Freedom of religion

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Image:Declaration of Human Rights.jpg
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen guarantees freedom of religion, as long as religious activities do not infringe on public order in ways detrimental to society.

Freedom of religion is considered by many to be a fundamental human right. It is also a guarantee by a government for freedom of belief for individuals and freedom of worship for individuals and groups. Freedom of religion must also include the freedom not to follow any religion (irreligion) or not having any belief in any god (atheism).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the 58 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France defines freedom of religion and belief as follows:

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.

Freedom of religion as a legal concept is related to but not identical with religious toleration, separation of church and state, or laïcité (a secular state). Religious toleration is the condition of accepting or permitting others' religious beliefs and practices which disagree with one's own.

In a country with a state religion, toleration means that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths. Historically, toleration has been a contentious issue within many religions as well as between one religion and another. At issue is not merely whether other faiths should be permitted, but also whether a ruler who is a believer may practice or permit tolerance. In the Middle Ages, toleration of Judaism was a contentious issue throughout Christendom. Today, there are concerns about toleration of Christianity and other religious minorities in Islamic states (see Persecution of Bahá'ís and Status of religious freedom in Iran for example) as well as Islam in Western societies (for example Islamophobic laws banning the wearing of traditional religious articles of clothing by Muslim women). <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> and being forbidden to take oaths in courts on the Qur'án<Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref>

For individuals, religious toleration generally means an attitude of acceptance towards other people's religions. It does not mean that one views other religions as equally true; merely that others have the right to hold and practice their beliefs. Proselytism can be a contentious issue; it can be regarded as an offense against the validity of others' religions, or as an expression of one's own faith.

The Australasian Police Multicultural Advisory Bureau has several publications for Australia dealing with multi-faith issues and A Practical Reference to Religious Diversity for Operational Police and Emergency Services covers oaths, Death, Gender Roles and Family, Physical Contact and sensitivities (like giving blood samples), Religious Practices and Policing and other topics covering twelve faith-traditions, (in review as of 12/2/2006 but the 2nd Edition is available.)

Contents

[edit] History

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.

During history some countries have accepted some form of freedom of worship, though in actual practice that theoretical freedom was limited through punitive taxation, repressive social legislation, and political disenfranchisement. Compare examples of individual freedom in Poland or the Muslim tradition of dhimmis, literally "protected individuals" professing an officially tolerated non-Muslim religion.

[edit] Antiquity

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 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 or the Persian empire, 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.

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.

[edit] History in Europe

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 and Muslims from Spain in 1492. Those who remained were tried as heretics in the Inquisition for claiming to be Christians.

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 1428.

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. Ulrich 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 territores. 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 prime minister, was executed in 1535 for opposition to Henry.

In 1535, the Swiss canton of Geneva became Protestant, but the Protestants often proved as intolerant of differences of opinion as the Catholics. 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.

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. However, her half-sister, Elizabeth I of England was to restore the Church of England in 1558, this time permanently. The King James Bible commissioned by King James I of England and published in 1611 proved a landmark for Protestant worship.

However, intolerance of dissident forms of Protestantism continued, as evidenced by the exodus of the Pilgrims who sought refuge, first in Holland, and ultimately in America, founding the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. William Penn, the founder of Philidelphia 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 imprisionsed 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 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.

[edit] United States of America

See also: Freedom of Religion in the United States

The early colonies, although many of them 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.

Image:Save freedom worship.jpg
"Save Freedom of Worship". American World War II poster

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.

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 was written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson. It 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."

[edit] History in the East

Since the time of King Piyadasi's (304 B.C to 232 B.C) (Asoka), the geographical region around India had enjoyed period of many decades of peace and prosperity. One of King Asoka's main concern 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. This had been the underlying attitude of most rulers of India since this period from before 300 B.C. 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-east, 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-Aryan version of Mongol.

[edit] Contemporary Debates

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

[edit] Islam

Islamic theologians, for instance, quote the Quran (Verse 2:256) "There is no compulsion in religion" to show Islam's support for religious freedom. Thus, conversion to Islam has to be strictly a matter of personal choice. Saudi Arabia, that holds the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina, does not allow public practice of religions other than Islam.

[edit] Christianity

Most Christians - whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or other - support religious freedoms. The Roman Catholic Church affirmed religious freedom for all in the ground-breaking 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, Chruches of Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist Church have a commitment to religious freedoms. The Latter-Day Saints also affirm religious freedom.

Religious freedom is opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church and some forms of Protestant Christian Fundamentalism.[citation needed]

[edit] Debates Regarding "Right to Change" or "Propagation" of religion

Among the most contentious areas of religious freedom is the "Right to Change" one's religion. Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence, for instance, regarding converting out of Islam as a crime punishable by death. See Apostasy in Islam.

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. <ref>US State Department report on Greece</ref>. Israel has also tried to restrict Christian missionaries.

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".<ref>Mutua, Makau (2004). Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook. Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. </ref>

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.

Some Indian scholars have similarly argued that the right to propagate religion is not culturally or religiously neutral.<ref> Template:Cite web</ref>

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.

[edit] Conflict of Religious Practice with 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 Western countries. Does prohibiting polygamy then curtail the religious freedom of Muslims? The USA and India, for instance, 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 finally amended its position on polygamy.

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

[edit] Reaction by the Sikhs

The Mughal empire was a fanatical Islamic force determined to convert the masses to their faith. So much so that when the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak was a young man, he witnessed the inhumane treatment of the masses. In reaction to this barbaric exploits to innocent people, a new religious force was born. The main reason for the creation of Sikh faith at this time was to challenge these acute violations and the open excesses of the Mughal empire. In about 1526, the founder Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak wrote in their Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib:

As the Word of the Forgiving Lord comes to me, so do I express it, O Lalo. Bringing the marriage party of sin, Babar has invaded from Kaabul, demanding our land as his wedding gift, O Lalo. Modesty and righteousness both have vanished, and falsehood struts around like a leader, O Lalo. The Qazis and the Brahmins have lost their roles, and Satan now conducts the marriage rites, O Lalo. The Muslim women read the Koran, and in their misery, they call upon God, O Lalo. The Hindu women of high social status, and others of lowly status as well, are put into the same category, O Lalo. The wedding songs of murder are sung, O Nanak, and blood is sprinkled instead of saffron, O Lalo. (1)

SGGS page 722]]

From about this time, the freedom to worship freely was under attack and gradually many millions were converted to Islam <ref> Template:Cite web</ref> under the threat of the sword. <ref> Template:Cite web</ref> In 1675, to combat the forced conversion of the local Hindus into Islam the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur performed perhaps the only act of sacrifice by a person for another religion. <ref> Template:Cite web</ref> The ninth Guru offered his head to save the Hindus of Kashmir. <ref> Template:Cite web</ref> The Sikh Guru is sometimes referred to as "Tegh Bahadur, Hind di chadar" meaning "Tegh Bahadar, the protector of Hindus". <ref> Template:Cite web</ref>

The Tenth Sikh Guru wrote in the Bachitar Natak chapter of Dasam Granth<ref> Template:Cite web</ref>:

….after him, Tegh Bahadur became the Guru. (12)
He protected the forehead mark and sacred thread (of the Hindus) which marked a great event in the Iron age. For the sake of saints, he laid down his head without even a sign. (13)
For the sake of Dharma, he sacrificed himself. He laid down his head but not his creed. The saints of the Lord abhor the performance of miracles and malpractices. (14)
DOHRA
Breaking the potsherd of his body head of the king of Delhi (Aurangzeb), He left for the abode of the Lord. None could perform such a feat as that of heaven Tegh Bahadur. (15)
The whole world bemoaned the departure of Tegh Bahadur. While the world lamented, the gods hailed his arrival in heavens. (16)

— www.srigranth.org page 131 of 2326

Sikh services obstructed the Mughals and their progress in forced conversions was eventually halted by the Sikh Empire.

[edit] See also

[edit] 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 those professing belief in no religion which includes humanist, atheist, rationalist, and agnostic beliefs.

[edit] Religious freedom and foreign relations of the United States

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 particularly 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.

Some critics charge that The United States policy on religious freedom is largely directed towards the rights of Christians, particularly the ability for Christian missionaries to evangelize, in other countries.

[edit] Timeline


[edit] Literature

  • Kevin 'Seamus' Hasson, The Right to be Wrong : Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America, Encounter Books, 2005, ISBN 1-59403-083-9
  • Marci A. Hamilton, God vs. the Gavel : Religion and the Rule of Law, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-85304-4
  • Mutua, Makau (2004). Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook. Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


 
Status of religious freedom around the world

Afghanistan | Algeria | Canada | People’s Republic of China | Colombia | France | Georgia | Germany | India | Iran | Italy | Malaysia | Mauritania | Pakistan | Philippines | Saudi Arabia | Sri Lanka | Sudan | United Kingdom | United States

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de:Gedanken-, Gewissens- und Religionsfreiheit es:Libertad de culto fr:Liberté de religion is:Trúfrelsi it:Libertà religiosa he:חופש דת hu:Vallásszabadság nl:Godsdienstvrijheid ja:信教の自由 no:Religionsfrihet ru:Свобода вероисповедания simple:Freedom of religion fi:Uskonnonvapaus sv:Religionsfrihet vi:Tự do tôn giáo zh:宗教自由

Freedom of religion

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