THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Issue: Separation of
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
In 2008 the UN Human Rights Council launched a process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for UN Member States to review their progress to fulfill human rights responsibilities and obligations. Each State will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council sometime between 2008 and 2011. The Universal Periodic Review begins with a presentation of a National Report by a UN Member State and inter-active dialogue with the UN Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council drafts a Working Group Report after the dialogue with the Human Rights Council and other Stakeholders. Preparation and Follow-up of a Universal Periodic Review is an important part of the process.
The Norwegian Universal Periodic Review will be held in 2009.
* Link: U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Norway; Overview; Religious Demography; Legal/Policy Framework; Restrictions on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Societal Abuse and Discrimination. Click to open complete report.
Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.
Link: Interview Humanism in
Excerpts: Excerpts 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.
1. 1 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
1. 2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.
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.
7. 1 The rights and freedoms set forth in the present Declaration shall be accorded in national legislation in such a manner that everyone shall be able to avail himself of such rights and freedoms in practice.
Then Article 12 of the Constitution stipulates that at least 50% of the Prime Minister’s cabinet has to be members of the state church. Norway’s King is also required to be a member of the Lutheran Church – strangely, the head of the state is denied freedom of religion or belief!
The Norwegian Humanist Association’s aim is to separate Church and State, and to introduce liberty for all religions and life stances on equal terms.
What happened in
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT -
Church officials and some politicians spoke in favor of greater separation in the state-church relationship. In 2003 the Government appointed an official State-Church Commission to review the future of the state-church relationship. The commission's purpose was to ascertain whether the state-church system should be maintained, reformed, or discontinued. The commission had its own secretariat and included members from several areas of society, including different church groups and other religious groups, politicians, legal experts, and the Sami people.
A religious community must register with the Government only if it desires state support, which is provided to all registered denominations in proportion to their membership.
A 1997 law introduced the Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) course for grades 1 through 10 (ages 6 to 16). The CKREE reviews world religions and philosophy while promoting tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs. Citing the country's Christian history (and given the stated importance of Christianity to society), the CKREE devotes an extensive amount of time to studying Christianity. This class is mandatory, without any exceptions for children of other religious groups. On special grounds, students may be exempted from participating in or performing specific religious acts, such as church services or prayer, but they cannot forgo religious instruction.
Organizations for atheists, as well as Muslim communities, have contested the legality of forced religious teaching, claiming that it is a breach of freedom of religion and parents' right to provide religious instruction to their children. In 2002 the humanist association appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). In November 2004 the UNHRC decided that the requirement of a mandatory religion class violated article 18 of the ICCPR and stated that the law violated parents' right to determine their children's religious and moral upbringing. In response, the Government gave parents the right to exempt their children from the CKREE until August 2005 (when a new curriculum was implemented). In December 2006 the ECHR reviewed the case. In a verdict rendered on June 29, 2007, the ECHR held in a near-split decision that article 2 of the European Human Rights Convention's Protocol No. 1 was violated. In reply the Minister of Education stated that the verdict would be evaluated, the Government would determine whether additional CKREE course amendments would be introduced, and that the case would not be appealed.
Under the new curriculum, Christianity, as the state religion, continued to receive a larger percentage of the class's teaching time than other religious groups. The final law states that children cannot receive complete class exemption. Limited exemptions may occur with respect to specific classroom activities, such as hymn singing or public prayer.
The humanist association did not support the curriculum changes. The association asserted in a letter to the UNHRC that the CKREE curriculum revisions were only cosmetic and did not create a religion and belief-neutral class. In addition the association advocated that the partial exemption right be expanded. The association claimed that the UNHRC concerns had not been heeded and the CKREE curriculum, as revised, continued to violate Article 18 of the ICCPR.
In 2008 there was a public debate about introducing greater separation in the state-church relationship. In April 2008 the Minister of Culture presented the results of a parliament-commissioned report on the state and church relationship that had been 5 years in the making and had included significant public input. The report called for maintaining the state church but for further democratization of the Church and for the Government to consider changes to the Constitution that would further separate church and state functions.
One of the immediate effects was the signing of a
church agreement that gives the state church the ability to select, but not
appoint, its own bishops, a role that had previously been fulfilled by the
King's Council. The legal power to officially appoint bishops will not be
transferred to the Church until Parliament amends the Constitution on this
point, which it was expected to do during the 2009-11 session.
A 1997 law introduced the Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) course for grades 1 through 10 (generally ages 6 to 16). The CKREE reviews world religions and philosophy while promoting tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs. Citing the country's Christian history (and given the stated importance of Christianity to society), the CKREE devotes an extensive amount of time to studying Christianity. This class is mandatory, without any exceptions for children of other religious groups. On special grounds, students may be exempted from participating in or performing specific religious acts, such as church services or prayer.
Organizations for atheists, as well as Muslim communities, contested the legality of mandatory religious education, claiming that it was a breach of freedom of religion and parents' right to provide religious instruction to their children. After the case was heard before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2002 and again in 2006, the Government modified the curriculum and expanded the education to more thoroughly discuss other religions while continuing an emphasis on Christianity as the religion of the majority of citizens.
ISSUE STATEMENT: Two Norwegian issues call for review under International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief are: proposed Constitutional amendments to Separation of State Church and State by their national legislature, and the Norwegian education curriculum, in violation of Article 2 of the European Court of Human Rights (Word Document attached).
The Tandem Project Objectives: (1) Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs. (2) Adapt these human rights standards to early childhood education, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.1
International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief are international human rights treaty law and universal codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
Submit information under the Eight Articles and sub-paragraphs of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief by using The Tandem Project Country & Community Database.
Introduction: The Tandem Project is dedicated to support for International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief, with a focus on fundamental values shared virtually universally by public, private, religious and non-religious organizations to change how our cultures view differences, how we often behave toward one another and to forestall the reflexive hostility we see so vividly around the world.
As we are all painfully
aware, religious conflict continues to escalate worldwide whether in the
Surely one of the best hopes for the future of humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
The Tandem Project: a non-governmental organization founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project, a non-profit NGO, 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 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative is the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations at the United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat in 1984 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 is: 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