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Abstract

As the product of liberalism's first encounter with the theoretical problems posed by legal discrimination and unequal treatment of minority groups, Locke's argument for religious toleration foreshadowed contemporary democratic theory's emphasis on non-coercive discussion of diverse rights claims and broadly inclusive public deliberations. This study tries to illuminate the democratic dimension of Locke's toleration theory by focusing on his crucial account of the church as a voluntary association. Here Locke presented discursive possibilities for the articulation of diverse beliefs and interests that he believed would not only benefit both society as a whole and the minority religious groups contained in it, but also weave principles of contestation and deliberation into the very fabric of the liberal polity.