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Spirituality, human rights and religious truth


Two meanings of religious freedom & liberty:
1. Freedom of beliefs, speech, & practices and
2. Freedom to restrict services to, to hate, to
denigrate, or to oppress others.

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About the meanings of the terms "religious freedom" and "religious liberty:"

Conflicts over religious freedom and religious liberty are considered by many to be the most important religious conflicts of our time.

In the past, these terms typically referred to freedom by individuals and minority faith groups of:

  • Religious belief,

  • Religious speech,

  • Religious assembly with fellow believers, and

  • Religious proselytizing and recruitment.

The individual believer was often the target of oppression by others -- typically large religious groups and governments. That is the meaning that we generally use on this web site.

Typical examples in North America were:

  • High levels of hatred and violence directed against the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century, largely by Protestants.

  • Restrictions enforced by the U.S. and Canadian governments on religious practices by Native Americans.

  • Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses during World War II. Many of these conflicts led to lawsuits that define the limits of religious freedom that North Americans enjoy today.

  • Persecution directed against Wiccans and other NeoPagans during the 1980's and 1990's because of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

However, in recent years, religious liberty & freedom seem to be taking on a new meaning: the freedom and liberty of a believer apply their religious beliefs in order to hate, oppress, deny service to, denigrate, or reduce the human rights of other groups.

Now, the direction of the oppression has reversed. It is now the believer who is the oppressor and others -- typically women, sexual and other minorities -- who are the targets. This new meaning is becoming increasingly common. It appears that this change is begin driven by a number of factors:

  • The increasing public acceptance of women's use of birth control/contraceptives. This is a practice regarded as a personal decision by most faith groups, but is actively opposed by the Roman Catholic and a few other conservative faith groups.

  • The increasing public acceptance of equal rights for sexual minorities including the LGBT community (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender persons and transsexuals); and

  • The increasing percentage of NOTAs in North America. These are individuals who are NOT Affiliated with an organized faith group. Some identify themselves as Agnostics, Atheists secularists, Humanists, free thinkers, etc. Others say that they are spiritual, but not religious.

    The media often refer to NOTAs as "Nones" because they are affiliated to none of the faith groups. However, the words Nones and Nuns are homophomes: words that sound alike but are spelled differently and which hold very different meanings. To avoid confusion, we recommend against this practice and recommend the unambiguous term "NOTA."

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Topics covered in this section:

Information about the two meanings of "religious freedom:"

Detailed introduction to the term "religious freedom:"   << We recommend that you read this essay first

Determining if "religious freedom" actually means the freedom to discriminate against others, in violation of the "Golden rule"

Four examples of the conflict:

Two legal cases involving the freedom of religious belief/expression; two involving the freedom to denigrate or refuse to work with others: Part 1  Part 2

star symbolMajor conflicts between the LGBT community and religious conservatives:

A fast-rising problem, largely over the supply of same-sex wedding-related goods and services

"Whose religious or secular rights take precedence over other peoples' rights?" An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

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The new meaning of the term:

The freedom to discriminate and oppress others on religious grounds << Sadly, a large & growing section

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The traditional meaning of the term: to believe, associate with others, and practice religion freely:

bullet Status of religious freedom:

Snapshot of religious freedom worldwide during 2010:


Status of religious freedom in the U.S.

bullet Decline of religious freedom in Europe

bullet The U.S. government vs. individual religious freedom

bullet Decline of religious freedom in Europe

bullet Freedom House report on religious freedom

bullet Religious freedom and the year 2000 presidential candidates

bullet Lack of religious freedom in France

bullet Changing one's religion from Islam to another faith (Irtidad)

bullet Religious clothing and jewelry in U.S. public schools

bullet Canadian religious groups' freedom to discriminate against same-sex marriage
bullet Statements, speeches, petitions, etc. on religious freedom and tolerance:
bullet Excerpts:
bullet Excerpts of statements on religious freedom
bullet In the United States:
bullet National Religious Freedom Day: JAN-16

bullet Guaranteeing personal religious freedom

bullet Petition to regain and preserve religious freedom

bullet Williamsburg Charter on the First Amendment (1988)

bullet U.N. report on religious freedom in the U.S. (1998)

bullet Speech by President Clinton on religious freedom (1995)

bullet Proclamation on diversity and tolerance in Cedar Rapids, IA.

bullet Personal pledge of support for religious freedom
bullet International:
bullet Declaration of a Global Ethic (1993)

Excerpts from "The Principles of a Global Ethic"

bullet International Religious Freedom Day

bullet Statement by UNESCO, on the "Year of Tolerance" (1995)

bullet Statement by Pope John Paul II on the World Day of Peace, (1996)

bullet Statement by the U.S. on freedom of religion in Europe (1999)

bullet The Amman Declaration (1999) concerning the Middle East

bullet The Geneva Spiritual Appeal (1999) on an end to religious conflict
bullet laws and regulations guaranteeing, limiting, or promoting religious freedom:
bullet 1777 Thomas Jefferson's bill for religious freedom in Virginia

bullet 1786 Virginia's "Act for Establishing Religious Freedom"

bullet The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

bullet Religious freedom restoration acts

bullet Workplace Religious Freedom Act *

bullet U.S. "Freedom from Religious Persecution Act"

bullet Religious rights within the US military

bullet Excerpts of laws guaranteeing religious freedom
bullet Other topics:
bullet Links to web sites dealing with religious freedom


An essay donated by Susan Humphreys: "Do people have the right to believe anything they want? Does religious freedom include the right to hurt others?"

bullet Brief quotations about tolerance

bullet Reducing religion-inspired religious conflicts

bullet Religious tolerance and freedom chain letter

bullet Constitutional amendment on religious freedom & compulsory prayer
bullet Related topics:
bullet Religiously motivated religious conflict, oppression, & discrimination menu

bullet Religious laws of the U.S., Canada and other nations

References used:

  1. Paraphrased, with changes, from Forum 18 at: http://www.forum18.org.

  2. Jill Lawless, "Christian employee discriminated against for wearing crucifix, court rules," Associated Press, 2013-JAN-15

Site navigation:

Home > here

or Home > Important essays > here

or Home > Religious information > here

or Home > Human rights > here

Copyright © 2006 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-NOV-05
Latest update: 2013-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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