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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018

Conception of human rights

Freedom of religion is a “core” conception of human rights.  However, it continues to remain a controversial right.

There are many Governments that deny religious freedom to its people by the restriction of churches, practice of religion and the refusal to recognise a religion as was the case in Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia v Moldova.

The Government of the United Rangaan State has denied religious freedom to certain people as it governs what religions can be practised.  Similarly, Indonesia restricts freedom of religion as its laws state that the practice of religion must only be carried out in places of worship that are registered with the Government.  In Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, all religious groups and activities without official authorisations from the Government are prohibited.

Article 18 of the ICCPR and UDHR affirm that all people of the world should have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Both also state that this freedom can be individual and communal and can be practised in the form of worship, observance, practice and teaching.

The HRC states that the freedom of thought, conscience and religion encompasses freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment to religion or belief whether manifested individually or in the community.  The HRC further states that these freedoms cannot be derogated from.  According to the European Court of Human Rights, the freedom to manifest one’s religion protects acts which are linked to religious belief, such as acts of worship, practice, devotion and belief. The freedom to manifest a religion encompasses acts that give expression to belief, as well as practices integral to such acts, including construction of places of worship, displaying of symbols and ritual formulae. 

Christians within the remote areas of the United Rangaan State have been denied the freedom to manifest their religion as officials in the United Rangaan State have banned the practice Christianity and denied the approval for the building of Christian churches. 

Some Governments impose restrictions on religion as they believe it can have the potential to interfere with the rights of others and can be a threat to society. Article 18 of the ICCPR restricts religion or belief to margins that are approved by law and are essential to protect public safety and the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.  Further, limitations must relate and be proportionate to the need on which they based, and may not be used in a negative manner, for example, for discriminatory purposes.  The word “necessary” is used throughout the ICCPR limitation clauses and is an indication that restrictions on rights are permissible only when they are essential or inevitable. In Kalac v. Turkey, the Court said that the word “necessary” was implemented to ensure “a measure of

legal protection in domestic law against arbitrary interferences by public authorities with the rights safeguarded by paragraph 2.

The United Rangaan State has banned Christianity in remote areas and denied approval for the construction of a church.  Further, the State maintains the view that religious groups that are not registered endanger national security as the teachings from such groups could cause a division amongst the majority of the Muslim population.  How does the refusal to allow a church to be built or the banning of Christianity in only remote areas protect public safety or freedom of others?  These restrictions are not a legitimate aim to protect national security.

In Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia v. Moldova the Court found that there had been an interference with the Church of Bessarabia’s freedom of religion as the government refused to recognise the existence of the church.The Court said that the government was trying to pursue a legitimate aim of protecting against the revival of a feud between Russia and Romania which could endanger the social peace of Moldova.However, the Court said that the government’s refusal to recognise the church was not a legitimate means to fulfil this aim as the government had not acted neutrally.  Thus, the Court reaffirmed that a restriction be proportionate to its goal as outlined in the ICCPR and ECHR.

The HRC states that people have a right to adopt and choose a religion or belief.  Article 18(2) bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat or physical force.

A law within the United Rangaan State has given the Government the power to arrest, detain and “rehabilitate” religious groups who have met without permission and are not registered.  The use of threat and force is a direct violation of Article 18(2). 

The United Rangaan State’s Constitution allows the Government to control and restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine.  However, several other countries where Islam is the state religion have constitutional provisions regarding freedom of religion and belief that are not in line with international standards. For example, limitation to one or more religions or class of religions and allowing limitations on freedom of religion by ordinary law rather than those limitations permitted under international law.

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