Appendix D: Religious Freedom Commitments and Obligations From Regional Bodies and Instruments
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Council of Europe: Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
1. 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 worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
European Union: Charter of Fundamental Rights
Article 10 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. The right to conscientious objection is recognized, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE): Helsinki Final Act
1. (a) Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States
VII. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
. . .
Within this framework the participating States will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.
. . .
OSCE: Vienna Concluding Document
Questions Relating to Security in Europe
(16) In order to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practice religion or belief, the participating State will, inter alia,
(16.1) – take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life, and to ensure the effective equality between believers and non-believers;
(16.2) – foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities as well as between believers and non-believers;
(16.3) – grant upon their request to communities of believers, practicing or prepared to practice their faith within the constitutional framework of their States, recognition of the status provided for them in their respective countries;
(16.4) – respect the right of these religious communities to
- establish and maintain freely accessible places of worship or assembly,
- organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and institutional structure,
- select, appoint and replace their personnel in accordance with their respective requirements and standards as well as with any freely accepted arrangement between them and their State,
- solicit and receive voluntary financial and other contributions.
(16.5) – engage in consultation with religious faiths, institutions and organizations in order to achieve a better understanding of the requirements of religious freedom;
(16.6) – respect the right of everyone to give and receive religious education in the language of his choice, whether individually or in association with others;
(16.7) – in this context respect, inter alia, the liberty of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions;
(16.8) – allow the training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions;
(16.9) – respect the right of individual believers and communities of believers to acquire, possess, and use sacred books, religious publications in the language of their choice and other articles and materials related to the practice of religion or belief;
(16.10) – allow religious faiths, institutions and organizations to produce, import and disseminate religious publications and materials;
(16.11) – favorably consider the interest of religious communities to participate in public dialogue, including through the mass media.
(17) The participating States recognize that the exercise of the above‑mentioned rights relating to the freedom of religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are provided by law and consistent with their obligations under international law and with their international commitments. They will ensure in their laws and regulations and in their application the full and effective exercise of the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.
(19) They will protect and create conditions for the promotion of the ethnic,
cultural, linguistic and religious identity of national minorities on their territory. They will respect the free exercise of rights by persons belonging to such minorities and ensure their full equality with others.
Co-Operation in Humanitarian and Other Fields
(32) They will allow believers, religious faiths and their representatives, in groups or on an individual basis, to establish and maintain direct personal contacts and communication with each other, in their own and other countries, inter alia through travel, pilgrimages and participation in assemblies and other religious events. In this context and commensurate with such contacts and events, those concerned will be allowed to acquire, receive and carry with them religious publications and objects related to the practice of their religion or belief.
OSCE: Copenhagen Concluding Document
(9) The participating States reaffirm that
(9.1) – everyone will have the right to freedom of expression including the right to communication. This right will include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The exercise of this right may be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and are consistent with international standards. In particular, no limitation will be imposed on access to, and use of, means of reproducing documents of any kind, while respecting, however, rights relating to intellectual property, including copyright;
. . .
(9.4) – everyone will have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief and freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, in public or in private, through worship, teaching, practice and observance. The exercise of these rights may be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and are consistent with international standards;
. . .
African Union: African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.
Organization of American States (OAS): American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Article III – Every person has the right freely to profess a religious faith, and to manifest and practice it both in public and in private.
Article XXII – Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.
OAS: American Convention on Human Rights
Article 12 – Freedom of Conscience and Religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience and of religion. This right includes freedom to maintain or to change one’s religion or beliefs, and freedom to profess or disseminate one’s religion or beliefs, either individually or together with others, in public or in private.
2. No one shall be subject to restrictions that might impair his freedom to maintain or to change his religion or beliefs.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion and beliefs may be subject only to the limitations prescribed by law that are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, or the rights or freedoms of others.
4. Parents or guardians, as the case may be, have the right to provide for the religious and moral education of their children or wards that is in accord with their own convictions.