaders weaponized the ostensibly pacifistic concept of religious-freedom-as-human-right, making it a powerful ideological tool for their battles against "godless communism" worldwide.

Keywords:   religious freedom, human rights, constitution, religious studies, Kishimoto Hideo, communism

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