Right/Freedom of Religion/History

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Freedom of Religion


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What is the oldest source in any country that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

The Edict of Toleration by Galerius in April of 311 ended Christian persecutions and granted their right to exist (Keresztes, "From the Great Persecution to the Peace of Galerius," 390). This preceded the Edict of Milan by two years, which permanently declared religious toleration and protection for Christians within the Roman Empire (Britannica, "Edict of Milan").

References:

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Edict of Milan." Encyclopedia Britannica, August 8, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Edict-of-Milan.

Keresztes, Paul. “From the Great Persecution to the Peace of Galerius.” Vigiliae Christianae 37, no. 4 (1983): 379–99. https://doi.org/10.2307/1583547.


What historical forces or events, if any, contributed to a widespread belief in its importance? 🖉 edit

Widespread belief in the importance of religious freedom within a liberal democratic society developed over centuries of religious separation, conflict, discourse. Over the past five hundred years Western civilization has transitioned from a uniformly Christian bloc of nations into a set of states defined by religious diversity and built upon the principles of toleration and religious freedom. Three major forces drove that transformation: The violence caused by religious intolerance, the increasing value of free thought, and the success of religiously free states. Over time, all three of these historical forces led to the widespread belief in the importance of religious freedom within western society.

The first historical force that led to the original identification of religious freedom as a valuable right was the horror and devastation that Europe witnessed during the Reformation era as a result of religious conflicts. The widespread destruction that took place during such conflicts as the Schmalkaldic Wars, the French Wars of Religion, and the English Civil War showed Europeans how difficult it would be to preserve religious unity within their borders, which led some to question the value of religious homogeneity. The Thirty Years War, especially, led to the identification of religious tolerance as an alternative to the religiously-motivated violence when it concluded with the landmark Peace of Westphalia. Voltaire’s assessment that “Germany would be a desert strewn with the bones of Catholics, Protestants, and Anabaptists, slain by each other, if the Peace of Westphalia had not at length brought freedom of conscience” reveals how important the war, and the treaty that ended it, really were to the identification of religious freedom as an important civil right (Voltaire, “Toleration and Other Essays - Online Library of Liberty”). Historian Gordon Christenson similarly notes that the principle of religious tolerance had been included in previous Reformation-era treaties, but the Peace of Westphalia’s explicit use of the principle as a peacekeeping measure reveals that it had broken into mainstream political thought by the end of the war (Christenson, “Liberty of the Exercise of Religion in the Peace of Westphalia”)

As the dust settled after years of religious conflict, a second historical force also contributed to the widespread belief in the right of religious freedom. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Enlightenment thinkers reflected upon the Reformation wars and the state of European politics, and began to advocate for the freedom of thought and faith within political society. In 1669 Spinoza concluded that “a government would be most harsh which deprived the individual of his freedom of saying and teaching what he thought; and would be moderate if such freedom were granted” (Spinoza, “The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza,” 195), Two decades later, Locke came to a similar conclusion when his “Letter Concerning Toleration” specifically outlined the principle of religious toleration by asserting that “no private person has any right in any manner to prejudice another person in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church or religion” (Locke, “A Letter Concerning Toleration,”). Though the identification of religious freedom as a fundamental right did not immediately lead to its universal adoption among western states, it did represent a significant advancement in the field of religious rights. Going forward, rulers and state builders were more conscious of religious toleration as a viable alternative to forcing religious uniformity within their borders. About a century later, this Locke sentiment was directly incorporated into the American Bill of Rights, which prohibits the creation of any law that might restrict the free practice of religion.

Over time the ideas of toleration and the freedom of thought became more widespread, which led a number of states to explore religious freedom as a principle upon which strong nations could be built. Among the first political leaders to embrace the principle of religious freedom was Roger Williams, who founded the English colony of Rhode Island after he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As the colony grew over the next several years, he drafted a compact under which it could be governed. Smithsonian Magazine writes that “the most significant element was what the compact did not say. It did not propose to build a model of God’s kingdom on earth, as did Massachusetts...the compact did not even ask God’s blessing. It made no mention of God at all” (Smithsonian Institution, “God, Government and Roger Williams' Big Idea,”). Shortly afterward Williams traveled to England in order to secure a charter from an English Parliament that was itself in the midst of a Civil War. The charter was granted, and the committee that granted it “left all decisions about religion to the “greater Part”—the majority—knowing the majority would keep the state out of matters of worship. Soul liberty now had official sanction” (Smithsonian Institution, “God, Government and Roger Williams' Big Idea,”). The establishment of the Rhode island colony greatly benefitted the growing belief in religious freedom as a fundamental right because it proved that a political society defined by toleration could find success despite the lack of uniform religion. This idea heavily influenced the drafting of the United States Constitution, and over the next two centuries freedom of religion came to be a defining feature for liberal democracies.

Over the past five centuries, western civilization underwent a number of historical changes that led it to lose faith in the benefits of religious homogeneity and instead come to support freedom of belief and universal toleration. As it slowly began to understand the dangers of promoting state-led religious uniformity, the western world began to explore ideas of plurality and acceptance before eventually embracing them in political entities such as Rhode Island and the United States. Modern democracies still struggle to guarantee the right to freedom of religion at times, but after five hundred years of development western society at least recognizes it as a fundamental human right.

References:

John M. Barry, “God, Government and Roger Williams’ Big Idea,” Jan. 2012, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/god-government-and-roger-williams-big-idea-6291280

Gordon A. Christenson, “Liberty of the Exercise of Religion in the Peace of Westphalia,” Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 21, 2012).

Locke, “Letter Concerning Toleration”

Spinoza, The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza

Voltaire, Voltaire. Toleration and Other Essays. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1755. https://oll.libertyfund.org/title/mccabe-toleration-and-other-essays.

What is the oldest written source in this country that mentions this right?

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Afghanistan 🖉 edit

Afghanistan

Albania 🖉 edit

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Algeria 🖉 edit

Freedom of religion was first guaranteed in the Algerian Constitution of 1963. Article 4 of the document guarantees this right, while also stating that Islam is the state religion.


“Constitution of Algeria.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinonline. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.cow/zzdz0026&i=1

Andorra 🖉 edit

Andorra’s 1993 Constitution is the first document in the country’s history to define freedom of religion. Article 11 specifically outlines the right.

“Andorra 1993.” Constitute. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Andorra_1993

Angola 🖉 edit

Freedom of religion was first protected by Article 7 of Angola’s 1975 Interim Constitution. It was later replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which also guaranteed the right.

“The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Angola.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinonline. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/rsl2&i=197 “Constitutional Law of the Republic of Angola.” Constitution Network. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Angola%20Constitution.pdf

Antigua and Barbuda 🖉 edit

Antigua and Barbuda’s 1981 Constitution contains the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s independent history. Article 11 specifically outlines this right.


“The Republic of Antigua and Barbuda Constitutional Order 1981.” Political Database of the Americas. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Antigua/antigua-barbuda.html

Argentina 🖉 edit

The Constitution establishes freedom of religion, but also gives preferential status to the Roman Catholic Church (U.S. Department of State, "ARGENTINA 2018 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT").

Armenia 🖉 edit

The 1995 Constitution of Armenia contains the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s post-Soviet history. The right guaranteed in Article 8.1 as long as organizations operate “in accordance with the law.” Meanwhile, the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church is cited as the national church.


“Armenia 1995 (rev. 2005).” Constitute. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Armenia_2005?lang=en

Australia 🖉 edit

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was ratified on July 6th, 1900. Article 116 prevents any legislation on religion, including legislation to stopping its free expression. Commonwealth Parliament. “Chapter V. The States.” Parliament of Australia, Commonwealth Parliament, 16 Jan. 2019, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Constitution/chapter5#chapter-05_116. Austria The Constitution of Austria was ratified on October 1, 1920 and reinstated on May 1, 1945. Article 7 bans discrimination, including on the basis of religion, and Article 14 (b) bans discrimination on the basis of religion in public schools specifically. Constitution Project. “Austria the Federal Constitutional Law of 1920 Law No. 153/2004 ...” Constitute, POGO, 27 Apr. 2022, https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Austria%20_FULL_%20Constitution.pdf.


In accordance with English Common Law, Australia’s Constitution does not clearly guarantee freedom of religion. However, Article 116 of the document orders the “Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion.” Additionally, multiple Australian states have adopted laws and constitutions protecting the right.


“The Australian Constitution.” Parliament of Australia. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.aph.gov.au/constitution

“2021 Report on International Religious Freedom: Australia.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-report-on-international-religious-freedom/australia/#:~:text=In%20Queensland%2C%20Victoria%2C%20and%20the,the%20grounds%20of%20religious%20belief.

Austria 🖉 edit

The current Austrian state has maintained the Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals of 1867, drafted during the Habsburg Empire. This makes Article 14 of the document the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s modern history. However, deeper legal foundations for this right can be found in the Patents of Tolerance of 1781/82.


“Austria’s Religious Landscape.” Austria Embassy Washington. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.austria.org/religion#:~:text=EXPRESSIONS%20OF%20THE%20BASIC%20RIGHT%20OF%20RELIGIOUS%20FREEDOM&text=According%20to%20Austrian%20law%20(Law,choose%20his%20or%20her%20religion.

Azerbaijan 🖉 edit

Azerbaijan’s Constitution of 1995 contains the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s post-Soviet history. Article 48 of the document specifically defines this right. “Azerbaijan 1995 (rev. 2016).” Constitute. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Azerbaijan_2016

Bahrain 🖉 edit

The Bahraini Constitution of 1973 contains the first assertion of religious freedom in the country’s independent history. Article 22 specifically articulates this right.

“Bahrain Old Constitution (1973).” International Constitutional Law Project. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ba01000_.html

Bangladesh 🖉 edit

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Barbados 🖉 edit

Barbados’s Constitution of 1966 was the first document to protect freedom of religion in the country’s independent history. Article 19 specifically defines this right.

“The Constitution of Barbados.” Organization of American States. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.oas.org/dil/the_constitution_of_barbados.pdf

Belarus 🖉 edit

The Belarussian Constitution of 1994 contains the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s post-Soviet history. Article 31 of the document defines this right.

“Belarus 1994 (rev. 2004).” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Belarus_2004

Belgium 🖉 edit

Articles 19, 20, and 21 of Belgium’s 1830 Constitution contain the first protections of freedom of religion in the country’s history. However, Article 19 states that “offenses committed when this freedom is used may be punished.”

“Belgium’s Constitution of 1831 with Amendments through 2014.” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Belgium_2014.pdf?lang=en

Belize 🖉 edit

Freedom of religion was first guaranteed in Belize by its Constitution of 1981. Article 11 of the document specifically outlines this right.

“Belize 1981 (rev. 2011).” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Belize_2011

Benin 🖉 edit

Freedom of religion was first specifically outlined in Article 135 of Benin’s 1977 Constitution. However, its predecessor, the Constitution of Dahomey (1965) did state that the country “guarantees the freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, procession and manifestation.”

“Constitution of Dahomey.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinlonline. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.cow/zzbj0002&i=1 “Fundamental Law of the People’s Republic of Benin.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinlonline. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.cow/zzbj0035&i=3

Bhutan 🖉 edit

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Bolivia 🖉 edit

Freedom of conscience is recognized in Title II of Bolivia’s 1826 Constitution, which also states that the country’s religion is Catholicism. However, the Constitution has since gone through 16 iterations, with the most current adopted in 2009. It protects the right in Article 4, and separates church from state.


“Bolivia (Plurinational Republic of) 2009.” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bolivia_2009

“Constitution of the Bolivian Republic.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinlonline. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.cow/zzbo0003&i=1

Bosnia and Herzegovina 🖉 edit

The Bosnian and Herzegovinian Constitution of 1995 contains the first assertion of freedom of religion in the country’s independent history. Article 3(g) specifically outlines this right.


“Bosnia and Herzegovina 1995 (rev. 2009).” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bosnia_Herzegovina_2009

Botswana 🖉 edit

Botswana’s Constitution of 1966 is the first document in the country’s independent history to protect freedom of conscience. Article 3(b) outlines this right.


“Botswana 1966 (rev. 2016).” Constitute. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Botswana_2016

Brazil 🖉 edit

The Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religious practice. In addition, it prohibits the state from favoring one religion over others (U.S. Department of State, " 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom - Brazil").

Brunei 🖉 edit

The Constitution of Brunei Declares the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam (Shafeite sect) the Official religion of the country, However, Part II, Article 3, Section 1 states, “all other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony by the persons professing them.” This Assertion is first seen in the 1959 Constitution of Brunei Darussalam

CIA World Factbook. Brunei. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/brunei/#government

U.S. Department of State 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom: Brunei https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-report-on-international-religious-freedom/brunei

International Commission of Jurists. Constitution of Brunei Darussalam 1959. https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Brunei-Constitution-1959-eng.pdf

Bulgaria 🖉 edit

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Burkina Faso 🖉 edit

Under Chapter I, Article 7, Freedom of Religion is asserted in the 1991 Constitution of Burkina Faso. This article also specifies that respect for the law, public order, good morals, and the human person must be upheld with free practice. Equality regardless of religion is also guaranteed under Article I.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Constitution of Burkina Faso. 1991. https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/bkf128139E.pdf

Burundi 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of religion was in the 1962 Constitution of the Kingdom of Burundi. Burundi became independent in 1962 from the Belgium administration. Article 13, under Title II, covers freedom of worship.

Constitution of Burundi. 1962. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Constitution_du_Burundi_de_1962.pdf

Cambodia 🖉 edit

The 1947 Constitution of Cambodia declares Buddhism as the religion of the state. However, It asserts under Article 8 that, “Liberty of conscience is absolute. So is that of worshiping…” but limits this liberty of worship by articulating that it “suffers no other restrictions than those made necessary by the maintenance of Public order.”

Advocatanomy Law Library. Cambodia Constitution 1947. https://advocatetanmoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/cambodia-constitution-1947.pdf

CIA World Factbook. Cambodia. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/cambodia/#government

Cameroon 🖉 edit

The 1972 constitution of Cameroon first asserts that Freedom of religion and worship shall be guaranteed in Article 15 of the preamble. In Article 14 the state is declared secular and neutral, also opening the preamble with adherence to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While not specifically mentioned in the 1961 Constitution, it also affirms adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Which covers religious freedom under Article 18.

International Labour Organization. Constitution of Cameroon 1972. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/43107/133753/F868661776/CMR-43107%20(EN).pdf

https://condor.depaul.edu/mdelance/images/Pdfs/Federal%20Constitution%20of%20Cameroon.pdf

Canada 🖉 edit

The Constitution of Canada was ratified on July 1, 1867. Part I B(2) and F(15) grant religious freedoms and protections. Part I pretext claims the supremacy of God. Constitution Project. “Canada 1867 (Rev. 2011) Constitution.” Constitute, POGO, 27 Apr. 2022, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Canada_2011?lang=en.

Cape Verde 🖉 edit

Freedom of religion is first asserted in the 1980 Constitution of the Republic of Cabo Verde under Title II, article 48. This article also guarantees freedom from religious discrimination, separation of church and state, freedom of religious instruction, guaranteed religious presence in hospitals, prisons, and armed forces, and the protection of religious places of worship.

Constitute Project. Constitution of the Republic of Cabo Verde. 1980. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cape_Verde_1992

Central African Republic 🖉 edit

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Chad 🖉 edit

The first assertion of Religious Freedom is covered under the 1996 Constitution of The Republic of Chad, under Title II, Chapter I, Article 27. Article 14 of Title II also guarantees equality without distinction of origin, of race, of sex, of religion, of political opinion or of social position.

Constituteproject. Constitution of the Republic of Chad. 1996. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chad_2005

U.S. Department of State. Report on International Religious Freedom. https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-report-on-international-religious-freedom/chad/#:~:text=The%20October%20Transitional%20Charter%20establishes,and%20secularism%20of%20the%20state.”

Chile 🖉 edit

Freedom of Religion was first covered in the 1925 Constitution of The Republic of Chile under Chapter III, Article 10, Section 2. However, the specification that religion may not be contrary to morality, good usage, and public order, is made in the same assertion.

Constitute Project. 1925 Constitution of the Republic of Chile. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chile_1925?lang=en

CIA World Factbook. Chile. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/chile/#government

China 🖉 edit

The Constitution establishes freedom of religion, but limits it to "normal religious activity" without defining normal. Religious groups are controlled if they are perceived to be a threat by the Communist Party. In recent years, there has been a campaign of religious persecution of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province (U.S. Department of State, "CHINA (INCLUDES TIBET, XINJIANG, HONG KONG, AND MACAU) 2018 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT").

Colombia 🖉 edit

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Comoros 🖉 edit

Religious Freedom is not guaranteed in Comoros. The Constitution declares Sunni Islam the religion of the state under Chapter V, Article 97 under the current constitution. However, Under Title I, Chapter I, Article 2, equality is guaranteed regardless of religion.

U.S. Department of State. Report on International Religious Freedom. 2021. Comoros. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-report-on-international-religious-freedom/comoros/

Constitute Project. 2018 Constitution of Comoros. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Comoros_2018

Costa Rica 🖉 edit

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Croatia 🖉 edit

Under Title III, Section II, Article 40, Freedom of religion is first asserted in the 1991 Constitution of The Republic of Croatia. Equality regardless of religion is also guaranteed under Article 14.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Croatia's Constitution of 1991 with Amendments through 2001. https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/cro129771.pdf

Cuba 🖉 edit

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Cyprus 🖉 edit

Under part II, Article 18, Freedom of Religion was first asserted in the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus. This Constitution was adopted upon independence from the UK in the same year.


International Labour Organization. Constitution of Cyprus 1960. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/47927/136251/F-1750868360/CYP47927_LEG_Constitution%201960.pdf

CIA World Factbook. Cyprus. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/cyprus/

Czech Republic 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of religion within the Czech Republic was asserted in the 1960 Constitution of Czechoslovakia under Chapter II, Article 32. However, In the 1992 Constitution of the Czech Republic, freedom of religion is not mentioned. Instead, there is a supplemental document, The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, under the Constitutional Order of 1992 that covers religious freedom under Article 15.


International Labour Organization. Constitution of the Czech Republic https://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/docs/1967/Constitution%20of%20the%20Czech%20Republic.pdf

World Statesman. Constitution of Czechoslovakia. 1960. https://www.worldstatesmen.org/Czechoslovakia-Const1960.pdf

CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. https://www.usoud.cz/fileadmin/user_upload/ustavni_soud_www/Pravni_uprava/AJ/Listina_English_version.pdf

Democratic Republic of the Congo 🖉 edit

Under Title II, Article 24, Freedom of religion is affirmed in the 1964 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, It does state that worship, teaching, practices, and performance of worship should be subject to the respect of public order and good morals.

U.S. Department of State. Report on Religious Freedom. 2022. Democratic Republic of The Congo. https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-report-on-international-religious-freedom/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

Wikisource. Translated 1964 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Constitution_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_(1964)#Title_II._Fundamental_rights

Denmark 🖉 edit

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Djibouti 🖉 edit

Djibouti’s constitution, adopted in 1992, affirms Islam as the state’s religion, though it respects all faiths and protects freedom of religion. The right is guaranteed under Article 11 (Djibouti 1992).

Djibouti. 1992 "Djibouti 1992 (rev. 2010)" Constitute Project. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Djibouti_2010

Dominica 🖉 edit

After its independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, the Commonwealth of Dominica adopted its Constitution, which had been written the year prior. Article 9 deals with “Protection of conscience” and protects freedom of religion (Dominica 1978).

Dominica. 1978 “Dominica 1978 (rev. 2014)” Constitute Project https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Dominica_2014

Dominican Republic 🖉 edit

After the death of Rafael Trujillo in 1961, a dictator who ruled over the Dominican Republic for several years, a new constitution was adopted. The 1963 Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion in Article 57 (“Constitución de la Nacion Dominicana” 1963. 21).

“Constitucion de la Nacion Dominicana” 1963 acnur.org https://www.acnur.org/fileadmin/Documentos/BDL/2012/8873.pdf

East Timor 🖉 edit

Created and ratified in 2002 after the country gained independence from Indonesia, the Constitution of East Timor guarantees its citizens freedom of religion. Two sections grant this right: Sections 1 and 2 under Article 12 and Sections 1 through 4 under Article 45 (Timor-Leste 2002).

Timor-Leste. 2002 “Timor-Leste 2002” Constitute Project https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/East_Timor_2002

Ecuador 🖉 edit

The first liberal constitution of Ecuador was adopted in 1897, establishing and protecting freedom of religion in the country for the first time. Article 13 under Section IV states that the state respects all religions and their practice (“Constitución de 1897” 1897).

“Constitución de 1897” 1897. Consitutenet.org https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/1897.pdf

Egypt 🖉 edit

The Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923 On Building a Constitutional System for the Egyptian State guarantees Egyptian citizens equal civil and political rights, regardless of religion, stated in Article 3 (“Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923” 1923). However, it was the Constitution of 1956 that made freedom of belief absolute in the constitution’s bill of rights (“The New Egyptian Constitution” 1956).

The New Egyptian Constitution. (1956). Middle East Journal, 10(3), 300–306. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4322826 “Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923” 1923. Constitutenet.org https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/1923_-_egyptian_constitution_english_1.pdf ... further results

Is the identification of this right associated with a particular era in history, political regime, or political leader? 🖉 edit

Religious freedom, while commonplace in modern liberal democracies, was not always identified as a natural right with which people were born. Historical narratives describe the “Dark Ages” between the fall of the Roman Empire and the advent of early modernity as a period in which the world was divided between various civilizations according to the religions which they professed. The Reformation was one of the most influential movements in the course of western history. As leaders like Martin Luther, and John Calvin led Christian communities to break from traditional Catholicism, the rate of religious pluralism rose within Europe and led to a series of religious wars that defined the sixteenth century. In an early attempt to mediate these conflicts, German rulers negotiated the 1555 Peace of Augsburg. Alexandra Walsham writes that this document “established the principle of cuius regio, eius religio, by which individual rulers were permitted to choose whether Catholicism or Protestantism should be professed in their states” (Walsham, “Reformation Legacies,” 297.) Thus, in addition to legalizing the practice of multiple religions within the German states, the adoption of cuius regio, eius religio also meant that religion would no longer be forced upon a principality by outside forces. The idea that Christian rulers could have the right to choose their own religion, and that this choice would be respected, represents an early step toward the principles of religious pluralism and toleration. The Peace of Augsburg did not lend religious agency to the subjects living within these principalities, but it did show European leaders that cooperation was possible between rulers who belonged to differing faiths. The seventeenth century was an especially bloody one which included such conflicts as the English Civil War, the French Wars of Religion, and the vicious Thirty Years’ War. Religious plurality invariably led to violence in the seventeenth century, but these conflicts were often followed by important agreements that fostered some level of religious toleration. In 1598, following the religious battles between Catholics and Protestants in France, the French King Henry (IV) of Navarre signed the Edict of Nantes, which “gave Protestants permission to practice their faith openly, albeit within strict limits and as second-class citizens” (Walsham, “Reformation Legacies,” 299). The Thirty Years’ War famously concluded with the Peace of Westphalia, which decreed (among other things) that while each state should have the right to establish an official religion, they were also obligated to allow their subjects the opportunity to practice different Christian denominations without fear of persecution (Christenson, “Liberty of the Exercise of Religion in the Peace of Westphalia,” 740). By favoring religious toleration, Westphalia’s signatories recognized that only religious toleration would reduce the potential for future conflict between the various sects of Christianity. Documents like the Edict of Nantes and the Peace of Westphalia ultimately failed to end religious persecution and conflict within Europe, but they still reveal a heightened awareness of the need for leaders to tolerate religious plurality within their borders. As the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wore on, European intelligentsia began exploring the concept of religious freedom more directly. Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Baruch Spinoza led the intellectual charge in support of freedom of conscience and thought, while political leaders such as Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson incorporated principles of religious freedom and the separation of church and state into their state building efforts in North America. While legal guarantees of the right to religious freedom would not be made until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the modern right to freedom of religion is rooted in Reformation-era efforts to mediate religious conflict and incorporate religious toleration into budding European nation-states.

REFERENCES

Gordon A. Christenson, “Liberty of the Exercise of Religion in the Peace of Westphalia,” Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 21, 2012).

Alexandra Walsham, “Reformation Legacies,” from The Oxford History of the Reformation, ed. Peter Marshall, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2022


Is there another noteworthy written source from the past that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

The Edict of Milan came two years after the Edict of Toleration by Galerius and granted religious toleration within the Roman Empire.

References


What specific events or ideas contributed to its identification as a fundamental right? 🖉 edit

After witnessing the horror of religious warfare during the Reformation era, European philosophy began to explore the idea of religious toleration within political society. As the Enlightenment movement gained momentum during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, western civilization turned to science, empiricism, and reason as sources of wisdom and knowledge. This movement was accompanied by a shift away from purely religious discourse as innovative thinkers began to take up more secular pursuits than they could have in centuries past. With this shift thinkers like Locke, Voltaire, Spinoza, and Williams began to question whether states had the right to dictate their subjects’ religious beliefs. These questions led these Enlightenment thinkers to begin believing that political society would better respect its citizens’ rights if it were to adopt policies of religious toleration.

Religious pluralism became a reality in Enlightenment-era Europe. The Protestant Reformation of the previous centuries had given rise to a number of Protestant-dominated secular states which had carved out a right to remain independent of the Catholic Church after decades of bloodshed and warfare. In the following centuries, thinkers like Spinoza and Voltaire reflected upon the dangers that intolerance can pose to a peaceful society. In 1670 Spinoza’s anonymously published “Treatise on Theology and Politics” radically asserted that “men are very prone to error on religious subjects, and, according to the diversity of their dispositions, are wont with considerable stir to put forward their own inventions, as experience more than sufficiently attests.” (Spinoza, “The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza,” 163). However, rather than calling for the abolition of religious toleration, Spinoza uses this idea that religious difference breeds conflict to suggest that states should abandon any effort to control their citizens’ beliefs, and should instead simply protect the people’s right to their own thoughts. In a state built on principles of toleration instead of religious unity, religious conflict would be less likely. A century later, Voltaire came to a similar conclusion in his 1775 “Treatise on Tolerance.” In this work, the Frenchman writes that “toleration, in fine, never led to civil war; intolerance has covered the earth with carnage,” and asserts that “the whole of our continent shows us that we must neither preach nor practise intolerance” (Voltaire, “Toleration and Other Essays-Online Library of Liberty”). By linking the idea of religious toleration to the need for states to maintain law and order within society, both Spinoza and Voltaire began to identify religious freedom as an essential facet of a well-ordered state.

Another important Enlightenment idea that contributed to the identification of the right to religious freedom was the argument that God may will that religious toleration be extended throughout the Christian world. After centuries of warfare, much of it based on the principle that members of the one true religion must fight infidels in the name of God, this was a relatively novel idea. In his 1644 work, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, Roger Williams rejects this idea and states that “it is the will and command of God, that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most pagan, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries...” (Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”). The Tenant even goes as far as to claim that “God requireth not an uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state…”(Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”). Williams’ work was not well-received by his audience in England, especially considering that the country was still in the midst of a religiously-motivated civil war. However, the idea that the civil state should not enforce any religion was hugely influential in the colony of Rhode Island, of which Williams is considered the sole founder. Decades later, in 1689 following the French King Louis XIV’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Locke wrote something very similar in his “Letter Concerning Toleration.” In this letter, he asserts that “the toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ...that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light” (Locke, “A Letter Concerning Toleration”). The desire to follow God’s will had long guided European thoughts about the connection between church and state, but thinkers like Williams and Locke presented important challenges to this notion. This allowed for discussion over the right to religious freedom to flourish as the Enlightenment wore on.

Though discourse on religious toleration was still considered fairly radical during the seventeenth century, Enlightenment philosophers also questioned whether it was indeed even possible for a state to dictate its citizens’ religious beliefs. Spinoza’s “Treatise” is heavily concerned with the idea that a person’s right to think freely is a natural right which cannot be deprived by any political society. He writes that “however unlimited, therefore, the power of a sovereign may be, however implicitly it is trusted as the exponent of law and religion, it can never prevent men from forming judgments according to their intellect, or being influenced by any given emotion” (Spinoza, “The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza,” 194). This, Spinoza believes, necessarily implies that a state could never enforce a person’s belief or religious faith because it is not possible for a state to take a person’s mastery of their own thoughts. Voltaire expresses a similar sentiment in his essays when he states that “it does not depend on man to believe or not to believe: but it depends on him to respect the usages of his country” (Voltaire, “Toleration and Other Essays-Online Library of Liberty”). Writing about a century after Spinoza, Voltaire also explored the idea that the state is unable to change how a citizen believes, as long as the belief is not inherently detrimental to the state itself. With this in mind, Voltaire advances the idea that because states cannot change its citizens’ beliefs, it should embrace a diversity of beliefs by incorporating the principle of religious freedom into its governance.

Among the most radical Enlightenment-era ideas concerning religious toleration was the thought that civil states did not have the inherent right to dictate citizens’ religion at all. Locke’s “Letter” asserts that “nobody, therefore, in fine, neither single persons nor churches, nay, nor even commonwealths, have any just title to invade the civil rights and worldly goods of each other upon pretence of religion” (Locke, “A Letter Concerning Toleration”). Spinoza similarly states that “government which attempts to control minds is accounted tyrannical, and it is considered an abuse of sovereignty and a usurpation of the rights of subjects” (Spinoza, “The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza,” 194). This idea that citizens of a political society could have the innate right to decide their own thoughts and religion built upon the initial identification of religion as a multifaceted issue, which originated centuries earlier during the Reformation. As early as 1644, former Massachusetts Puritain Roger Williams rather controversially wrote that “all civil states and their officers of justice in their respective constitutions and administrations are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the Spiritual or Christian state and worship” (Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”). The principle that civil states could not serve as spiritual authorities directly influenced the development of political states such as the Rhode Island Colony and the United States of America, in which freedom of religion was identified as an essential right with which the government could not interfere.

Though the idea of a right to religious freedom was first conceived during the religious wars of the Reformation era, Enlightenment thinkers deserve credit for identifying religious freedom as an essential right. Questions of whether God’s will dictated religious uniformity, the dangers of combating religious pluralism, as well as issues of citizen and states’ rights all contributed, decades and centuries after they were originally pondered, to the inclusion of religious freedom in mainstream political discourse. Williams and Locke both made important contributions to the growing American discussion of essential rights and liberties, while writings from thinkers like Spinoza and Voltaire gradually invited Europeans to consider the benefits of granting religious freedom to their subjects.

References:

Locke, “Letter Concerning Toleration”

Spinoza, The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza

Voltaire, Voltaire. Toleration and Other Essays. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1755. https://oll.libertyfund.org/title/mccabe-toleration-and-other-essays.

Roger Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”


When was it generally accepted as a fundamental, legally-protectable right? 🖉 edit

Religious freedom was originally identified as a fundamental right when Enlightenment thinkers began to question whether political society has the obligation, or even the right, to decide its citizens’ religion. At the time, the widespread conclusion was that religious toleration and freedom of belief were preferable to religious uniformity and faith-based oppression. Around the same time in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, political documents began to identify religious freedom as a fundamental, legally-protectable right with which the state had no right to interfere. Among the first western states to legislate freedom of religion were the English North American colony of Rhode Island, a few of its fellow American colonies, and the United States itself. There was some historical precedent for ideas relevant to religious toleration in the form of the 1598 Edict of Nantes and the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, but the Rhode Island Charter and the United States Constitution were among the first documents to completely prohibit governments from interfering in their citizens’ religious affairs. The founding of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is credited to Roger Williams, a preacher who was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 and went on to purchase from the Narragansett Native Americans a plot of land that would become the city of Providence, Rhode Island (Smithsonian Institution, “God, Government and Roger Williams’ Big Idea”). He was banished for holding religious views that contrasted with those upon which the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded, and it is likely that this experience influenced his thoughts about religious freedom and the value of toleration within political society. He expresses these views quite effectively in his 1644 work, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, which states that “the permission of other consciences and worships than a state professeth, only can (according to God) procure a firm and lasting peace, (good assurance being taken according to the wisdom of civil state for uniformity of civil obedience from all forts)” (Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution,”). The Rhode Island Charter, which Williams secured from Parliament in July 1663, reflects this view. It states that:

   "No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of lance hereafter mentioned." (“Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations - July 15, 1663”)

By prohibiting the molestation, punishment, disquieting, and questioning of any citizen on the basis of religion, the Charter sets a clear guarantee that those living within the colony had the legal right to religious freedom. This was groundbreaking not only because it was the first of the thirteen original American colonies to guarantee total religious freedom, but also because unlike most contemporary acts of toleration, the Charter did not exclude Quaker and Jewish citizens from enjoying the religious freedom that it promised. Of course, Rhode Island was not the only one of the thirteen original American colonies to identify religious freedom as a fundamental, legally protectable right. Colonies like Maryland and Pennsylvania are also noteworthy for their inclusion of religious groups that made up the English minority. Maryland famously welcomed Catholics inside its borders, and Pennsylvania was originally founded as a Quaker colony under William Penn. As the colonies grew they became examples to contemporary Enlightenment thinkers, who looked to their example as proof that religious toleration was a desirable principle within any system of government. In his work on religious toleration, Voltaire writes of Philadelphia that “discord and controversy are unknown in the happy country they have made for themselves; and the very name of their chief town, Philadelphia, which unceasingly reminds them that all men are brothers, is an example and a shame to nations that are yet ignorant of toleration” (Voltaire, “Toleration and Other Essays - Online Library of Liberty,”). The benefits of religious freedom were well-known by the time of the American Revolution, which explains why religious freedom was such an important building block of the early republic. The Constitution of the United States was also one of the first documents to identify religious freedom as a fundamental, legally protectable right. Its First Amendment states that “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” (“United States Bill of Rights, Amendment I”). The inclusion of this language in such an influential document represents an important step in the identification of religious freedom as a fundamental legal right. It should be noted, however, that the First Amendment does not explicitly separate church and state within the United States government. The principle of church and state separation was not explicitly outlined until 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson outlined it in a letter to the Baptist community of Danbury, Connecticut. It was written in response to community leaders’ complaint that religious freedom was being treated as a privilege, not a right within their state. They wrote that “our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty--that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals--that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions--that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors” (“Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter”). In response, Jefferson famously asserted that “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State” (“Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter”). This separation to which he refers is built upon Enlightenment ideals set out by thinkers like Locke and Spinoza, and it represents the realization of a movement for religious freedom that originated centuries before with the Protestant Reformation. Religious freedom is a right with a long history, and for centuries after it first came into question within the western world it was debated and considered. Thinkers like Locke and Voltaire championed it, and documents such as the Treaty of Westphalia and the Edict of Nantes made important strides toward realizing it as a legally protectable right. However, many of the first true instances of legally protected religious freedom occurred in American documents such as the Rhode Island Charter and the United States Constitution. These landmark pieces of legislation framed the modern American stance on religious toleration and the right to freedom of belief.

References:

John M. Barry, “God, Government and Roger Williams’ Big Idea,” Jan. 2012, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/god-government-and-roger-williams-big-idea-6291280/

“Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations - July 15, 1663”)

“Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter,” https://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall.html United States Bill of Rights

Voltaire, Voltaire. Toleration and Other Essays. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1755. https://oll.libertyfund.org/title/mccabe-toleration-and-other-essays.

Roger Williams, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”