Freedom of and from Religion

By Cherry, Matt | Free Inquiry, Winter 1995 | Go to article overview

Freedom of and from Religion


Cherry, Matt, Free Inquiry


Freedom of religion and belief" requires states to show equal respect for all beliefs - whether religious or nonreligious, theistic or non-theistic. It is therefore the only human right that protects humanists as humanists: it guarantees the freedom to follow and advocate humanist beliefs and prohibits states from discriminating against humanists and the nonreligious.

Michael Roan, the organizer of the conference on "Freedom of Religion or Belief and the U.N. Year for Tolerance" (see p. 19), described freedom of religion or belief as the most controversial of all the human rights recognized by the United Nations. Its contentious nature has been reflected in the history of the international instruments protecting it. There has been progress - although it has been slower and more difficult than for almost any other right - but there has also been neglect and some weakening of the right.

The right to freedom of religion or belief was first stated by the U.N. in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" in 1948. Nineteen years later it was made legally binding (for signatories) by its inclusion in the 1967 "Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," and, after nearly twenty years of drafting, the U.N. finally gave it detailed expression in the 1981 "Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief." In 1986 the U.N. Commission on Human Rights appointed a special rapporteur to investigate actions inconsistent with the 1981 Declaration and to recommend remedial measures.

Along with these positive developments there have been some steps backward. A report on the 1994 U.N. Human Rights Commission by the "International Service for Human Rights" highlighted freedom of religion and belief as perhaps the most seriously weakened area of U.N. human rights:

The subject of freedom of religion offers another example of erosion of international standards: Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration recognized the right to change one's religion. The 1967 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clarified this right in a restrictive sense, since it recognized the right to have or adopt a religion or belief. The International Declaration adopted in 1981 introduced additional restrictions, since it merely affirmed the right to have a religion. Finally the [U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993] made the exercise of religious freedom subject to compliance with national legislation. Obviously, the States condemned in the [U.N. Rapporteur's] 1994 report on religious intolerance made every effort throughout the [1994] session of the Commission to ensure that the latter confirmed the iniquitous consensus reached in Vienna. As a result, the mandate of the Rapporteur is extremely restricted.

Moreover, governments and even some human rights organizations misinterpret "freedom of religion and belief" so as to deny the rights of the nonreligious. It is often falsely argued that "freedom of religion" does not include the right to "freedom from religion," or the meaning of "belief" is misunderstood or even mistranslated. For example, the new Slovakian constitution was widely admired because it incorporated the main international human rights documents, but in translating "freedom of religion or belief" into Slovak the word for belief was changed to refer solely to "religious creed." As a result, humanists are denied the rights and protection given to religious believers in Slovakia. In other instances, instead of dropping the reference to "belief," it is argued that freedom of belief does not cover "nonbelievers" (one good reason to avoid this negative designation).

The conference on "Freedom of Religion or Belief and the U.N. Year of Tolerance" was the first such conference to include significant representation of secular humanists. I gained the impression that without our involvement the meeting would have focused on freedom of religion alone (unfortunately, this truncated description is the most common reference to the right). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Freedom of and from Religion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.