Tag Archives: Freedom of Religion

Bielefeldt et al, “Freedom of Religion or Belief”

In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary,” by Heiner Bielefeldt (United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief), Nazila Ghanea (University of Oxford), and Michael Wiener (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Violations of religious freedom and violence committed in the name of religion grab our attention on a daily basis. Freedom of Religion or Belief is a 9780198703983key human right, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, numerous conventions, declarations and soft law standards include specific provisions on freedom of religion or belief. The 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief has been interpreted since 1986 by the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Special Rapporteurs (for example those on racism, freedom of expression, minority issues and cultural rights) and Treaty Bodies (for example the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child) have also elaborated on freedom of religion or belief in the context of their respective mandates.

Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary is the first commentary to look comprehensively at the international provisions for the protection of freedom of religion or belief, considering how they are interpreted by various United Nations Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. Structured around the thematic categories of the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s framework for communications, the commentary analyses the limitations on the wearing of religious symbols and vulnerable situations, including those of women, detainees, refugees, children, minorities and migrants, through a combination of scholarly expertise and practical experience.

“Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives” (Shah & Hertzke eds.)

In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1. Historical Perspectives” edited by Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University) and Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows:

In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers.

“Christianity and Freedom: Volume 2” (Hertzke et al., eds.)

In February, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 2 Contemporary Perspectives” edited by Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma) and Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University, Washington DC). The publisher’s description follows:

Volume 2 of Christianity and Freedom illuminates how Christian minorities and transnational Christian networks contribute to the freedom and flourishing of societies across the globe, even amidst pressure and violent persecution. Featuring unprecedented field research by some of the world’s most distinguished scholars, it documents the outsized role of Christians in promoting human rights and religious freedom; fighting injustice; stimulating economic equality; providing education, social services, and health care; and nurturing democratic civil society. Readers will come away surprised and sobered to learn how this very Christian link to freedom often invites persecution. What are the dimensions of persecution and how are Christians responding to that pressure? What resources – theological, social, or transnational – do they marshal in leavening their societies? What will be lost if the Christian presence is marginalized? The answers to these questions are of crucial relevance in a world awash with religious extremism and deepening instability.

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