USCIRF urges international standards for Religious Freedom
International Standards for Constitutional Religious Freedom Protections
Several countries in the world are or soon will be drafting new constitutions. It is vital that these constitutions protect universal human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief. Based on its experience analyzing constitutions against international standards,1 the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) offers the following guideposts for the full protection of religious freedom consistent with international human rights law:
Freedom of Religion or Belief is a Universal Right
The 193 member states of the United Nations have agreed, by signing the UN Charter, to “practice tolerance” and to “promot[e] and encourag[e] respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” These rights and freedoms include the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, which is protected and affirmed in numerous international instruments, including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:
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.
Article 18 of the ICCPR similarly provides:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.