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Freedom of Religion or Belief - An International Law Commentary by Bielefeldt, Prof Heiner; Ghanea, Nazila, Dr; Wiener, Michael, Dr (21st January 2016)

Part 1 Freedom of Religion or Belief, 1.1 Freedom to Adopt, Change, or Renounce a Religion or Belief

Heiner Bielefeldt, Nazila Ghanea, Michael Wiener

From: Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary

Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, Nazila Ghanea, Michael Wiener

Subject(s):
Religion — Freedom of association — Freedom of expression — Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion

This chapter focuses on everyone’s right to adopt, change, or renounce a religion or belief without restraints. That part of freedom of religion or belief has always been particularly controversial and it continues to be contested in theory and practice. In many countries, converts suffer societal harassment, open or concealed forms of discrimination and sometimes brutal acts of persecution committed by State agencies or non-State actors. While the freedom to convert to another religion or belief (including non-belief) enjoys unconditional protection in human rights law, the freedom to induce others to convert by employing non-coercive measure of persuasion can be limited, if deemed necessary and in accordance with the criteria set out for imposing limitations. Nonetheless, the two issues of conversion and missionary activities closely belong together in practice, since restrictions imposed by States on ‘proselytism’ often aim at de-legitimizing acts of ‘apostasy’ as well.

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