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Freedom of religion

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Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion.[1] Freedom of religion is considered by many people and nations to be a fundamental human right.[2] Thomas Jefferson said (1807) "among the inestimable of our blessings, also, is that ...of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; ..."[3]

In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths.


History of freedom of religion

Minerva as a symbol of enlightened wisdom protects the believers of all religions (Daniel Chodowiecki, 1791)
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) guarantees freedom of religion, as long as religious activities do not infringe on public order in ways detrimental to society.

Historically freedom of religion has been used to refer to the tolerance of different theological systems of belief, while freedom of worship was defined as freedom of individual action. Each of these have existed to varying degrees. While many countries have accepted some form of religious freedom, this has also often been limited in practice through punitive taxation, repressive social legislation, and political disenfranchisement. Compare examples of individual freedom in Italy or the Muslim tradition of dhimmis, literally "protected individuals" professing an officially tolerated non-Muslim religion.


Freedom of religious worship was established in the Maurya Empire of ancient India by Asoka the Great in the 3rd century BC, which was encapsulated in the Edicts of Ashoka.

In Antiquity a syncretic point-of-view often allowed communities of traders to operate under their own customs. When street mobs of separate quarters clashed in a Hellenistic or Roman city, the issue was generally perceived to be an infringement of community rights. The Greek-Jewish clashes at Cyrene and Alexandria provided one example of cosmopolitan cities as scenes of tumult.

Some of the historical exceptions have been in regions where one of the revealed religions has been in a position of power: Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Others have been where the established order has felt threatened, as shown in the trial of Socrates or where the ruler has been deified, as in Rome, and refusal to offer token sacrifice was similar to refusing to take an oath of allegiance. This was the core for resentment and the persecution of early Christian communities.

Religious freedom for Muslims, Jews and pagans was declared in the Constitution of Medina by Muhammad in the 7th century AD. The Islamic Caliphate later guaranteed religious freedom under the conditions that non-Muslim communities accept dhimmi (protected) status and their adult males pay the jizya tax as a substitute for the zakat paid by Muslim citizens.


The cross of the war memorial and a menorah for Hanukkah coexist in Oxford.

The Norman Kingdom of Sicily under Roger II was characterized by its multi-ethnic nature and religious tolerance. Normans, Jews, Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards and "native" Sicilians lived in harmony.[4][5] Rather than exterminate the Muslims of Sicily, Roger II's grandson Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1215—1250) allowed them to settle on the mainland and build mosques. Not least, he enlisted them in his — Christian — army and even into his personal bodyguards.[6]

After the fall of the city of Granada Spain in 1492 the Muslim population was promised religious freedom by the Treaty of Granada, but that promise was short-lived. In 1501 Granada's Muslims were given an ultimatum to either convert to Christianity or to emigrate. The majority converted, but only superficially, continuing to dress and speak as they had before and to secretly practice Islam. The Moriscos (converts to Christianity) were ultimately expelled from Spain between 1609 (Castile) and 1614 (rest of Spain), by Philip III.

The Roman Catholic Church kept a tight rein on religious expression throughout the Middle Ages. Jews were alternately tolerated and persecuted, the most notable examples of the latter being the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492. Some of those who remained and converted were tried as heretics in the Inquisition for allegedly practicing Judaism in secret. Despite the persecution of Jews, they were the most tolerated non-Catholic faith in Europe.

However, the latter was in part a reaction to the growing movement that became the Reformation. As early as 1380, John Wycliffe in England denied transubstantiation and began his translation of the Bible into English. He was condemned in a Papal Bull in 1410, and all his books were burned.

In 1414 Jan Hus, a Bohemian preacher of reformation, was given a safe conduct by the Holy Roman Emperor to attend the Council of Constance. Not entirely trusting in his safety, he made his will before he left. His forebodings proved accurate, and he was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. The Council also decreed that Wycliffe's remains be disinterred and cast out. This decree was not carried out until 1429.

Martin Luther published his famous 95 Theses in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. His aim was to stop the sale of indulgences and reform the Church from within, but this was not the result. In 1521 he was given the chance to recant at the Diet of Worms before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, then only 19. After he refused to recant he was declared heretic. Partly for his own protection, he was sequestered on the Wartburg in the possessions of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, where he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated by Papal Bull in 1521.

The Protestant movement, however, continued to gain ground in his absence and spread to Switzerland. Huldrych Zwingli preached reform in Zürich from 1520 to 1523. He opposed the sale of indulgences, celibacy, pilgrimages, pictures, statues, relics, altars, and organs. This culminated in outright war between the Swiss cantons that accepted Protestantism and the Catholics. The Catholics were victorious, and Zwingli was killed in battle in 1531. The Catholic cantons were magnanimous in victory.

In the meantime, in Germany Philip Melanchthon drafted the Augsburg Confession as a common confession for the Lutherans and the free territories. It was presented to Charles V in 1530.

The defiance of Papal authority proved contagious, and in 1533, when Henry VIII of England was excommunicated for his divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn, he promptly established a state church with bishops appointed by the crown. This was not without internal opposition, and Thomas More, who had been his Lord Chancellor, was executed in 1535 for opposition to Henry.

In 1535 the Swiss canton of Geneva became Protestant. In 1536 the Bernese imposed the reformation on the canton of Vaud by conquest. They sacked the cathedral in Lausanne and destroyed all its art and statuary. John Calvin, who had been active in Geneva was expelled in 1538 in a power struggle, but he was invited back in 1540.

A U.S. Postage Stamp commemorating religious freedom and the Flushing Remonstrance.

The same kind of seesaw back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism was evident in England when Mary I of England returned that country briefly to the Catholic fold in 1553 and persecuted Protestants. However, her half-sister, Elizabeth I of England was to restore the Church of England in 1558, this time permanently, and began to persecute Catholics again. The King James Bible commissioned by King James I of England and published in 1611 proved a landmark for Protestant worship, with official Catholic forms of worship being banned.

Hungarian historians consider the first full religious freedom law to be the "act rank" created by Edict of Turda in Transylvania in 1568. However, this law sets a two-level, unequal playing field, by declaring the religions of the Hungarian, székely and Saxons the equivalent of a state religion, while the Orthodox is conferred only "tolerated" status.

In the Union of Utrecht, January 20, 1579 personal freedom of religion was declared in the struggle between the Northern Netherlands and Spain. The Union of Utrecht was an important step in the establishment of the Dutch Republic (from 1581 to 1795). The establishment of a Jewish community in the Netherlands and New Amsterdam (present day New York)during the Dutch republic is an example of the freedom of religion. When New Amsterdam surrendered to the English in 1664, the freedom of religion was guarantied in the Articles of Capitulation.

Intolerance of dissident forms of Protestantism also continued, as evidenced by the exodus of the Pilgrims who sought refuge, first in the Netherlands, and ultimately in America, founding the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia was involved in a case which had a profound effect upon future American law and those of England. In a classic case of jury nullification the jury refused to convict William Penn of preaching a Quaker sermon, which was illegal. Even though the jury was imprisoned for their acquittal, they stood by their decision and helped establish the freedom of religion.

In the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V agreed to tolerate Lutheranism in 1555 at the Peace of Augsburg. Each state was to take the religion of its prince, but within those states, there was not necessarily religious tolerance. Citizens of other faiths could relocate to a more hospitable environment.

In 1558 the Transylvanian Diet of Turda declared free practice of both the Catholic and Lutheran religions, but prohibited Calvinism. Ten years later, in 1568, the Diet extended the freedom to all religions, declaring that "It is not allowed to anybody to intimidate anybody with captivity or expelling for his religion". The Edict of Turda is considered by mostly Hungarian historians as the first legal guarantee of religious freedom in the Christian Europe.

In France, although peace was made between Protestants and Catholics at the Treaty of Saint Germain in 1570, persecution continued, most notably in the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day on August 24, 1572, in which many Protestants throughout France were killed. It was not until the converted Protestant prince Henry IV of France came to the throne that religious tolerance was formalized in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. It would remain in force for over 80 years until its revocation in 1685 by Louis XIV of France. Intolerance remained the norm until the French Revolution, when state religion was abolished and all Church property confiscated.

Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) enjoyed religious freedom between 1436 and 1620, and became one of the most liberal countries of the Christian world during that period of time. The so-called Basel Compacts of 1436 declared the freedom of religion and peace between Catholics and Utraquists. In 1609 Emperor Rudolf II granted Bohemia greater religious liberty with his Letter of Majesty. The privileged position of the Catholic Church in the Czech kingdom was firmly established after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Gradually freedom of religion in Bohemian lands came to an end and Protestants fled or were expelled from the country. A devout Catholic, Emperor Ferdinand II forcibly converted Austrian and Bohemian Protestants.


Poland has a long tradition of religious freedom. This is first evident in the refusal of Poland to force Christianity upon the Old Prussian people, but rather persuading them peacefully (these were later almost completely wiped out by the German Teutonic Order). The right to worship freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the Commonwealth throughout the 15th and early 16th century, however, complete freedom of religion was officially recognized in Poland in 1573 during the Warsaw Confederation. Poland remained with the religious freedom laws during an era when religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of Europe.[7]

The General Charter of Jewish Liberties known as the Statute of Kalisz was issued by the Duke of Greater Poland Boleslaus the Pious on September 8, 1264 in Kalisz. The statute served as the basis for the legal position of Jews in Poland and led to creation of the Yiddish-speaking autonomous Jewish nation until 1795. The statute granted exclusive jurisdiction of Jewish courts over Jewish matters and established a separate tribunal for matters involving Christians and Jews. Additionally, it guaranteed personal liberties and safety for Jews including freedom of religion, travel, and trade. The statute was ratified by subsequent Polish Kings: Casimir III of Poland in 1334, Casimir IV of Poland in 1453 and Sigismund I of Poland in 1539. The Commonwealth set a precedent by allowing Jews to become ennobled.

United States

See also: Freedom of Religion in the United States

Some of the early colonies, which were founded as a result of religious persecution, were not tolerant of dissident forms of worship. For example, Roger Williams found it necessary to found a new colony in Rhode Island to escape persecution in the theocratically dominated colony of Massachusetts.

It was not until the 18th century that Enlightenment concepts of freedom of individual worship gained ground both in Europe and America.

The modern legal concept of religious freedom as the union of freedom of belief and freedom of worship with the absence of any state-sponsored religion, originated in the United States of America[citation needed].

This issue was addressed by Thomas Paine in his pamphlet, Common Sense (1776):

"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith…

The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed:

"[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

The United States formally considers religious freedom in its foreign relations. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which investigates the records of over 200 other nations with respect to religious freedom, and makes recommendations to submit nations with egregious records to ongoing scrutiny and possible economic sanctions. Many human rights organizations have urged the United States to be still more vigorous in imposing sanctions on countries that do not permit or tolerate religious freedom.


Ancient Jews fleeing from persecution in their homeland 2,500 years ago settled in India and never faced Anti-Semitism. Freedom of religion edicts have been found written during Ashoka the Great's reign in 3rd Century BC. Freedom to practise, preach and propagate any religion is a constitutional right in Modern India. Indians celebrate and respect the holy festivals of all major religions. India is a 80% Hindu country yet its Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh, the leader of its largest political party is an Italian origin Catholic and its previous president was a Muslim. Still, though some argue that India's predominant religion, Hinduism, has long been among the most tolerant of religions, others characterize Hinduism of the past as basically intolerant and argue that tolerance only appeared with the emergence of modern India as a secular nation in 1948.[8]

The Hindu-nationalist Indian Peoples Party (BJP) emerged as a major national political party in the 1980s,[9] and formed the core of the government from 1998 to 2004. It is the biggest constituent of the National Democratic Alliance which as of 2009 is in the opposition. Some Christians charge that the rise of the BJP and the emergence of Hindu nationalism have been accompanied by the repression of Christianity and assaults on Christians and their institutions.[10]

Freedom of religion in contemporary India is a fundamental right guaranteed by the country's constitution. Every citizen of India has a right to practice and promote their religions peacefully. However, there is tension between Muslim (and Christian) minorities and the Hindu majority. It has been alleged that the tension is mainly due to the fact that Muslims and Christians actively involve in proselytism, which is disliked by the Hindus.[citation needed]

Freedom of religion in the Indian subcontinent is exemplified by the reign of King Piyadasi (304 B.C to 232 B.C) (Asoka). One of King Asoka's main concerns was to reform governmental institutes and exercise moral principles in his attempt to create a just and humane society. Later he promoted the principles of Buddhism, and the creation of a just, understanding and fair society was held as an important principle for many ancient rulers of this time in the East.

The importance of freedom of worship in India was encapsulated in an inscription of Asoka:

King Piyadasi (Ashok) dear to the Gods, honours all sects, the ascetics (hermits) or those who dwell at home, he honours them with charity and in other ways. But the King, dear to the Gods, attributes less importance to this charity and these honours than to the vow of seeing the reign of virtues, which constitutes the essential part of them. For all these virtues there is a common source, modesty of speech. That is to say, One must not exalt one’s creed discrediting all others, nor must one degrade these others Without legitimate reasons. One must, on the contrary, render to other creeds the honour befitting them.

Religious freedom and the right to worship freely was a practice that had been appreciated and promoted by most ancient India dynasties. As a result, people fleeing religious persecution in other parts of the world including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians fled to India as a place of refuge where they could enjoy religious freedom. This had been the underlying attitude of most rulers of India until 1200 AD.

The initial entry of Islam into South Asia came in the first century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. When around 1210 AD the Islamic Sultanates invaded India from the north-west, gradually the principle of freedom of religion deteriorated in this part of the world. They were subsequently replaced by another Islamic invader in the form of Babur. The Mughal empire was founded by the Mongol leader Babur in 1526, when he defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the last of the Delhi Sultans at the First Battle of Panipat. The word "Mughal" is the Indo-Iranian version of Mongol.

On the main Asian continent, the Mongols were tolerant of religions. People could worship as they wished freely and openly.

Contemporary debates

The contemporary idea of religious freedom as a human right remains a contested topic. The major areas of debate are listed below.


Hinduism is extremely open-minded when it comes to religious freedom.[citation needed]. It respects the right of everyone to reach God in their own way. Hindus believe in different paths to God and religion as a philosophy and hence respect all religions as equal. One of the famous Hindu sayings about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by different names." [11]


Part of the Oscar Straus Memorial in Washington, D.C. honoring the right to worship.

The Roman Catholic Church affirmed religious freedom for all in the Second Vatican Council Declaration Dignitatis Humanae. This was itself inspired by the work of the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray. Some Orthodox Christians, especially those living in democratic countries, support religious freedom for all, as evidenced by the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many Protestant Christian churches, including some Baptists, Churches of Christ, Seventh-day Adventist Church and main line churches have a commitment to religious freedoms. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Latter-Day Saints) also affirm religious freedom.

However others, such as African scholar Makau Mutua, have argued that Christian insistence on the propagation of their faith to native cultures as an element of religious freedom has resulted in a corresponding denial of religious freedom to native traditions and led to their destruction. As he states in the book produced by the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief — "Imperial religions have necessarily violated individual conscience and the communal expressions of Africans and their communities by subverting African religions."[12][13]

Joel Spring writes about the Christianization of the Roman Empire, "Christianity added a new impetus to the expansion of empire. Increasing the arrogance of the imperial project, Christians insisted that the Gospels of the Church were the only valid source of religious beliefs. By the 5th century, Christianity was thought of as co-extensive with the Imperium fomanum. This meant that to be human, as opposed to being a natural slave, was to be "civilized" and Christian. Historian Anthony Pagden argues, 'just as the civitas; had now become counterminous with Christianity, so to be human—to be, that is, one who was "civil." and who was able to interpret correctly the law of nature—one had now also to be Christian. After the fifteenth century, most Western colonialists rationalized the spread of empire with the belief that they were saving a barbaric and pagan world by spreading Christian civilization."[14]


Some Islamic theologians quote the Quran ("There is no compulsion in religion," Sura 2:257, and "Say: O you who reject faith, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship...To you be your religion, and to me be mine," Sura 109:1-6, i.e. Sura Al-Kafirun) to show scriptural support for religious freedom. However, other verses and the Hadith mandate severe treatment for unbelievers, which is reflected in the high levels of intolerance shown in many past and contemporary Islamic societies, and some Muslim scholars have disagreed with such ill-treatment.

In Sura 2:190-194, refers to the war against Pagans during the Battle of Badr in Medina, of which it was indicating that Muslims are only allowed to fight against those who intend to harm them (right of self-defense) and that if their enemies surrender, they must also stop because God does not like those who transgress limits.

In Bukhari:V9 N316, Jabir ibn 'Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin accepted Islam and then when he got a fever he demanded that Muhammad to cancel his pledge (allow him to renounce Islam). Muhammad refused to do so. The Bedouin man repeated his demand once, but Muhammad once again refused. Then, he (the Bedouin) left Medina. Muhammad said, "Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good." In this narration, there was no evidence demonstrating that Muhammad ordered the execution of the Bedouin for wanting to renounce Islam.

In addition, in Sura 5:3, which is believed to be God's final revelation to Muhammad, states that Muslims are to fear God and not those who reject Islam, and 53:39 every one is accountable only to one's own actions. Therefore, it postulates that in Islam, in the matters of practising a religion, it does not relate to a worldly punishment, but rather these actions are accountable to God in the afterlife. Thus, this supports the argument against the execution of apostates in Islam.

However, on the other hand, some Muslims support the practice of executing apostates who leave Islam, as in Bukhari:V4 B52 N260; "The Prophet said, 'If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him."

In Iran, the constitution recognizes four religions whose status is formally protected: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[15] The constitution, however, also set the groundwork for the institutionalized persecution of Bahá'ís,[16] who have been subjected to arrests, beatings, executions, confiscation and destruction of property, and the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education.[15] In Egypt, a December 16, 2006 judgment of the Supreme Administrative Council created a clear demarcation between recognized religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism — and all other religious beliefs;[17][18] no other religious affiliation is officially admissible.[19] The ruling leaves members of other religious communities, including Bahá'ís, without the ability to obtain the necessary government documents to have rights in their country, essentially denying them of all rights of citizenship.[19] They cannot obtain ID cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, and passports; they also cannot be employed, educated, treated in public hospitals or vote, among other things.[19] See Egyptian identification card controversy.

Changing religion

Among the most contentious areas of religious freedom is the right of an individual to change or abandon his or her own religion (apostasy), and the right to evangelize individuals seeking to convince others to make such a change.

Other debates have centered around restricting certain kinds of missionary activity by religions. Many Islamic states, and others such as China, severely restrict missionary activities of other religions. Greece, among European countries, has generally looked unfavorably on missionary activities of denominations others than the majority church and proselytizing is constitutionally prohibited.[20]

A different kind of critique of the freedom to propagate religion has come from non-Abrahamic traditions such as the African and Indian. African scholar Makau Mutua criticizes religious evangelism on the ground of cultural annihilation by what he calls "proselytizing universalist faiths."

the (human) rights regime incorrectly assumes a level playing field by requiring that African religions compete in the marketplace of ideas. The rights corpus not only forcibly imposes on African religions the obligation to compete—a task for which as nonproselytizing, noncompetitive creeds they are not historically fashioned—but also protects the evangelizing religions in their march towards universalization … it seems inconceivable that the human rights regime would have intended to protect the right of certain religions to destroy others.[21]

Some Indian scholars[22] have similarly argued that the right to propagate religion is not culturally or religiously neutral.

In Sri Lanka there have been debates regarding a bill on religious freedom that seeks to protect indigenous religious traditions from certain kinds of missionary activities. Debates have also occurred in various states of India regarding similar laws, particularly those that restrict conversions using force, fraud or allurement.

In 2008 Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a Christian human rights non-governmental organisation which specializes in religious freedom, launched an in-depth report on the human rights abuses faced by individuals who leave Islam for another religion. The report is the product of a year long research project in six different countries. It calls on Muslim nations, the international community, the UN and the international media to resolutely address the serious violations of human rights suffered by apostates.[23]

Apostasy in Islam

In Islam, apostasy is called "ridda" ("turning back") and is considered to be a profound insult to God. A person born of Muslim parents that rejects Islam is called a "murtad fitri" (natural apostate), and a person that converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a "murtad milli" (apostate from the community).[24]

In Islamic law (sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars.[25]

Ideally, the one performing the execution of an apostate must be an imam.[25] At the same time, all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that any Muslim can kill an apostate without punishment.[26]

Secular law

Religious practice may also conflict with secular law creating debates on religious freedom. For instance, even though polygamy is permitted in Islam it is prohibited in secular law in many countries. Does prohibiting polygamy then curtail the religious freedom of Muslims? The USA and India, both constitutionally secular nations, have taken two different views of this. In India polygamy is permitted, but only for Muslims, under Muslim Personal Law. In the USA polygamy is prohibited for all. This was a major source of conflict between the early Mormon Church and the United States until the Church amended its position on polygamy.

Similar issues have also arisen in the context of the religious use of psychedelic substances by Native American tribes in the United States as well as other Native practices.

International law

In international law the freedom of religion and belief is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This protection extends to specifically non-religious beliefs, such as Humanism. However, minority or disfavored religions still receive the spiritual injustice of persecution in many parts of the world.[15][27]

Children's rights

The law in Germany provides the term of “religious majority” (Religionsmündigkeit) with a minimum age for minors to follow their own religious beliefs even if their parents don't share those or don't approve. Children 14 and older have the unrestricted right to enter or exit any religious community. Children 12 and older cannot be compelled to change to a different belief. Children 10 and older have to be heard before their parents change their religious upbringing to a different belief.[28] There are similar laws in Austria[29] and in Switzerland[30].

Modern concerns

Today there are concerns about the persecution of religious minorities in the Muslim world[citation needed] and in some communist states such as China[citation needed] and North Korea[citation needed], as well as other forms of intolerance in other countries —for example, the banning of worn religious articles such as the Muslim veil, in certain European countries.[31] Article 18 of the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights shows that it is a form of (spiritual) injustice when persons are denied the liberty to exercise their religious freedom.[32] Freedom of religion as a legal concept is related to, but not identical with, religious toleration, separation of church and state, or secular state (laïcité).

Where individuals and not governments are concerned, religious toleration is generally taken to refer to an attitude of acceptance towards other people's religions. Such toleration does not require that one view other religions as equally true; rather, the assumption is that each citizen will grant that others have the right to hold and practice their own beliefs. Against this backdrop, proselytism can be a contentious issue, as it could be regarded as an offense against the validity of others' religious beliefs, including irreligious belief.

International Religious Freedom Day

October 27 is International Religious Freedom Day, in commemoration of the execution of the Boston martyrs for their religious convictions 1658-1661.[citation needed]. The U.S. proclaim January 16 Religious Freedom Day.[33]

Contemporary situation of religious freedom in the world

Freedom of religion by country (Pew Research Center study, 2009). Light yellow: low restriction; red: very high restriction on freedom of religion.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life performed a study on religious freedom in the world, for which data were gathered from 16 governmental and non-governmental organisations – including the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch - and representing over 99.5 percent of the world's population.[34][35] According to the results, that were published in December 2009, about one-third of the countries in the world have high or very high restrictions on religion, and nearly 70 percent of the world's population lives in countries with heavy restrictions on freedom of religion.[34][35] This concerns restrictions on religion originating from both national authorities and social hostilities undertaken by private individuals, organisations and social groups. Government restrictions included constitutional limitations or other prohibitions on free speech.

Social hostilities were measured by religion-related terrorism and violence between religious groups.

The countries of North and South America reportedly had some of the lowest levels of government and social restrictions on religion, while The Middle East and North Africa were the regions with the highest.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran were the countries that top the list of countries with the overall highest levels of restriction on religion.

Of the world's 25 most populous countries, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and India had the most restrictions, while Brazil, Japan, the United States, Italy, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom had some of the lowest levels.

While the Middle East, North Africa and the Americas exhibit either extremely high or low levels of government and social restrictions, these two variables do not always move together: Vietnam and China, for instance, had high government restrictions on religion but were in the moderate or low range when it came to social hostilities. Nigeria and Bangladesh follow the opposite pattern: high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions.

The study found that government restrictions were relatively low in the U.S., but the levels of religious hostilities were higher than those reported in a number of other large democracies, such as Brazil and Japan.

While most countries provided for the protection of religious freedom in their constitutions or laws, only a quarter of those countries were found to fully respect these legal rights in practice.

In 75 countries - four in 10 in the world - governments limit the efforts of religious groups to proselytise and in 178 countries - 90 percent - religious groups must register with the government.

India and China, also exhibited extreme, but different restrictions on religion. China showed very high levels of government restriction but low to moderate levels of social hostilities, while India showed very high social hostilities but only moderate to high levels of government restrictions.

Topping the government restrictions index were Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Egypt, Burma, Maldives, Eritrea, Malaysia and Brunei.

At the top of the social hostilities index were Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Somalia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Saudi Arabia [36]

See also


References and notes

  1. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18.
  2. ^ Davis, Derek H.. "The Evolution of Religious Liberty as a Universal Human Right". Retrieved 2006-12-05.  (archived from the original on 2008-02-01).
  3. ^ Thomas Jefferson; Henry Augustine Washington (1854). The writings of Thomas Jefferson: being his autobiography, correspondence, reports, messages, addresses, and other writings, official and private : published by the order of the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library, from the original manuscripts, deposited in the Department of State. Taylor & Maury. p. 119. .
  4. ^ Roger II - Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Tracing The Norman Rulers of Sicily
  6. ^ Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor
  7. ^ Zamoyski, Adam. The Polish Way. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1987
  8. ^ Cookson, Catharine (2003), "Encyclopedia of religious freedom", Volume 4 of Routledge encyclopedias of religion and society (Taylor & Francis): pp. 179-180, ISBN 9780415941815, 
  9. ^ Op. cit. Cookson 2003, p. 181.
  10. ^ Op. cit. Cookson 2003, p. 182.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mutua, Makau. 2004. Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook. Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
  13. ^ J. D. Van der Vyver; John Witte (1996), Religious human rights in global perspective: legal perspectives, 2, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, p. 418, ISBN 9041101772, 
  14. ^ Joel H. Spring (2001), Globalization and educational rights: an intercivilizational analysis, Routledge, p. 92, ISBN 9780805838824, 
  15. ^ a b c International Federation for Human Rights (2003-08-01). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  16. ^ Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (2007). "A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran" (PDF). Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  17. ^ Mayton, Joseph (2006-12-19). "Egypt's Bahais denied citizenship rights". Middle East Times. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  18. ^ Otterman, Sharon (2006-12-17). "Court denies Bahai couple document IDs". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  19. ^ a b c Nkrumah, Gamal (2006-12-21). "Rendered faithless and stateless". Al-Ahram weekly. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  20. ^ US State Department report on Greece
  21. ^ Mutua, Makau (2004). Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook. Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. 
  22. ^ Sanu, Sankrant (2006). "Re-examining Religious Freedom" (PDF). Manushi. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  23. ^ No place to call home, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 29 April 2008, .
  24. ^ [1] from "Leaving Islam : Apostates speak out" by Ibn Warraq
  25. ^ a b Heffening, W.. "Murtadd". in P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online Edition. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  26. ^ Adbul Qadir Oudah (1999). Kitab Bhavan. New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan. ISBN 81-7151-273-9. , Volume II. pp. 258-262; Volume IV. pp. 19-21
  27. ^ Davis, Derek H.. "The Evolution of Religious Liberty as a Universal Human Right". Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  28. ^ Gesetz über die religiöse Kindererziehung
  29. ^ Bundesgesetz 1985 über die religiöse Kindererziehung (pdf)
  30. ^ Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch Art 303: Religiöse Erziehung
  31. ^ "The Islamic veil across Europe". BBC News. 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  32. ^ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, retrieved 2009-07-04.
  33. ^ Religious Freedom Day, 2006 - A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America, Religious Freedom Day, 2001 - Proclamation by the President of the United States of America January 15, 2001
  34. ^ a b "Global Restrictions on Religion (Executive summary)". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  35. ^ a b "Global Restrictions on Religion (Full report)". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  36. ^ "Few States Enjoy Freedom of Faith, Report Says"

Further reading

  • Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall. The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Press, 2009).
  • Barzilai, Gad (2007). Law and Religion. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-2494-3. .
  • Beneke, Chris (2006-09-20). Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-530555-8. .
  • Curry, Thomas J. (1989-12-19). Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment. Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 19, 1989). ISBN 0-19-505181-5. .
  • Frost, J. William (1990) A Perfect Freedom: Religious Liberty in Pennsylvania (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
  • Gaustad, Edwin S. (2004, 2nd ed.) Faith of the Founders: Religion and the New Nation, 1776-1826 (Waco: Baylor University Press).
  • Hamilton, Marci A. (2005-06-17). God vs. the Gavel : Religion and the Rule of Law. Edward R. Becker (Foreword). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85304-4. .
  • Hanson, Charles P. (1998). Necessary Virtue: The Pragmatic Origins of Religious Liberty in New England. University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0813917948. .
  • Hasson, Kevin 'Seamus' , The Right to be Wrong : Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America, Encounter Books, 2005, ISBN 1-59403-083-9
  • McLoughlin, William G. (1971) (2 vols.). New England Dissent: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 
  • Murphy, Andrew R. (July 2001). Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-02105-5. .
  • Mutua, Makau (2004). Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook. Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. 
  • Stokes, Anson Phelps (1950) Church and State in the United States, Historic Development and Contemporary Problems of Religious Freedom under the Constitution, 3 Volumes (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers).
  • Stokes, DaShanne (In Press). Legalized Segregation and the Denial of Religious Freedom
  • Associated Press (2002). Appeals court upholds man's use of eagle feathers for religious practices
  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978)
  • Policy Concerning Distribution of Eagle Feathers for Native American Religious
  • Ban on Minarets: On the Validity of a Controversial Swiss Popular Initiative (2008), , by Marcel Stuessi, research fellow at the University of Lucerne.

External links

Simple English

If a country has freedom of religion, people there can either belong to any religion they choose, or belong to no religion; leave any religious group as well as join any religious group; take any peaceful religious actions their faith requires; and join with other people for religious purposes.

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