What is freedom of religion?

In the atheist-headgear-thread Katatori had an interesting interpretation of freedom of religion...

Katatori-kun:

cerapa:
As far as I understand things, freedom of religion means that you are allowed to follow any religion you want, and says nothing about gaining extra rights because of your religion.

This is a common misinterpretation of what freedom of religion is, often proposed by members of the privileged majority.

cerapa:
Giving special rights to someone of a particular religion not only implies that that religion deserves more in some form, but also implies that others do not deserve that right.

Bollocks it does. If a society allows freedom of religion, then all religions must be allowed to practice their religion so long as it does no harm to others. Everyone has the right to follow their beliefs. No one is being discriminated against.

So, what does it actually mean? Wikipedia says...

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion.[1]
In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion

I still think 'freedom of religion' means you can't directly target a religion. I can't ban the "Islamic piece of clothing, the burqa" but I can ban clothing that makes you unrecognizable. I can't ban religious ritual slaughtering without stunning, but I can ban slaughtering without stunning because we've got laws against animal cruelty.

In a country with religious freedom, religion alone can never be a reason to ban something, but certain practices or even entire religions ('Breivikism') can be illegal because they're illegal under laws that target both religious and non-religious practices.

It certainly doesn't mean that you're allowed to do whatever you want "as long as it doesn't harm others" - we shouldn't have irrelevant laws anyway, and whether you're religious or not shouldn't be very important when you're asking for an exemption. Wearing a burqa doesn't harm others, but it doesn't have to be legal in countries with religious freedom.

TL;DR: Freedom of religion doesn't mean we have to accommodate all religious practices, it only means we can never directly target a specific religion in our laws. 'Accommodating needs' should happen to anyone, whether they are religious or not, whether it's Muslim women who want a 'women-only-hour' or non-religious people who'd like a nude beach.

Personally I just believe Freedom religions is the freedom to practice or not practice any belief without interference from the state. No I don't think it makes you free from criticism, but it does mean that the state can't tax you differently or persecute you for personal beliefs.

If you have a law that restricts someone's religion for whatever reason, but that's just a side effect of the law, then tough shit, they'll just have to deal with it.

However, if you're merely using this as a smokescreen, and the law is intended to target people of a certain religion, or non-religious people, then you can go fuck yourself (metaphorical you).

So I'm half with you here Danyal, but I couldn't tell where Katatori actually disagrees with you on that to be perfectly honest.

Witty Name Here:
Personally I just believe Freedom religions is the freedom to practice or not practice any belief without interference from the state. No I don't think it makes you free from criticism, but it does mean that the state can't tax you differently or persecute you for personal beliefs.

'Practice' or 'belief'?

I don't think someone should be able to be persecuted for believing judaism, but practicing jewish ritual slaughter without stunning, leaving the animal to die slowly and painfully, should be illegal.

Bit of a grey area. People must comply with the laws of their nations, regardless of their religion, but it's not hard to persecute a religion by creating laws that "just happen" to affect them disproportionately.

Its like in Magic the Gathering. Even if a card has protection from white, Wrath of God still destroys it because its not targeting that card, it is targeting all cards.

But yes, if there is a demonstrable purpose to a ban of such and such kind, and that purpose is not to adversely affect a religion, then freedom of religion is not infringed.

According to European Convention Of Human Rights....

ARTICLE 9
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. 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.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject
only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in
a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection
of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the
rights and freedoms of others.

Specifically important for this thread, is 2. : Freedom of religion shall be subject only to such limitations that are "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Of course, these matters are hardly simple. That's the whole reason we have courts debating on burqa bans and such - the rights and laws as written allow for more than one possible interpretation.

Specifically, what I personally take it to mean in context of creating or modifying laws, is this:
Ignoring religious connotations and consequences, what is the purpose of the law (if any)? If it cannot be shown how the law would benefit general public, without referencing religion, then it probably infringes on the right of freedom of religion.

Witty Name Here:
Personally I just believe Freedom religions is the freedom to practice or not practice any belief without interference from the state. No I don't think it makes you free from criticism, but it does mean that the state can't tax you differently or persecute you for personal beliefs.

That is utter bullshit for an incredible variety of reasons. Since I don't want to pick on any existing religions, I'll "resurrect" a dead one for this example. Lets say that the Aztec religion for whatever reason became popular again. A central tenet of their beliefs (at least for a portion of their history, accounts vary) involves regular human sacrifice. According to your apparent interpretation, the government would be unable to interfere if they started this practice once more.

An extreme example obviously, but it does show that there are beliefs that it is entirely inappropriate to allow. In fact, most of the major religions have at least a few central beliefs/practices that are no longer compatible with society, and have been forced to abandon them as a result.

The government must be allowed to enforce its laws, in spite of religious belief if necessary. What it cannot do is discriminate by making laws that target specific religions/practices, whether by name or not.

Heronblade:
snip

I'm sorry for not clarifying it earlier, but I meant "interfere" as in the government can't determine when and where a person is supposed to pray or what prayers someone is supposed to say. I never meant it in the "Government should have no right to force religions in their country to do ANYTHING!" sense.

Hell I'm all in favor of the Government being able to stop harmful religious practices. Despite being Roman Catholic, I think that if the Papacy is unwilling to step up, face their problems, and get to work fixing them, then the Government should have every right to investigate and arrest pedo priests. And I don't see outlawing the Burqa to be much of a problem since most Islamic women outside of predominantly Islamic countries don't wear it anyways (plus the Quran just says women must cover their heads, nothing else)

The freedom to believe in any religion or belief system, or the freedom to not believe in any religion or belief system.

It isn't that complicated.

Witty Name Here:
Despite being Roman Catholic, I think that if the Papacy is unwilling to step up, face their problems, and get to work fixing them, then the Government should have every right to investigate and arrest pedo priests.

What?! So if the Papacy does face their problems and get to work fixing them, the government has no right to investigate and arrest pedo priests?

Witty Name Here:
(plus the Quran just says women must cover their heads, nothing else)

And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.
http://quran.com/33/53

'His wives' are Muhammad's wives.

The Shahada tells Muslims too....

To follow or emulate him in our worship, manners, and way of life.
To understand, practice, and promote his sunnah ("habits") in the best way possible
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada

And 'him' being Muhammad again. If it's not 'pure for your heart' to see Muhammad's wives, why would it be pure for your heart to see anyone's wife?

And thus...

image
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Technically, it's simply Freedom of Expression and Assembly, with the specific expression being a religious belief and rituals attached to it, and the specific assembly a religious congregation/organization.

However, for practical purposes "religiousness" is treated as a particularly important expression, with the access to restrict it being more limited than on most other speech. Take the Old Testament, which contain several passages of what clearly constitutes incitement of violence - usually in the form of stoning by community - for perfectly legal behaviour such as adultery or gay sex. Or the Qu'ran, which prescribe a good whipping for adulterous women.

Thankfully, such double standards are coming under pressure, with people who cite passages from religious scripture that incites violence now being convicted for it. Hopefully this is a sign the special treatment religion have so far received in on the retreat, so that eventually it'll be given no longer leash than secular ideological statements are.

This goes for a ban on headgear that exempts religious, but not political expressions as well. If you're allowed to wear a Ni'qab, then you should be allowed to wear a hoodie with anarchist symbols as well. Or indeed just a hoodie if you feel that's an important part of expressing yourself and of your identity, since your feeling is hardly worth any less than those of the religious. On the the other hand, a Burqa ban that doesn't also target ski masks, or a general ban on teachers wearing religious symbols in school that doesn't also ban political symbols, is discriminatory.

 

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