Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction

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

15
Permissible Limitations on the
Freedom of Religion or Belief
T. JEREMY GUNNThe most important international conventions, treaties, and instruments promoting human rights emerged following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. During the phase of the human rights movement following the UDHR, the principal focus of public attention was on the language in human rights texts that identified the rights of people. These included, for example, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, and the freedom of religion and belief. Over time, attention has increasingly shifted from the description of rights to the language in conventions that identifies the restrictions that State’s may impose on the exercise of rights. These portions of human rights conventions that set out the circumstances under which a state may justifiably restrict the exercise of rights are commonly referred to as “limitations clauses.” This chapter provides an overview of the principal issues that arise under the limitations clauses related to the freedom of religion and belief.
THE MEANING OF “LIMITATIONS CLAUSES”

Granting Clauses
International human rights conventions and constitutions of countries of the world often include protections for the freedom of religion and belief. Such rights are identified in what may be called “granting clauses,” which identify the scope and breadth of the right.1 The granting clause for freedom of religion in Article 18 of the 1948 UDHR provides, for example, that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”The relevant granting clause of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) similarly provides in Article 18 that:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

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