Tag Archives: Freedom of Religion

Guiora, “Freedom from Religion”

Freedom from ReligionThis month, Oxford University Press published Freedom from Religion: Rights and National Security, Second Edition by Amos Guiora (Quinney College of Law, University of Utah).  The publisher’s description follows.

Although many books on terrorism and religious extremism have been published in the years since 9/11, none of them written by Western authors call for the curtailment of religious freedom and freedom of expression for the sake of greater security. Issues like torture, domestic surveillance, and unlawful detentions have dominated the literature in this area, but few, if any, major scholars have questioned the vast allowances made by Western nations for the freedoms of religion and speech.

Freedom from Religion challenges the almost sacrosanct inviolability of these two civil liberties. By drawing the connection between politically-correct tolerance of extremist speech and the rise of terrorist activity, this book sets the context for its unique proposal that governments should introduce new limits on religious practice within their borders. To demonstrate the wisdom of this course, the author presents the disparate policies and security circumstances of five countries: the U.S., the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Israel. The book benefits not just from the author’s own counter-terrorism experience in Israel and the U.S. but also from an international advisory group of leading scholars from all five of the countries under review.
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Annicchino on Freedom of Religion in the European Union’s Foreign Policy

Pasquale Annicchino (European University Institute – Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies) has posted Freedom of Religion or Belief in the Foreign Policy of the European Union: Much Ado About Nothing? The abstract follows.

Part One of this article introduces the new European External Action Service. Part Two focuses especially on the recent policies undertaken by the European Union to include the protection of religious freedom or belief in its external action. Part Three compares the action undertaken by EU institutions with the model that served as its source of inspiration, namely the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Part Four offers some tentative conclusions. I will argue that thus far, analyzing the concrete measures approved by EU institutions in the field, the enthusiasm or early critics is not justified. The EU guidelines on freedom of religion or belief will probably only constitute a first minimal step, but more time will be needed to assess the real policy intentions in the field in concreto.

Haverkort-Speekenbrink, “European Non-Discrimination Law”

Intersentia Publishing has published European Non-Discrimination Law: A Comparison of EU Law and the ECHR in the Field of Non-Discrimination and Freedom of Religion in Public Employment with an Emphasis on the Islamic Headscarf Issue by Sarah Haverkort-Speekenbrink.  The publisher’s description follows.European Non-Discrimination Law

Contemporary multicultural issues in Europe raise the question whether the overlap between the non-discrimination regimes of the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe in the field of public employment may lead to conflicting case law. Would the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) address potential sex, race and religious discrimination in a similar manner or would the Courts take a different approach?

This study consists of three parts. Firstly, an analysis is presented of the EU non-discrimination Directives 2006/54, 2000/43 and 2000/78, and the ECJ’s assessment in cases of alleged sex, race and religious discrimination in the public workplace. Secondly, the non-discrimination provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the right to freedom of religion are studied. Further, the ECtHR’s assessment in cases involving potential discrimination in the public workplace based on sex, race and religion are examined. In the final part a comparison is made between the provisions and the assessment of the ECJ and the ECtHR.

Besides an examination of European legislation, case law and academic literature, this research also uses a legal case study to explore the similarities and differences between the non-discrimination regimes. Accordingly, the theory is again discussed, but now in light of a much debated issue in Europe: the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public employment. The result of the study is a detailed explanation of the relevant similarities and differences between the approaches of the two Courts to claims of discrimination.

Blitt on the United Nations’ Resolutions on Combating Religious Intolerance

Robert C. Blitt (University of Tennessee College of Law) has posted Defamation of Religion: Rumors of its Death are Greatly Exaggerated. The abstract follows.

This Article explores the recent decisions by the United Nations (“UN”) Human Rights Council and General Assembly to adopt consensus resolutions aimed at “combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief.” These resolutions represent an effort to move past a decade’s worth of contentious roll call votes in favor of prohibiting defamation of religion within the international human rights framework. Although labeled “historic” resolutions, this Article argues that the UN’s new compromise approach endorsed in 2011 — motivated in part by the desire to end years of acrimonious debate over the acceptability of shielding religious beliefs from insult and criticism — is problematic because it risks being exploited to sanction the continued prohibition on defamation of religion and perpetuation of human rights violations on the ground.

After briefly considering the history of defamation of religion at the UN and the strategies employed by its proponents, this Article turns to an assessment of the UN Human Rights Council’s 2011 consensus Resolution 16/18. In light of the resolution’s objectives, this Article explores the viability of the international consensus around “combating intolerance” and tests to what extent, if any, the concept of defamation of religion may be waning in practice. To this end, this Article weighs, among other things, statements and resolutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (“OIC”) pertaining to defamation — particularly those issued following the adoption of Resolution 16/18 — as well as its activities in other UN bodies. Continue reading

Tourkochoriti on Freedom of Religion in France and the USA

Ioanna Tourkochoriti (Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, Harvard University) has posted The Burka Ban: Divergent Approaches to Freedom of Religion in France and in the USA. The abstract follows.

Six years after prohibiting the wearing of headscarves by students in public schools, the French state passed a law prohibiting the wearing of burkas in public places. Compared to France, in the United States there is more tolerance for wearing signs of religious affiliation. The difference in legal responses can be understood in reference to a different background understanding of the fundamental presuppositions of republicanism in the two legal and political orders, which also define their conception of secularism. The law enacted in France can be understood in a general frame of a paternalistic state, which is seen as permitted to dictate the proper exercise of their reason to the citizens. In the United States, the dominant understanding of republicanism attempts to reconcile the natural rights philosophy with the conception of the common good. The trust in the use of collective power and the legislature dominant in France can be opposed to the distrust towards the same elements in the United States.

Al-Azhar’s Bill of Rights

Earlier this week, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world’s preeminent Sunni center of learning, announced a new “Bill of Rights” for Egypt. Al-Azhar hopes that the non-binding document will guide the newly-elected parliament in preparing the new Egyptian constitution. Al-Azhar consulted Muslim and Christian intellectuals during the document’s drafting, and influential religious and political leaders have endorsed it, including Coptic Pope Shenouda and representatives of Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Al-Nour. Observers say the announcement is one in a series of attempts by Al-Azhar to assert a “moderate” version of Islam and beat back challenges from stricter versions of the faith endorsed by the Islamists.

The Times  reports that the document protects “freedom of expression and belief.” I haven’t been able to find an official translation online, but phrases like these can obscure serious underlying tensions. For example, a secular Western liberal might understand “freedom of belief” to cover, among other things, the choice to change one’s religion. In a Muslim context, though, the phrase could mean only that non-Muslims have the right to convert to Islam — Muslims still would be prohibited from converting to other faiths. Similarly, “freedom of expression” would not protect expression perceived as an insult to Islam, for example, attempts to convince Muslims that other faiths are superior. The fact that Islamist parties have signed on to the new document suggests that these narrow interpretations are at least plausible.

Volokh on Austrian Freedom of Expression—Are Austria’s Restrictions Legitimate?

Recently, Professor Volokh criticized an Austrian ruling that affirmed a criminal conviction for “denigrating religious beliefs.”  Professor Movsesian then discussed  Professor Volokh’s criticism here at CLR.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff

The Austrian ruling is virtually unthinkable in the United States, where we enjoy broad freedom of expression.  (The defendant is Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an outspoken “anti-jihad” Austrian activist who, among other causes, also opposes what she understands to be the treatment of women under Islam.)  But, in a nation with Austria’s Second World War history, criminalizing such expression may not, as Professor Volokh asserts, be an instance of the “disappoint[ing] . . . intoleran[ce] of condemnation of religion” by “a European democracy such as Austria.”  Rather, it may be an appropriate way to remedy a truly reprehensible period in Austrian history.

Americans nurtured on grade-school civics may find prosecuting someone for “denigrating” a religious belief very difficult to accept; however, Austria’s social tapestry, which includes some of the worst atrocities of WWII, is not readily comparable to America’s constitutional framework and historical experience.  As Americans, we frequently pride ourselves for allowing—protecting, even—very ugly speech.  That is to say, as a constitutional ideal, the great weight we accord freedom of expression outweighs any abhorrence we might feel toward the belief expressed.  So that, as a legal matter, mere expression is rarely punishable (exceptions, such as those for obscenity and incitement, or, on the civil side, defamation, are judicially disfavored and strictly curtailed).  But our ability to maintain this moral and legal regard for free expression on religious matters may be a result of the deviating historical experiences that make our and Austria’s socio-criminal needs so different.  For more elaboration, please follow the jump. Continue reading

Jamar on Freedom of Religion

Steven D. Jamar (Howard) has posted Challenges Presented to Law and Public Norms by Claims of Freedom of Religion Arising in Increasingly Diverse Societies on SSRN. The abstract follows.

Because religion is a potent force for many people, it affects the content, structure, and function of law and the law’s relationship to ordering society. The complexity and variability from state to state of the relationships of religion to social, governmental, and legal systems is remarkable. This variability and complexity stems from several major influences including in particular: (1) the diversity of religions and of people’s understanding of and use of those religions; and (2) the mix of religions within a particular state. As predominantly secular countries become more ethnically and religiously diverse, particularly through immigration from regions religiously different from the host country (e.g., the Muslim emigration into Christian Europe), more free exercise and accommodationist demands are being made by those whose religions are not merely a variant of the dominant religion. These demands bring new challenges and require sensitive balancing of conflicting fundamental rights and liberties. This essay examines three books addressing these topics from various perspectives and uses them as a vehicle for some commentary on the nature of the problems encountered.