Posted by: stpowen | September 17, 2010

Freedom of Religion or Freedom to Worship?

‘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’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art XVIII).

British readers of this blog will know that when the Queen makes a speech or other public pronouncement, the views expressed are not her own but those of the Government who write all her speeches.  I would not normally take too much notice of Her Majesty’s welcoming speech to the Bishop of Rome (aka ‘Pope’) but I did notice that she referred to the importance of ‘freedom to worship’ which phrase in creeping into Government pronouncements on the subject, instead of ‘freedom of religion’ which used to be the expression used.

So what’s the difference?  Well, Freedom of Religion includes all the stuff written in the Declaration of Human Rights given above.  It includes the right to change one’s religion, and to teach and preach it.  Freedom to Worship means only that-  that one has the right to worship, possibly in a Government-designated church and no right to share one’s faith with others and proclaim it openly.

I have a nasty feeling that the Government’s apparent change of attitude is tied in with the Defamation of Religion resolution which is to come before the United nations at the end of the year.  This resolution, supported largely by Islamic countries, seems at first glance to be reasonable but closer inspection reveals that it will legitimize the continuing persecution of Christians and other minority faiths in Islamic countries.

The advance text of the resolution can be read here:-

Note especially Articles 5-8 which make specific and exclusive mention of Islam.

Article 8 deplores any ban of the building of ‘minarets and mosques’ but ignores the fact that it is impossible to get permission build a church in many Islamic countries.  It is worth bearing in mind that Switzerland did not ban the building of Mosques, but only of minarets, on aesthetic grounds.

Article 9 declares that acts of terrorism cannot be associated with Islam.  ‘Nuff said really.  From now on, we will only be able to say that Islam is a religion of peace, regardless of what Mohammed wrote and regardless of how many terrorist outrages his followers commit.

Article 10 deplores the use of the electronic media, including the internet, to incite violence, hatred or discrimination, not against individuals, but against religions.  So fatwas and such like can still be issued against Christians as individuals, but not against a religion.  Also deplored is the tartetting of  ‘religious symbols and venerated persons.’  So no more criticism of burkhas or Buddhas, of Mohammed or the Pope on the internet after the end of the year.

I note that the Advance Declaration of the Resolution was opposed by Britain and the USA in March.  However, I am wondering if, in view of the change in expression noted above, the British Government is having second thoughts.  I also note that most (though not all) of the resolution’s supporters were contries where Christians are persecuted.

In the word of Open Doors, the Resolution, ‘allows governments the power to determine which religious views can and can’t be expressed in their country, and it gives the state the right to punish those who express ‘unacceptable’ religious views as they see fit. So, in effect, it makes persecution legal.  It aims to criminalise words or actions deemed to be against a particular religion, especially Islam. It has the effect of providing international legitimacy for national laws that punish blasphemy or otherwise ban criticism of a religion.’

Open Doors has a petition on this subject on its website.  Go to and click on ‘Right to Believe Petition,  Also, why not write to your M.P. or Congressman and alert them to this forthcoming resolution?


  1. A thoroughly interesting and worthwhile article. A minor correction if I may, your link to the ‘Open Doors’ website leads to another organisation. I think the link you were looking for is

    I hope you don’t mind the correction.

  2. Hello Mr Kneale,
    Thanks so much for your help.
    I have amended my article.

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