THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Issue: Conflicts within a religious tradition in modern society may reflect a need for change.
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: This is a Review and Issue Statement of two newspaper stories filed last week on a decree by the Vatican that went into effect after it was published in the Vatican newspaper, L’ Osservatore Romano. All religious and non-religious traditions have a right to regulate their own affairs within the tradition. This is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
At times this presents conflicting
issues of concern if such decrees are in conflict with the rule of law and
international human rights standards, such as the International Convention on
the Rights of Women (CEDAW). There are incidents of conflict between the
Link to: New York Times -
Extracts from these two newspaper stories begin on
the third page are followed by an Issue Statement
Closing the Gap - International Standards for National and Local Applications
Objective: 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 consider the rule of law and international human rights standards as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief.
Challenge: 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:
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. One writer has said; “Religion raises the stakes of human conflict much higher than tribalism, racism, or politics ever can…it casts the differences between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments.”
Concept: Separation of Religion or
Belief and State – SOROBAS. The starting point for this concept is the First
Preamble to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “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. It 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,
Dialogue & Education
Dialogue: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at an Alliance of Civilizations 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.” An author in another setting has 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.” There are varying degrees of cooperation, competition and conflict within and between religions or beliefs. International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief is international human rights law and a code of conduct to promote cooperation, regulate competition and resolve conflicts. To include the value and use of these International Standards for world peace is genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief
Extracts: Extracts are presented under the Eight Articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Examples of extracts are presented prior to an Issue Statement for each Review.
Preamble: 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief:
Considering that religion or belief, for anyone who professes either, is one of the fundamental elements in his conception of life and that freedom of religion or belief should be fully respected and guaranteed,
Considering that it is essential to promote understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief and to ensure that the use of religion or belief for ends inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, other relevant instruments of the United Nations and the purposes and principles of the present Declaration is inadmissible,
The decree was written by the
Excommunication forbids those affected from receiving the sacraments or sharing in acts of public worship.
Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he thought the decree was meant to send a warning to the growing number of Catholics who favor admitting women to the priesthood.
“I think the reason they’re dong this is that they’ve realized there is more and more support among Catholics for ordaining women, and they want to make clear that this is a no-no,” Reese said.
The Church says it cannot change the rules banning women from the priesthood because Christ chose only men as his apostles. Church law states that only a baptized male can be made a priest.
Proponents of women’s ordination say Christ was only acting according to the social norms of his time.
They cite the letters of
Attempts to ordain women priests are highly
unusual. But the archbishop of
Excommunication is usually “ferendae sententiae”, imposed as punishment.
But some offences, including heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope, are considered so disruptive of ecclesiastical life that they trigger automatic excommunication, or “latae sententiae.”
The decree says that women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated “latae sententiae.”
This was the same excommunication invoked against
a renegade African archbishop who also broke
The archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, made world headlines in 2001 for getting married himself in Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church at a mass wedding in a New York hotel. His union was never recognized by the Catholic Church.
The decree was a reaction to specific episodes of “so-called ordinations in various parts of the world,” according to Msgr. Angelo Amato, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which issues the decree. In recent years, dozens of women have been ordained by individuals acting outside of the church’s authority.
The document was also drafted to give bishops uniform guidelines on an increasingly contentious matter, as a growing number of Catholics contest the church’s position that only men can be ordained as priests.
In an interview for
ISSUE STATEMENT: The Prelude to the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief states “that religion or belief, for anyone who professes either, is one of the fundamental elements in his conception of life and that freedom of religion or belief should be fully respected and guaranteed. At the same time the prelude considers it essential “to ensure that the use of religion or belief for ends inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, other relevant instruments of the United Nations and the purposes and principles of the present Declaration is inadmissible.” These two statements often are hard to reconcile within the United Nations system.
It is not a conflict with the Charter of the United Nations and other relevant instruments of the United Nations to excommunicate Catholic women as priests, or those who ordain them, but this Prelude to the 1981 U.N. Declaration is an illustration of modern changing cultures, “one of the fundamental elements in his conception of life that should be fully respected and guaranteed.” Sexist language such as this that is not gender neutral and reflects a conflict of cultures within a religious tradition that is growing and at the very least, a need by the United Nations to consider a renewed Working Group for a treaty-based United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Reply: The Tandem Project Country & Community Database collects information worldwide on United Nations Human Rights Bodies. The information is used for UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR); UN Treaty-based Reports; UN Special Procedures, Special Rapporteur Reports. Click on the link below to open the Database. Read the Instructions & Table of Contents: scroll to an Article of your choice and click to reply.
The Tandem Project: a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1986 to build understanding and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project 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 the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative was launched in 1986 as the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) at a 1984 United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat 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: 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