Religious freedom is a right that we all have. We are all free to practice a religion of our own choosing or we can choose not to practice it at all as reflected in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reality is, even as we are endowed with the right to freely worship and practice our religious beliefs in the Declaration, people around the world continue to struggle against forces that hamper their freedom of religion. In some nations, religious freedom is still something to win and fight for. In Afghanistan, Islam is constitutionally recognized as the religion of the republic and “followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.” In China, religious practices are still restricted to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and are still controlled in growth and scope. France has bestowed religious freedom as a constitutional right to its people since 1905 and the separation of church and state is considered law. In North Korea, “freedom of belief” is a constitutional right, but the reality is bleak: there are severe restrictions on the practice of religion and many people are believed to be held captive in political prison camps in remote areas for engaging in religious activities that are “deemed unacceptable” by the government.
A quick search on Google Trends shows that although the interest on religious freedom fluctuates, it continues to be a prime concern in several states in the US, the top three states being District of Columbia, Virginia and Utah. The top searches within the domain of the keyword “religious freedom” is “religious freedom act”, “Virginia religious freedom”, “religious rights”, “freedom of religion” and “religious freedom America.” A search for the Religious Freedom Act, a 1993 US federal law that prevents laws that “substantially burden a person’s free exercise of their religion”, garners the most interest.
A recent issue about religious freedom that has surfaced is a California Bill aimed at the Boy Scouts of America that “would strip religious youth organizations of d1cir tax-exempt status of they continued to select leaders and other persons responsible for carrying out their missions based on a shared set of religious beliefs.” According to the Alliance of Religious Freedom, this bill would necessitate that religious youth organizations choose between the law and their own missions and values, and is a direct violation of the First Amendment. In Tennessee, a judge ruled that a baby named “Messiah” be named “Martin” instead, denying the baby’s parents the freedom to choose a name for their baby. The judge argued that “Messiah” is a title to be attributed only to Jesus Christ, making a prohibition on a religious basis. These are just a few of the many religious freedom issues that plague our world today.
In the light of the continuing relevance of religious freedom, World Religion News has compiled this list of relevant online resources to serve as a guide:
International Association for Religious Freedom
Also a UK-based charity, the IARF is “the world’s first international interreligious organization. They practice their mission through interfaith encounters, dialogue and social justice projects.
International Coalition for Religious Freedom
The International Coalition for Religious Freedom is a non-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization “dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin.” The site has various resources for those wanting to learn more about religious freedom, including country reports, conference papers, and religious freedom news.
British Humanist Association
A British national charity working to help non-religious people “who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.” They promote humanist and support those who live humanist lives.
The Office of International Religious Freedom
As part of their diplomatic mission, the U.S. Department of State has established an Office of International Freedom, which “has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.” The office creates an annual public document that describes “the status of religious freedom in each of the 195 countries around the world.” They also meet with foreign government officials and religious and human rights groups to promote religious freedom.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
USCIRF is an “independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that defends the “universal right to freedom of religions or belief abroad.” They recommend policies to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
American Religious Freedom
The American Religious Freedom Program, dedicated to defending constitutional religious freedoms, “brings together individuals and organizations of all religious faiths, regardless of ideological or political affiliation.” They seek to combat negative voices on religious freedom and the role of religion in public life and foster respect for religious freedom in different sectors of society, both private and public, including the media, government and academic communities.
LDS Mormon Newsroom Religious Freedom Resources
This topic page answers questions and provides in-depth commentaries on religious freedom, from the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University
The Religious Freedom Project (RFP) at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs began in January 2011.
Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom
Hudson Institute is a nonpartisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.
Religious Freedom Resource Pages
- Religious Freedom Resource Kit from The Anti-Defamation League
A mini-site containing materials explaining some of the current challenges to religious freedom in America from The Anti-Defamation League.
- Religious Freedom Documents
A bulleted list of religious freedom documents including letters, historical background texts, sacred texts, papers, legal cases and laws from The First Freedom Center, a non-profit, educational organization based in Richmond, Virginia. The organization’s mission is “to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”
- Religious Freedom Resources from Conjure.com
A list of religious rights and activism sites including sites about interfaith, earth religions, church/state separation and first amendment groups, social justice, individual church or denomination/tradition and combatting religious bigotry.
- First American Freedom, A Religious Freedom Resource Page
A website targeting current threats to religious freedom created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- Links to websites dealing with religious freedom
A list compiled by the Ontario Consultants on Religious tolerance of religious web sites dealing with the subject of religious freedom.
Sites & Articles
European Interreligious Forum of Religious Freedom Articles
The official site of EIFRF, an interfaith group created in January 2013, which Steering Committee includes religious leaders from various faiths and from various European countries, united in order to promote freedom of religion and belief, religious tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and knowledge of religions. The site offers articles in many languages
about religious freedom.
Global Restrictions on Religion
A study by the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project on various restrictions around the world on the free practice of religion.
America’s True History of Religious Tolerance
Kenneth C. Davis of the Smithsonian magazine writes about the contradiction between the idea of the United States being a “basin of religious freedom” and the history of religious controversy and conflict in the nation.
Religion Freedom News on The Telegraph UK
News coverage with commentary and analysis on events and issues involving religions in Britain and around the world.
Freedom of religion news on The Guardian UK
Most recent religious freedom world news on The Guardian.
Asia News Italy Religious Freedom News in English
Based in Italy, AsiaNews publishes religion news on Asian ecclesial communities from a Catholic perspective.
Catholic News Agency Religious Freedom News
This page provides links to various articles on religious freedom published in the Catholic News Agency, a leading Catholic news provider aimed at “increasing the visibility of the Catholic Church in the public square and help in its mission.”
Religious Freedom News on The New York Times
News about religious freedom, including commentary and archival articles from The New York Times.
Religious Freedom News on the Los Angeles Times
Featured articles on Religious Freedom in the News, Opinion, Local, National and Entertainment sections of The Los Angeles Times.
Religious Freedom Quotes
Inspiring quotes on the subject of Religious Freedom.
Religious Freedom by the Numbers
An article featuring a video of Senior Researcher Brian J. Grim discussing the Pew Research Center’s restrictions on religion studies at the April 2012 TEDx ViaDellaConcilizione conference at the Vatican.
Article on Freedom of Religion by country.
Article on the Freedom of religion.
Article on the Freedom of religion in the United States.
- @ReligiousFreedm Promoting religious freedom in America!
- @RFreedomUSA Fearless Fighters for Faith Freedom – promoting religious freedom for all.
- @USCIRF09 Learn about religious freedom, human rights & more.
- @SMARFreedom Social Media Advocacy for Religious Freedom.
- American Catholics for Religious Freedom
- Religious Freedom USA
- Religious Freedom
- Support Religious Freedom
- Dr. Chris Seiple – Religious Freedom and American Exceptionalism
Dr. Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement, an institution that “builds sustainable religious freedom worldwide,” explains how religious freedom in America impacts religious freedom across the globe.
- Why is Religious Liberty the First Freedom?
Michael McConnell, Mallory Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, and Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, talks about religious freedom. McConnell explores whether religious liberty should be prioritized over other rights
- Vatican II on Religious Freedom
Roger Bergman discuses Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II’s declaration on religious freedom.
- Maleiha Malik on Religious Freedom
Maleiha Malik, professor of law at King’s College London, discusses problems about the category “religion” and the idea of religious freedom.