CU-Boulder: The Church, the State, and the Emergence of Religious Freedom

Benson Center: “The Church, the State, and the Emergence of Religious Freedom”


On March 11, 2021, the Benson Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder will host JMC fellow Noel Johnson for a lecture on religious liberty and its relation to the rule of law and free markets:

Why were restrictions on religious liberty so pervasive in the past? Why did states persecute religious dissent? And how did religious freedom first emerge? These questions are of seminal importance for understanding the rise of modern states, liberalism, and the rule of law. In this talk, Dr. Johnson explains how the relationship between religion and state evolved over time in Western Europe. In the Middle Ages, the most common rules were identity rules—rules that treated individuals differently based on their identity. These identity rules facilitated the persecution of Europe’s Jewish communities. One of the unintended consequences of state building during the early-modern period was that rulers gradually abandoned identity rules in favor more general rules. This shift played a critical role in the development of liberal states, rule of law, and free and flourishing markets.

Thursday, March 11, 2021 • 6:00 PM MST
A virtual event

Free and open to the public, registration required.

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Noel JohnsonNoel Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Economics Department at George Mason University. He is also a member of the Center for the Study of Public Choice and a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center. He earned his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. His interests lie at the intersection of economic history, development, and the new institutional economics. Professor Johnson’s recent research has explored how states build administrative and fiscal capacity; the relationship between state capacity and growth enhancing economic and social outcomes such as religious tolerance or free trade; and how the disease environment has affected economic and social outcomes.

Professor Johnson is a JMC fellow.

Learn more about Noel Johnson >>



The Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization promotes critical reflection on the distinctive traditions and political perspectives that characterize Western Civilization. The Center encourages residents of Colorado and the United States to more fully understand and appreciate their past, their future and a free and creative American society within an International environment. Integral to this mission is the Center’s commitment to fostering research, debate and dialogue about the fundamental ideals of our time. Its efforts are grounded in academic research and study that foster an understanding of the historical context of Western Civilization. The Center focuses on and explores the values that grow out of historical Western traditions and trace their influence on the world, and, in particular, to study their role in the foundations and ongoing institutions of the United States.

Learn more about the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization >>




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