COMENIUS SUBJECT 6
Religious rules in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
We should make a reference to the fact that we, as persons living in the European Union, should take into account this way of relating Human Rights of the United Nation (1948) and the actual European draft for a Constitution as it is inside the Lisbon Treatease:
The final version of the Constitutional Treaty agreed by the Member States, amended
the relevant section of the Preamble so that it read as follows:
“Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist
inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values
of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom,
democracy, equality and the rule of law.”
This formula was retained in the Lisbon Treaty and, irrespective of whether it is
ultimately ratified, represents that consensus view of the Member States in relation to
the role of religion in the Union’s constitutional order. The Preamble characterises
the constitutional values of the Union as deriving from a balance of religious,
humanist and cultural influences. These three influences both reinforce, and are
inconsistent with, each other. For instance, humanist influences can compliment
religious influences due to the strong humanist tradition within Christianity which
has also been reflected in European culture. On the other hand, the secularist
elements of the humanist tradition, with its emphasis on human self-government,
can also be restrictive of the influence which religious organisations, including
Christian ones, may seek to assert over law and politics.
As the text of the Preamble makes clear, this balance between religious and humanist
influences is also influenced by cultural factors. The predominant contemporary
view of culture is of a broad ethnographic or anthropological state of affairs which
represents a broad “way of life” encompassing established patterns in relation to
both values and beliefs and matters such as food, clothing or leisure activities.
The invocation of cultural influences themselves and the notion of the importance of
Europe’s “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance” (emphasis added) imply that the
fundamental constitutional norms of the Union are influenced by and therefore
reinforce, a shared European way of life. Such an approach entails greater
recognition of those forms of religion which have been historically predominant in Europe, which have left a greater mark on national cultures and which are therefore
compatible with established European cultural norms. Indeed, the Union has been at
pains to ensure that EU law does not undermine the cultural or institutional role of
particular religions at Member State level, including, for instance the arrangement of
leisure periods around particular religious patterns or the role of particular religions
as sources of national identity.
This approach achieved explicit recognition in
Article 17(1) which states that:
“The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national
law of churches and religious associations or communities in the
The importance attached to culture and to the notion of inheritance can therefore be
seen as granting certain forms of religion greater influence over the Union’s public
morality than others. In particular, as Europe’s “religious inheritance” is
overwhelmingly Christian, Christianity is likely to exercise a greater influence than
other faiths over a public morality which draws on a mixture of Europe’s “cultural,
humanist and religious inheritance”. This was the view of the Catholic Bishops who
regarded the Preamble as “implicitly referring to the centre of this [religious] tradition,
which is Christianity.”
Indeed, the importance of balancing religious influences with
those of the humanist tradition and cultural norms can be seen as implicitly
categorising forms of religion which are anti-humanist or which contravene other
European cultural values are contrary to European public morality
( Source http://www2.lse.ac.uk/europeanInstitute/LEQS/LEQSPaper10.pdf )
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
The First Amendment
The Constitution of the United States of America
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.
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that NO official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein, If there are ANY circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” United States Supreme Court (1943) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 US 624.
What is Meant by Religious Rights
The Church in each place must be free to define the mission it believes it has received from God. Likewise, individual Christians and other believers must be free to practice their faith in whatever manner they believe necessary, commensurate with their not violating the same freedom of others. In addition, we affirm the understanding of religious freedom embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other international covenants. While some actions taken in the name of religious rights may be ambiguous and will have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, we believe that religious rights include at least the following:
Every person has the right to determine his or her own faith and creed according to conscience.
Every person has the right to the privacy of his belief, to express his religious beliefs in worship, teaching, and practice, and to proclaim the implications of his beliefs for relationships in a social or political community.
Every person has the right to associate with others and to organize with them for religious purposes.
Every religious organization, formed or maintained by action in accordance with the rights of individual persons, has the right to determine its policies and practices for the accomplishment of its chosen purposes, which implies the right:
to assemble for unhindered private or public worship
to formulate its own creed
to have an adequate ministry
to determine its conditions of membership
to give religious instruction to its youth, including preparation for ministry
to preach its message publicly
to receive into its membership those who desire to join it
to carry on social services and to engage in missionary activity both at home and abroad
to organize local congregations
to publish and circulate religious literature
to control the means necessary to its mission and to secure support for its work at home and abroad
to cooperate and to unite with other believers at home and abroad
to use the language of the people in worship and in religious instruction
to determine freely the qualifications for professional leadership of religious communities, freely naming their religious leaders at all levels and designating their work assignments.
(Reprinted with permission from Freedom of Faith in the ULC Textbook)