ReligioWest is a four year research project funded by the European Research council and based at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
It aims at studying how different western states in Europe and North America are redefining their relationship to religions, under the challenge of an increasing religious activism in the public sphere, associated with new religious movements and with Islam.
Although each country starts from very different and specific contexts of the relationship between state, religion and public sphere, this move seems to lead to a more uniform perception of what the relationship should be.
More importantly, it seems to lead to the use of a common paradigm of what religion is, with the consequence of pushing religions, through a complex array of constraints (public order) and incentives (freedom of religion), to format themselves according to this common paradigm.
But, due to the de jure or de facto separation of church and state, governments have little leverage on this process. It is made under a mix of social and political pressure (banning or not the visible signs of Islam for instance) and the promotion of a concept of freedom of religion more linked to the US common law tradition than to the European tradition of dominant or even established religions with close relations (even conflicting) with the state.