Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is protected in various international, regional and domestic instruments. The most significant are listed below:


United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18:

"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."


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18:

"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, whether individually or in community with others and in public and 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 States 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."


Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 14:
"1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

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."

Also Article 30:

"In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language."

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5:

"In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:

(vii) The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;"


European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9:

"1. 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.

2. 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."

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 10:

"1. 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.
2. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right."

Human Rights Act, Article 9:

"1. 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.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, or the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."


Of course, like most rights the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion does not stand alone. It is often linked with the right to freedom of opinion and expression and also the right to peaceful assembly and association. Here is a useful visual:


9 comments:

  1. Also see:

    Declaration on the Elimiation of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

    General Assembly Resolution 36/55 of 25 NOv 1981

    ReplyDelete
  2. UN General Comment No 34 (replaces General Comment No 10)

    Article 19: Freedoms of opinion and expression

    48. Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Such prohibitions must also comply with the strict requirements of article 19, paragraph 3, as well as such articles as 2, 5, 17, 18 and 26. Thus, for instance, it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.115

    http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/GC34.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  3. Liberty Guide to Article 9

    http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/the-human-rights-act/the-convention-rights/article-9-freedom-of-thought-conscience-and-religion.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Equality and Human Rights Commission guide to Article 9

    http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/the-human-rights-act/freedom-of-thought-belief-and-religion/

    ReplyDelete
  5. 'DEFAMATION OF RELIGION' Proposals

    In March 2011, the Islamic bloc droped a 12-year U.N. drive to ban defamation of religion.
    http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/03/24/islamic-bloc-drops-12-year-u-n-drive-to-ban-defamation-of-religion/ on

    ReplyDelete
  6. Useful booklet from the COE: Protecting the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion...
    http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/cooperation/capacitybuilding/Source/documentation/hb09_rightfreedom_en.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  7. Foreign & Commonwealth Office

    Info on Freedom of Religion or Belief
    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/human-rights/equality/freedom-religion/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Joint Action to Combat Racism and Xenophobia

    Objective: "To adopt rules to combat racism and xenophobia in order to prevent the perpetrators of such offences from exploiting the fact that racist and xenophobic activities are classified differently in different states by moving from one country to another in order to escape criminal proceedings or avoid serving sentences and thus pursue their activities with impunity."

    http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/combating_discrimination/l33058_en.htm

    ReplyDelete
  9. Incitement to religious hatred

    http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/right-to-receive-equal-treatment/religion-discrimination/incitement-to-religious-hatred.shtml

    ReplyDelete