Rule of Law, International, National, Local

The Tandem Project believes international standards are essential for long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief. Suggestions on whether you think an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief (legal treaty) should be written are welcome. Send to The Tandem Project by opening the Response box and submit a message.


that one of the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations is that of the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings, and that all Member States have pledged themselves to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the Organization to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, - Preamble to the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Considering that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights proclaim the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, - Preamble to the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

  • Largely through the ongoing work of the United Nations, the universality of human rights has been clearly established and recognized in international law. – Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information DPI/1627/HR – March 1995
  • For the purpose of this convention: (a) - The expression “religion or belief” shall include theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs; Draft International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, 1967
  • Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.  - General Comment 22 on Article 18, United Nations Human Rights Committee, 1993.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.- Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
  • Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. - Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.  
  • 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 institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. Therefore the United Nations Human Rights Committee 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 hostilities by a predominant religious community - General Comment 22 on Article 18, United Nations Human Rights Committee, 1993.
  • The concept of morals derives from many social, philosophical and religious traditions; consequently, limitations on the freedom to manifest a religion or belief for the purpose of protecting morals must be based on principles not deriving from a single tradition. - GC 22 on Article 18, United Nations Human Rights Committee.
  • “The Rule of Law in a Free Society” – A Congress attended by an international gathering of 185 judges, lawyers and law professors from 53 countries, was held in New Delhi, India in 1959. The “Declaration of Delhi” gave rise to three important elements in the concept of the Rule of Law: individuals possessed certain rights and freedoms that are entitled to protection by the State; there is an absolute need for an independent judiciary; establishment of social, economic and cultural conditions should permit individuals to live in dignity and fulfill their legitimate aspirations. Modern lawyers regard the Rule of Law as essentially a political or moral idea, although none the less important for that, since it affects the way the law is developed and applied. This approach to the law is a significant dimension for the international role of human rights treaties and declarations. – The Declaration of Delhi.
  • The coming into force of the Covenants, by which States parties accepted legal as well as moral obligations to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, did not in any way diminish the widespread influence of the Universal Declaration. – Fact Sheet 2 on International Law, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Enforcement of freedom of religion or belief and the right to self-determination through international mechanisms is problematic, but not hopeless. – by Professor Johan D. van der Vyver, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Emory University; Introduction to Permissible Scope of Legal Limitations, Emory University School of Law.
  • After the Supreme Court partially invalidated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1997, it was suggested that Congress might reenact RFRA by relying on, among other things, the power to pass legislation implementing treaties. The treaty arguably support RFRA was the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), signed by the U.S. in 1992, which guarantees everyone the right “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching” except where limitation is “necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” But the subsequent legislative discussion over reenacting RFRA contained nary a mention of this argument – confirming once again that trying to premise domestic laws on international obligations is a political non-starter in America. – Thomas C. Berg, Professor of Law, St. Thomas School of Law, Excerpt from his essay on the United States of America, for the 19 country study on the Permissible Scope of Legal Limitations, Emory University School of Law.
  • A Metro Transit worker raises religious objections to driving a bus with an ad for a gay magazine. Muslim taxi drivers refuse to take passengers toting alcohol. A Christian pharmacist refuses to fill birth-control prescriptions. Is the law on their side? The answer, for now, appears to be: sometimes.” Can a legally-binding international human rights Treaty and a non-legally binding international human rights Declaration, be of help in resolving such issues on a local level? – Excerpts from a Minneapolis-Star Tribune article by Pamela Miller and H.J. Cummins,