EXCERPTS OF LAWS GUARANTEEING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
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.
||U.S. federal and state constitutions:
||Canadian constituion and laws:
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]
||Ch. 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...
||Ch. 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....
||Ch. 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...
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
||Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982
||Enacted by the Canada Act 1982 [U.K.] c.11;
||Proclaimed 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:
||freedom of conscience and religion;
||freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and
other media of communication;
||freedom of peaceful assembly; and
||freedom of association.
(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
(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;
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..
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
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
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
UN Resolution of 1989-DEC-12. Signed and ratified by every state in the United
Nations, except for two:
||The United States has signed the convention, but has not ratified it.
||Somalia has neither signed nor ratified the convention. They do not
have a central government that is capable of speaking for the country.
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,
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
Article 29.1 States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be
(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.
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,
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
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.
The Christian Science Church maintains a Web site that lists excerpts from
constitutions of many countries which guarantee religious freedom. See:
"The First Nearly Universally Ratified Human Rights Treaty in History".
A UNICEF web site at: http://www.unicef.org/crc/status.htm
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."
Copyright © 1996, 1998, 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson