Religious Monopolies and the Commodification of Religion


protectionism, religion, commodification, religious freedom, monopolies

Document Type



In recent years, the number of countries in which a dominant church receives state aid and other forms of preferential treatment has increased. Dominant religions and their supporters in the former Soviet bloc and elsewhere often argue that special benefits and protection are warranted based upon the unique history and contribution of the dominant church to the identity, history, and culture of the country, and the interests of the state and its citizens. Because of the distinctive status of religion and its importance to national and cultural identity, special protection, especially against foreign and other outside influence, is deemed necessary. Although the spiritual realm is putatively treated as being a special situation requiring special protection, the arguments in favor of religiousprotection bear a curious resemblance to arguments in favor of protection made by monopolists and other protected industries in the economic sphere. This article compares the arguments in favor of protection made by dominant religious groups with arguments in favor of protection by monopolists and protected industries, and concludes that in their pleas for special treatment, religious monopolists make arguments that closely parallel the arguments made by their economic counterparts. Rather than resulting in religion being treated as unique and different, protectionist arguments result in religion being treated much like any other market commodity. We conclude that because religious freedom is a fundamental human right, arguments promoting state protection of dominant religions should be viewed with suspicion.

Publication Title

Pepperdine Law Review