Human Rights - Freedom of Religion and Belief
In 1966 the UN passed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expanding its prior statement to address the manifestation of religion or belief. Article 18 of this Covenant includes four paragraphs related to this issue:
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 [her] choice, and freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [her] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his [her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [her] choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, 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.
After twenty years of debate, intense struggle and hard work, the General Assembly in 1981 adopted without a vote the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. While the 1981 Declaration lacks any enforcement procedures, it remains the most important contemporary codification of the principle of freedom of religion and belief.
The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief contains eight articles, three of which (1,5,6) define specific rights. The remaining articles act in a supportive role by outlining measures to promote tolerance or prevent discrimination. Taken together, the eight articles constitute a paradigm, an overall concept, to advocate for tolerance and to prevent discrimination based on religion or belief. While human rights are individual rights, the 1981 UN Declaration also identifies certain rights related to states, religious institutions, parents, legal guardians, children, and groups of persons.
Article 5: Parents, Guardians, Children.
At stake in the implementation of this article are the following rights:
· Right of parents or legal guardians to bring the child up in their religion or belief;
· Right of the child to education in religion or belief, in accordance with the wishes of parents, and the right not to be compelled to receive education against their wishes;
· Right of the child to protection from discrimination and to education for tolerance;
· Right of the child’s wishes when not under the care of parents or legal guardians;
· Right of the State to limit practices injurious to child's development or health.