THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
First Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (7-18 April, 2008)
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The United Kingdom
Universal Periodic Review was held by the UN Human Rights Council on
Open the United Kingdom Universal Periodic Review and read the Summary of Stakeholders Information in addition to the National Report and Outcome Recommendations from the interactive dialogue. There are 25 stakeholder submissions in this Universal Periodic Review. Click on footnote 3 and read the letters of submission. There are no direct references to Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project sends three proposals as an Open Letter to the Government and stakeholders as follow-up. The letters encourage: (1) development of a model local-national-international integrated approach to Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief; (2) use of Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for interactive dialogue at the young adult and adult levels; (3) early childhood education, at the earliest possible level in public, private and religious schools and places of worship, as protection against discrimination for all theistic, non-theistic, and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. All three proposals search for ways to reconcile ancient and modern truth claims of religious and non-religious beliefs with international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
* The U.S. State Department 2007 Religious Freedom Report is the source of this information.
The country has an area of 94,525 square miles and a population of 60.2 million.
up 72 percent of the population, including the Church of England, Church of
Scotland, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and many unaffiliated Christian groups.
In 2003 the Office of National Statistics indicated approximately 29 percent of
the population identified with Anglicanism, 10 percent with the Catholic
Church, and 14 percent with Protestant churches. A September 2006
English-Church Census reported that Methodists were decreasing as a percentage
of the population, and Pentecostals, many from
no religious belief comprise 15 percent of the population. Muslims comprise 3
percent of the population. The Muslim community is predominantly South Asian in
origin. Groups comprising 1 percent or less of the population included Hindus,
Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists. Individuals from Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim,
and Sikh backgrounds were concentrated in
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The 1998 Human Rights Act guarantees freedom of religion and bans discrimination based on religion.
The Racial and Religious Hatred Act defines "religious hatred" as hatred against a group of persons which may be determined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief. The act does not define religion or what constitutes a religious belief but leaves that determination to the courts. Offenses under the act must be threatening and intended to stir up religious hatred based on the following criteria: The use of words, behavior, or display of written material; publishing or distributing written material; the public performance of a play; distributing, showing, or playing a recording; broadcasting or including a program in a program service; or the possession of written materials or recordings with a view to display, publication, distribution, or inclusion in a program service. The act does not apply where words or behavior are used or displayed inside a private dwelling and does not apply to criticism or dislike of a religious belief. The maximum penalty for stirring up religious hatred is seven years in prison. This act gives only constables the power to arrest persons in the context of these offenses, rather than allowing "citizens' arrests."
The Equality Act
makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of "religion or
belief" or the "lack of religion or belief" in the provision of
goods, facilities and services, education, the use and disposal of property,
and the exercise of public functions. The Equality Act established the
Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), which is responsible for
promoting an awareness of the act's provisions, promoting equality and diversity,
and working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment.
The CEHR has powers to investigate unlawful acts of discrimination and can
bring legal proceedings against violators of the Equality Act's provisions. In
Various studies and surveys across the country found that many schools did not meet the intent and requirements of the collective worship directive. Parents and students in favor of the law say that it helps students understand the religious orientation of the country and the society in which they are living. There are some students and parents opposed to the policy and some teachers' organizations take exception to the requirement for collective worship and have asked the Government to review the current policy.
In reaction to
There were some societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.
There was a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents. (See Anti-Semitism section.)
reports of "Islamophobic" behavior, often following terrorist
incidents or public discussion of aspects of the Muslim community's practice,
such as the wearing of the veil. During the second half of 2006, there was a
notable increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the form of verbal and physical
assaults, vandalism, arson, anti-Muslim literature, and Internet postings. This
rise in societal abuses and discrimination followed the
Source: US State
Department 2007 International Religious Freedom Report;
Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.
The Tandem Project: a non-governmental organization founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project, a non-profit NGO, has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative is the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations at the United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat in 1984 on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN Declaration.
The Tandem Project Executive Director is: Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Goal: To eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” Another writer in different setting said; “the warning signs are clear, unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
Challenge: to reconcile international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief with the truth claims of religious and non-religious beliefs.
Did God create us or did we create God? This question calls for inclusive and genuine dialogue, respectful and thoughtful responses, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive and genuine is dialogue between people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. These UN categories embodied in international law promote tolerance and prevent discrimination based on religion or belief.
Inclusive and genuine dialogue is essential as a first step in recognition of the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, and a foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world. Leaders of religious and non-religious beliefs sanction the truth claims of their own traditions. They are the key to raising awareness and acceptance of the value of holding truth claims in tandem with human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief.
To build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts in all matters relating to religion or belief.
1. Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for genuine dialogue on the core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
2. Adapt these human rights standards to early childhood education, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.1
History: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Should the United Nations adopt an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief?
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Separation of Religion or Belief and State
Concept: Separation of Religion or Belief and State - SOROBAS. The First Preamble to the 1948 United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads; “Whereas
recognition of the inherent
dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. This concept
suggests States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair
and equal human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in
General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, UN Human Rights Committee,
Article 18: protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with international characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community.
Article 18: permits restrictions to manifest a religion or belief only if such limitations are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Dialogue: International Human Rights Standards on Freedom or Religion or Belief are international law and universal codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief
5.2: Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.” With International Human Rights safeguards, early childhood education is the best time to begin to build tolerance, understanding and respect for freedom of religion or belief.
5.3: The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, and friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for the freedom of religion or belief of others and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.