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Joint Resolution on Religious Freedom PDF Print E-mail

International Coalition for Religious Freedom

Joint Resolution on Religious Freedom

Berlin, Germany
May 31, 1998

Whereas Religious Freedom is a fundamental right to which every human being is entitled;

Whereas this right is essential to the human quest for meaning and ultimate value in life;

Whereas the primary function of government is to ensure that the rights of its people can be exercised;

Whereas 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights;

Whereas the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights declares in Article 18 that "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.";

Whereas the United Nations has promulgated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provide additional protection for religious freedom;

Whereas the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee has adopted General Comment 22 which states that: "Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions" and that the Committee "views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community";

Whereas the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states in Article 9: "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.";

Whereas the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Final Act (Helsinki Accords) in Article VII declares: "The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all" and "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.";

Whereas the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in Article III declares that: "Every person has the right freely to profess a religious faith and to manifest and practice it both in public and in private.";

Whereas the American Convention on Human Rights in Article 12 states that: "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. No one shall be subject to restrictions that might impair his freedom to maintain or to change his religion or beliefs.";

Whereas the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Banjul Charter) states in Article 8 that: "Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed.";

Whereas, the participants in the International Coalition for Religious Freedom conferences seek to promote, at large, each of the above;

Whereas religious freedom is being violated in almost every part of the world;

Whereas the International Coalition for Religious Freedom has, in April and May 1998, convened international conferences on religious freedom in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Berlin and has heard from scholars, government officials, attorneys, human rights activists, legislators, journalists and representatives of large and small faith communities;

We therefore, here assembled at the Berlin Conference on Religious Freedom in Europe toward the New Millennium, May 29-31, 1998, hereby affirm and declare:

That the right to religious freedom ought to be upheld for all people, regardless of faith, creed, language, nationality, race, color, social origin, gender, or aboriginal or other culture.

That national and local governments and the media and religions ought to respect the right of every person to practice, teach, propagate, change and observe his or her religion or belief, while preserving the freedom of individuals and other non-governmental entities to evaluate religious beliefs or practices.

That religious freedom is a concern not only for small religions but also for large religions since all religions are inevitably in the minority in some nations.

That it is important to apply international human rights norms to religious freedom as in other areas of human rights law.

That government-sponsored gross violations of religious freedom such as genocide, murder, slavery, and torture based on religious faith or belief, as well as the destruction of holy places, should be the subject of sanctions and other exercises of foreign policy powers by nations adhering to the principles of religious freedom.

That the definition of "religion" which is subject to the guarantees of religious freedom in international declarations, conventions and treaties and in national constitutions and legislation should be broadly construed and not used to limit religious freedom only to majority religious faiths in any nation.

That each religious faith should receive equal protection of its religious freedom and there should be no hierarchy of religious faiths established by government policy or action on religious freedom.

That legislative committees or government agencies or government lists or other government activities which focus only on minority religious faiths should not be formed or undertaken since their narrow focus discriminates between categories of religions on a discriminatory basis and has resulted in discrimination against minority faiths.

That restrictions on religious freedom based on public order, safety, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others should be imposed only if the state interest is demonstrated to be compelling and based on generally applicable neutral law and the restriction imposed is the least restrictive means of satisfying the state interest.

That hate crimes rooted in religious intolerance should be vigorously prosecuted by government authorities.

That the forcible kidnapping of members of a religious faith in order to force them to change their faith ("deprogramming") and other forms of religious vigilantism are a violation of religious freedom and should be vigorously prosecuted by government authorities.

That the misuse of psychiatry and science to restrict religious freedom should be rejected.

That immigration and other laws and treaties should not be applied to restrict the ability of believers and leaders of religious faiths and their representatives to establish and maintain direct personal contacts and communication with each other within each nation and between nations through travel both domestically and internationally for participation in assemblies, pilgrimages to shrines, meetings and other religious events.

That consumer protection laws should not be used to discriminate against religions or to restrict religious freedom.

That discrimination in employment, obtaining of government benefits, housing, or political participation based on religious faith should not be permitted.

That there should be no religious litmus test for serving in public office.

That sincere dialogue between religions should be promoted in order to bring greater understanding and religious freedom.

That parents have the responsibility of raising and educating their minor children in accordance with the parent’s religious belief.

That use of the term "cult" or "sect" by government agencies has developed a pejorative connotation and the terms "religion," "minority religion," "small religion," or "new religion" should be used instead.

That human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations should work together to promote the cause of religious freedom.

That in propagating their faith and in their other actions, religions should act honestly and responsibly and respect the human dignity and human rights of others.