My goal in this book is to explain how international law should interpret the right to freedom of religion or belief and how it should protect this right. The right to freedom of religion or belief must be understood and protected primarily as an individual right, and only to guarantee individual rights should it be protected as a group right. In this chapter, this argument is based on a theoretical analysis of law. The following chapters will advocate a coherent interpretation of international law based on the principles presented in this chapter.
In the course of the discussion, other issues arise, in particular, the meaning of religion and its role in society and in individual life depends on culture. More than other human rights issues such as “torture” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR], article 5) or “slavery” (UDHR, article 4), “religion” is a culturally defined concept. it belongs. This concept loses much of its meaning outside of the cultural context. Therefore, religious freedom, more than other human rights, can be interpreted differently in different cultures. In fact, the different interpretations of this right were evidenced in the wording of the article that guarantees its protection in the Universal Declaration.
Recognition of the legitimacy of various policies regarding freedom of religion and other rights is at the heart of the debate between adopting a cultural approach to human rights or a universalistic approach to human rights. However, relativistic interpretations of the right to freedom of religion are inherently problematic, as the claims of this interpretation of the right often conflict with the rights of individuals, including the rights of women, children, and dissidents, as will be shown in the following chapters.
The religious freedom law must be interpreted in light of the unique role that religion plays as a source of power, independent and in competition with governmental authority. Historically, of course, the process was the opposite: it was the secular state that was created as a source of power competing with religion through the mechanism of separating the state from the church. Because of this, religion occupies a different place in the law than other public organizations, and guaranteeing your freedom is a more complex legal issue than guaranteeing other freedoms.
The state can see religion as a competitive source of power in one of two ways: on the one hand, it can see religion as a threat to itself that needs to be reduced; on the other hand, he can use religion for his own use. History provides many examples of both processes. Religion can play an important role in the formation of national identity and cohesion and, in fact, can serve as the basis for nationalism. This ongoing struggle and interaction between religion and the state is reflected in different ways in almost all modern constitutions.