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EXCERPTS OF LAWS GUARANTEEING  RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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There have been many federal constitutions, and international declarations which guarantee (at least in principle) religious freedoms throughout the world. The following excerpts are taken from a variety of such documents.
bulletU.S. federal and state constitutions:
bulletUS Constitution
bulletMassachusetts State Law
bulletVirginia State Constitution
bulletCanadian constituion and laws:
bulletCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
bulletCanadian Sentencing Law
bulletOther countries:
bulletFrench Human Rights declaration
bulletConstitution of Brazil
bulletConstitution of Australia
bulletConstitution of Greece
bulletUN Covenants:
bulletUN Covenant on Economic, Social AND Cultural Rights
bulletUN Convention on the Rights of the Child
bulletUN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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U.S CONSTITUTION - BILL OF RIGHTS:

Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

[Additional US documents are available at this Site]

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MASSACHUSETTS STATE LAW PROTECTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:

bulletCh. 265-37 Interfering with Any Right or Privilege Secured by Constitution or Laws of Commonwealth: No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with, or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with, or oppress or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth or by the constitution or laws of the United States...
bulletCh. 265-39 Intimidation: Whoever commits an assault or a battery upon a person or damages the real or personal property of another for the purpose of intimidation because of said person's race, color, religion, or national origin shall be punished....
bulletCh. 266-127A Injury to Religious, Educational, etc., Institutions: Any person who willfully, intentionally and without right, or wantonly and without cause, destroys, defaces, mars, or injures a church, synagogue or other building, structure or place used for the purpose of burial or memorializing the dead, or a school, educational facility or community center or the grounds adjacent to and the owned or leased by any of the foregoing or any personal property contained in any of the foregoing shall be punished...

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VIRGINIA CONSTITUTION PROTECTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:

Section 58 of the Virginia State Constitution states:
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry."

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CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS:

bulletPart I of the Constitution Act, 1982
bulletEnacted by the Canada Act 1982 [U.K.] c.11;
bulletProclaimed in force April 17, 1982.

Selected references related to religious freedom:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Section 1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Section 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
bulletfreedom of conscience and religion;
bulletfreedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
bulletfreedom of peaceful assembly; and
bulletfreedom of association.

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CANADIAN SENTENCING LAW:

(Passed by House of Commons, mid-1995)
Section 718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:
(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offense, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,
(i) evidence that the offense was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation of the victim, ....shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances;

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FRENCH HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION "Droits de L'homme":

Article 18: 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 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers..

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CONSTITUTION OF BRAZIL, 1946:

Freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, and the free exercise of religious sects is assured, as long as they are not contrary to public order or good morals. Religious associations shall acquire juridical personality according to civil law. No one shall be deprived of these rights by reason of religious, philosophic, or political convictions.

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CONSTITUTION OF AUSTRALIA:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

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CONSTITUTION OF GREECE:

Article 13, Phrase 2 of the Greek Constitution guarantees the freedom to practice religion, but does not allow individuals to attempt to convert others' religious beliefs.

"There shall be freedom to practice any known religion; individuals shall be free to perform their rites of worship without hindrance and under the protection of the law. The performance of rites of worship must not prejudice public order or public morals. Proselytism is prohibited."

The prohibition of proselytism is reinforced by Section 4 of Greek Law No.1363/38, as amended by Law No. 1672/39. It states:

  1. Anyone engaging in proselytism shall be liable to imprisonment and a fine of between 1,000 and 50,000 drachmas; he shall, moreover, be subject to police supervision for a period of between six months and one year to be fixed by the court when convicting the offender.
  2. By ‘proselytism’ is meant, in particular, any direct or indirect attempt to intrude on the religious beliefs of a person of a different religious persuasion (eterodoxos), with the aim of undermining those beliefs, either by any kind of inducement or promise of an inducement or moral support or material assistance, or by fraudulent means or by taking advantage of the other person’s inexperience, trust, need, low intellect or naivete.
  3. The commission of such an offence in a school or other educational establishment or philanthropic institution shall constitute a particularly aggravating circumstance."

1,000 drachmas is worth about $3.50 US; 50,000 drachmas is worth about $175.

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INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS:

U.N. Covenant opened for signature on 1966-DEC-19

Selected references related to religious freedom:
The States Parties to the present Covenant,

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,

Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights,

Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms,

Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant,

Agree upon the following articles:

PART II, Article 2. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

PART III, Article 13.1 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

PART III, Article 13.3 The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

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CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD:

UN Resolution of 1989-DEC-12. Signed and ratified by every state in the United Nations, except for two:
bulletThe United States has signed the convention, but has not ratified it.
bulletSomalia has neither signed nor ratified the convention. They do not have a central government that is capable of speaking for the country. 2

Selected references related to religious freedom:
Article 2.1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

Article 2.2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Article 14.1 States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 14.3 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.

Article 20.1 A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State.

Article 20.3 Such care could include, inter alia, foster placement, kafalah of Islamic law, adoption or if necessary placement in suitable institutions for the care of children. When considering solutions, due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child's upbringing and to the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.

Article 29.1 States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

Article 30 In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.

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INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS

UN Resolution

Selected references related to religious freedom:
Article 2.1 Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, 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.

Article 4.1 In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.

Article 18.1 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.

Article 18.2 No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

Article 18.3 Article 18.3 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.

Article 18.4 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.

Article 20.2 Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

Article 26 All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 27 In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

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References:

  1. The Christian Science Church maintains a Web site that lists excerpts from constitutions of many countries which guarantee religious freedom. See: http://www.religious-freedom.org/voices2.html
  2. "The First Nearly Universally Ratified Human Rights Treaty in History". A UNICEF web site at: http://www.unicef.org/crc/status.htm
  3. Human Rights U.S.A. "educates people in the United States about their human rights and encourages community-based action." Their  primary goal is to "demonstrate that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents are as relevant to life in the U.S. as they are to life in other countries, and to improve the protection of human rights in
    American communities by increasing Americans’ awareness of these rights.
    " See: http://134.84.205.236/vision.htm

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Copyright 1996, 1998, 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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