THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
OPPONENTS OF EVOLUTION ARE ADOPTING A NEW STRATEGY
Issue: Teaching evolution in the
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
From 24 September to
Extracts from Opponents of Evolution Are Adopting a New
Strategy is on page three 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 as 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 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.” A writer in another setting alleged, “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.” It has been said religion or belief raises the stakes of human conflict as it casts differences between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments.
Dialogue on the right to freedom of religion or belief is truly unique in the United Nations system as natural and supernatural beliefs strive for an international consensus on rules for competition, cooperation and resolution of conflicts. International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief is a universal platform to constructively establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of beliefs.
The 1981 U.N. Declaration states; “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.” Taking this into account with other 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.
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. They are presented prior to an Issue Statement for each Review.
1. 3 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, morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
2. 1 No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons or person on the grounds of religion or other beliefs.
4. 2 All States shall make all efforts to enact or rescind legislation where necessary to prohibit any such discrimination, and to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs in this matter.
New York Times article: - Opponents of
Evolution are Adopting a New Strategy,
DALLAS - Opponents of teaching evolution in a
natural selection of sorts have gradually shed those strategies that have not
survived the courts. Over the last decade, creationism has given rise to
“creation science,” which became “intelligent design,” which in 2005 was banned
from the public school curriculum in
Now a battle looms in
The benign-sound phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.
Already, legislators in a half dozen states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina – have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent design movement.
“Very often over the last 10 years, we’ve seen antievolution policies in sheep’s clothing,” said Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, a group in Oakland, California that is against teaching creationism.
Yet even as courts steadily prohibited the
outright teaching of creationism and intelligent design, creationists on the
The Cambrian Explosion was a period of rapid diversification that evidence suggests began around 550 million years ago and gave rise to most groups of complex organisms and animal forms. Scientists are studying how it unfolded. Evolution as a principle is not disputed in the scientific mainstream, where the term “theory” does not mean a hunch but an explanation backed by abundant observation, and where gaps in knowledge are not seen as grounds for doubt but points for future understanding. Over time, research has strengthened the basic tenets of evolution, especially advances in molecular genetics have allow biologists to read the history recorded in the DNA of animals and plants.
But Dr. McLeroy says his rejection of evolution – “I just don’t think it’s true or it’s ever happened” – is not based on religious grounds. Courts have clearly ruled that teachings of faith are not allowed in a science classroom, but when he considers the case for evolution, Dr. McLeroy said, “its just not there.” “My personal religious beliefs are going to make no difference in how well our students are going to learn science,” he said.
Views like these not only make biology teachers
nervous, they also alarm the state’s reputation for scientific exploration.
“Serious students will not come to study in our universities if
“When you consider evolution, there are certainly
questions that have yet to be answered,” said Mr. Fisher, a science coordinator
The Cons of Creationism; New York Times Editorial,
The chairman of the
Every student who hopes to understand the
scientific reality of life will sooner or later need to accept the elegant
truth of evolution as it has itself evolved since it was first postulated by
Scientists are always probing the strengths and weakness of their hypotheses. That is the very nature of the enterprise. But evolution is no longer a hypothesis. It is a theory rigorously supported by abundant evidence. The weaknesses that creationists hope to teach as a way of refuting evolution are themselves antiquated, long since filed away as solved. The religious faith underlying creationism has a place, in church and social studies courses. Science belongs in science classrooms.
ISSUE STATEMENT: Education is a right under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR). Freedom of Religion or Belief is a right under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Is this new strategy on “strengths and weakness” in evolution an act of discrimination against the rights of a child to a science education, free from religious influence under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, and past rulings posited by the U.S. Supreme Court?
Article 2.1 of the 1981 U.N. Declaration reads; No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons or person on the grounds of religion or other beliefs. Are these acts of discrimination by a State (U.S. State Legislatures); Institution (Discovery Institute); Group of Persons (Members of the Texas Board of Education); or Person (Dr. Don McLeroy)?
From 24 September to
“A Freedom of Religion or Belief:
70. In a much-quoted statement, the United States Supreme Court declared that “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” In subsequent jurisprudence, however, gradually endorsed a view whereby public schools should influence their students to adopt particular beliefs. Local control over public education facilitates intergenerational transmission of “community values” or “cultural values.” There is rarely a consensus on what these values may be, hence the particular values that are chosen, defined and espoused by local education officials are often challenged by parents or teachers.
71. The worlds of science and religion are far apart. Science thirsts for empirically based knowledge, moral and/or religious beliefs involve decisions about right and wrong. Such beliefs are often used to challenge empirically based knowledge. Disentangling the two was mandated by the United States Supreme Court when it posited that the Government should avoid entanglement with religion. This recipe has not been heeded.
B. Deciding what children
comparisons of learning accomplishments have started with mathematics because
it is taught similarly world-wide. Learners’ knowledge can be easily compared
regardless of the country in which they go to school. The trend towards
creating knowledge-based societies has heightened interest in such comparisons.
It could be easily anticipated that geology or biology could be examined
according to globally accepted definitions of what constitutes knowledge and
how well it is transmitted to the young. Both would create problems for
VII. Conclusions and Recommendations
76. Education involves much more than transmission of knowledge and skills. The values which education espouses might be openly endorsed or cloaked behind an apparently neutral curriculum. Nevertheless, they are part and parcel of any and all schooling, which may be slanted towards instructing children what to think or teaching them how to think. The powers exercised by those who decide on the values, contents and methods of education therefore ought to be subject to human rights safeguards, lest these powers be abused.”
The New York Times article, Opponents of evolution are adopting a new strategy, is not about the right to teach the theory of evolution or the right to teach religion, but whether “strengths and weakness” wording is an attempt to teach religion as science in the public schools. The New York Times Editorial states creationism as science is not science, it is faith and in violation of past rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. Proponents of Intelligent Design and Creationism have a right to make a case to teach about their beliefs on evolution in public schools, but so far in an appropriate classroom setting such as a social studies curriculum on world religions.
Is this an appropriate
topic for review by the United Nations Human Rights Council under the Universal
Periodic Review (UPR) a new mechanism to evaluate efforts by all United Nations
Member States to fulfill their human rights responsibilities? The
* Preface Closing the Gap – International Standards for National and Local Applications, considers the question of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief followed by a Response from the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and an Option. The Concept includes a program for human rights-based Dialogue & Education.
The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council has a mandate from the United Nations General Assembly to monitor and reconcile international human rights law with religious and non-religious beliefs. The Human Rights Council struggles with the complexity and sensitivity of issues on human rights and freedom of religion or belief and as yet has not achieved a consensus. This includes reluctance to commit and strive for equal and inalienable protection for all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.
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