Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction

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

16
The Right to Religious and
Moral Freedom
MICHAEL J. PERRYThe articulation of the right to religious and moral freedom that is set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is canonical in the sense that the great majority of the nations of the world—over 85 percent—are parties to the ICCPR: As of April 2011, 167 of the 195 countries that are members of the United Nations were parties to the ICCPR, including, as of 1992, the United States.Article 18 of the ICCPR declares:1
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.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The State’s Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.2

Note the breadth of the right that according to Article 18 “[e]veryone shall have”: the right not just to freedom of religion but also to freedom of conscience. The Article 18 “right shall include freedom to have or 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” (emphasis added). Moreover, Article 18 explicitly affirms that it is about moral as well as religious freedom when it State’s that “[t]he State parties to the [ICCPR] undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to assure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (emphasis added). So, the Article 18 right protects freedom to practice one’s morality without regard to whether one’s morality is religiously-based. Article 18 protects not only freedom

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