Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction

By John Witte Jr.; M. Christian Green | Go to book overview

12
Religion, Equality, and
Non-Discrimination

NAZILA GHANEA

The rights of non-discrimination and equality have long engaged political and legal philosophers, thinkers, and practitioners alike. They serve social, economic, political, and symbolic purposes and are used as a description of facts or prescription of ideals. Though many have assumed non-discrimination and equality to reflect two sides of the same coin, closer attention suggests that the principles apply differently and sometimes even diverge. They are also construed and applied differently in different jurisdictions. Their bearing on freedom of religion or belief gives rise to particular implications. With a recent legislative and policy shift from non-discrimination to equality in a number of jurisdictions, it is timely to examine the implications of these two principles for freedom of religion or belief. Furthermore since equality and non-discrimination often provide the framework within which religion or belief exemptions are sought, and may be rejected, it is appropriate to revisit the question of religion or belief claims in this context. That is the subject matter of this chapter.


NON-DISCRIMINATION, EQUALITY, AND
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS

While the ideals of non-discrimination and equality have literary, philosophical, political, legal and other implications, this chapter focuses on the legal sphere. Within international human rights law one can, in turn, conceive of equality and non-discrimination as rights, as principles, and as cross-cutting norms. In the former capacity, they both constitute rights in themselves and they inform other rights in a cross-cutting manner. This chapter will limit itself to equality and nondiscrimination as legal rights within international human rights law, providing beneficiaries with specific legal claims.

Provisions on non-discrimination and equality have long been the sine qua non of all international human rights instruments, beginning with the initial articulation of non-discrimination in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 1966 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICCPR and ICESCR). The 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) added a recognition that discrimination may be non-formal and thus

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