Paragraph Completion- The Essential Religious Practices Test

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Paragraph Completion - The Essential Religious Practices Test

To mediate the competing claims of individuals, communities and the state, very early on in its history, the Supreme Court invented something that it called the “essential religious practices test”. Under this test, ostensibly religious practices could gain constitutional sanction only if — in the view of the Court — they were “essential” or “integral” to the religion in question. In the beginning, the court emphasized that essential religious practices would have to be determined by taking an internal point of view, and looking to the tenets and the doctrines of the religion itself. In later years, however, the court began to take an increasingly interventionist stance, using the essential religious practices test to make wide-ranging — often untethered — claims about religions, and even trying to mold religions into more rationalistic and homogenous monoliths, while marginalizing dissident traditions.

  1. In crux, the Supreme Court rules that an essential practice, like a ritual, in pursuance of religious beliefs, is a critical aspect of the faith itself and that freedom of religion encompass this aspect.
  2. The high watermark of this approach came in 2004, when the court held that the public performance of the Tandava dance was no essential part of the religion of the Ananda Marga sect, even though it had been specifically set down as such in their holy book.
  3. For example, the landmark verdict by the Bombay High Court that women should be allowed to enter the Haji Ali sanctum was based on careful and circumspect perusal of passages from the Koran and the Hadith, material placed before it by the Dargah Trust.
  4. After all, in a society where religion and the public sphere have always been so intertwined, religious exclusion has a public character, and not just an issue of sacral traditions but one of civil rights and material and symbolic equality.
  5.  

    • Correct Answer
      Choice B

    Detailed Solution

    The paragraph describes the "essential religious practices test" adopted by the Supreme Court to determine whether religious practices under dispute are to be given constitutional sanction. According to the paragraph, "in the beginning", the Supreme Court based its decisions by taking "an internal point of view". However, in later years, the SC began to take an "increasingly interventionist stance" , using the test to marginalize dissenting traditions and mold religions into more rationalistic forms.

    Let us look at the options to complete the paragraph.

    Option A- In crux, the Supreme Court rules that an essential practice, like a ritual, in pursuance of religious beliefs, is a critical aspect of the faith itself and that freedom of religion encompass this aspect.

    This option talks of essential practices of religions. This idea is discussed first in the paragraph, but it moves on to talk about the SC’s interventionist approach in later stages. So we rule this option out.

    Option B- The high watermark of this approach came in 2004, when the court held that the public performance of the Tandava dance was no essential part of the religion of the Ananda Marga sect, even though it had been specifically set down as such in their holy book.

    This option continues the idea in the penultimate sentence that the SC is trying to “mold religions into more rationalistic and homogenous monoliths”. Even though the Tandava dance was set down as essential in the holy book of the Ananda Marga sect, the SC ruled that public performance of the dance was not. So, option B seems to be a good one to complete the paragraph.

    Option C-For example, the landmark verdict by the Bombay High Court that women should be allowed to enter the Haji Ali sanctum was based on careful and circumspect perusal of passages from the Koran and the Hadith, material placed before it by the Dargah Trust.

    This option talks of Bombay HC verdict, whereas the rest of the passage is about the Supreme Court. Further, this option does not continue the idea in the penultimate line that the SC is using its discretionary power in molding religions to more rationalistic, homogeneous forms.

    Option D- After all, in a society where religion and the public sphere have always been so intertwined, religious exclusion has a public character, and not just an issue of sacral traditions but one of civil rights and material and symbolic equality.

    This option is a close contender. However, it is limited to “religious exclusion” whereas the paragraph is more general, about contentious religious practices gaining constitutional sanction. Option B is better than option D to complete the paragraph.

    Correct Answer: Choice (b)



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