Liberty, Human Rights and World Faiths
Freedom of Conscience
“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.” United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging...the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment I
All individuals have the inalienable right to believe according to their conscience, to adopt or change religion without compulsion or prohibition, to worship without harm to others, and to share peaceful beliefs without harassment or intimidation.
Freedom of conscience includes the right not to believe in any creed or dogma and to engage in public and private critique of religion, ideology, or belief without violence, harassment or intimidation.
Universal Human Rights Apply to All People, Faiths, and Nations
Over the course of world history, and in some cases even today, faith is used as a pretext for violence or discrimination. Such pretexts have no merit and should be firmly repudiated by all faiths, organizations, and individuals of conscience.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which United Nations members are signatory and which is “generally agreed to be the foundation of international human rights law,” declares:
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2
“Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 30
American Progress noted that the “U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that religious freedom should not be interpreted to permit harm on others.” United Nations special rapporteur on religion and belief Ahmeed Shaheed noted that “the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such.” He stated that there is no basis for the claim that “religious beliefs can be invoked as a legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination,” and that all states must outlaw such conduct.
1. London, Emily, and Maggie Siddiqi. "Religious Liberty Should Do No Harm." American Progress, April 11, 2019. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/religious-liberty-no-harm/
2. Scaffidi, Elizabeth. "Use of religious beliefs to justify rights violations must be outlawed, says UN expert." UN News, March 2, 2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1058411