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Keywords:

  • multiculturalism;
  • religion;
  • law;
  • family;
  • toleration;
  • transformative accommodation

In the context of the current debate on multiculturalism, this article draws on three models of state policies towards families to propose a reframing of multiculturalist policies. They are the ‘authorisation’ model, wherein the state authorises families to define and enforce family obligations as law; the ‘delegation’ model, wherein the state prescribes the norms families are to follow and delegates to families the role of enforcing them; and the ‘purposive abstention’ model, wherein the state uses the voluntary performance family norms as a tool of policy, giving them limited legal recognition within the continued application of the general law. The article considers how these models might guide policy towards communities, which can be seen, substantially, as collections of families. It favours the ‘purposive abstention’ model, which, in the context of cultural groups, could be termed ‘cultural voluntarism’.