THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Separation of Religion or Belief & State
First Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (7-18 April, 2008)
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The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for an Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review, Process and News:
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
Universal Periodic Review was held by the UN Human Rights Council on
The primary human rights instruments on international law and freedom of religion or belief are:
Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The 1981 UN Declaration: http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm
THE TANDEM PROJECT FOLLOW-UP
The Tandem Project Follow-up builds on 1986 Community Strategies, 27 action proposals at a local level to implement Article 18 of the ICCPR and the 1981 UN Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief: http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf Three Follow-up proposals:
(1) Develop model local-national-international integrated approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief, appropriate to the constitutions, legal systems and cultures of each country, (2) Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for inclusive and genuine dialogue, (3) Apply these standards on freedom of religion or belief in education curricula, “teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and 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.”
The challenge to the UN Human Rights Council is to achieve consensus among world views relating to international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief and freedom of opinion and expression. Recognizing the religious and cultural sensitivity these issues, it is time for the UN Human Rights Council to establish an Open-ended Working Group for a UN Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief, deferred since 1968 by its predecessor the UN Human Rights Commission, and to strengthen the Special Procedures mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project Follow-up for the Czech Republic Universal Periodic
Review on human rights and freedom of religion or belief is a challenge based
on the twenty year history since the Velvet Revolution; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_Revolution.
A New York Times article on a recent papal visit explains this clearly; “Twenty
years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution that
overthrew Communism in
The divide between secular and spiritual ideology may explain in part why the Czech Republic Universal Periodic Review does not mention Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – equal protection against discrimination for all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The Czech Republic Universal Periodic Review focus is on legislation, rights of the child, prisons, police, cage beds, sterilization, return of property to the Catholic Church and ethnic minority discrimination against the Roma in fields of housing, employment and education of children.
Tolerance and equal
rights for all members of the human family; believer and unbeliever, theist,
non-theist, atheist and agnostic are a challenge when beliefs are
deeply-held. Cooperation can be
altruistic but human nature seems most open to cooperation with those of like
minded beliefs. Real dialogue and cooperation between religious and
non-religious believers are taking place in all parts of the world and in the
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
Links: Web sites in the public domain may be distributed unless copyright is indicated.
The Tandem Project Follow-up is seeking an exchange of information for the Czech Republic Universal Periodic Review on approaches to freedom of religion or belief, to bridge human rights proclaimed in treaties at the international level with the reality of implementation at a national and local level.
These are some of the
organizations with expertise in the
UPR Letters of Submission: for
There were six letters of submission for the Czech Republic Universal Periodic Review. They include the Public Defender of Rights and the Council of Europe.
Public Defender of Human Rights: for
The Public Defender of Rights
The Czech Helsinki
Committee is a non-governmental, non-profit organization for human rights. The
main mission is monitoring legislative and the state of human rights in the
The Council of Europe
Letter of Submission for the Czech Republic Universal Periodic Review includes
eleven background statements. This background statement is the second opinion
OSCE-ODIH: – Intolerance and Discrimination on the
The Tolerance and
Non-Discrimination Information System (TANDIS) of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights (ODIHR) website above provides one-point access to all collected
information concerning the
Religion and Law –
Key links for the
OSCE-ODIHR Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System for the
Catholic Church in the
The first web site is in
the Czech language. The web page on the Czech Bishops Conference is in English.
International Humanist and Ethical
Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is “a world union of over 100 Humanist,
rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and free-thought organizations
in more than 40 countries.” Founded in
Free Thinkers of
This website is listed as being affiliated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). It is in the Czech language. The Tandem Project is not able to read the website and will ask the parent IHEU organization which is in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations for their opinions on secular organizations for an exchange of information on follow-up to the Czech Universal Periodic Review.
Lutheran World Federation; http://www.lutheranworld.org
The Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition with international headquarters in
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
The country has an area of 30,442 square miles, and a population of 10.2 million. The country had a largely homogenous population with a dominant Christian tradition. However, in part as a result of 40 years of communist rule between 1948 and 1989, the vast majority of citizens did not identify themselves as members of any organized religion. In a 2007 opinion poll sponsored by the Stredisko Empirickych Vyzkumu (STEM) agency, 28 percent of respondents claimed to believe in God, while 48 percent identified themselves as atheists. Only 18 percent of Czechs under 29 professed a belief in God. Similarly, in a May 2007 poll by the Public Opinion Research Centre (Centrum pro vyzkum verejneho mineni, or CVVM), 55 percent of Czechs voiced a mistrust of churches, while only 28 percent stated that they trust them. There was a revival of interest in religion after the 1989 "Velvet Revolution"; however, the number of those professing religious beliefs or participating in organized religion fell steadily since then in every region of the country.
Five percent of
the population attends Catholic services regularly and most of these live in
the southern Moravian dioceses of
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.
Religious affairs are the responsibility of the Department of Churches at the Ministry of Culture. All religious groups officially registered with the Ministry of Culture are eligible to receive tax benefits and government subsidies from the state, although some decline to receive state financial support as a matter of principle and as an expression of their independence.
Recognized national holidays are Easter Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and St. Stephen's Day (December 26) and do not have an evident negative affect on any religious group.
There are 26
state-recognized religious organizations. In 2004 the
The 2002 law on Religious Freedom and the Position of Churches and Religious Associations created a two-tiered system of registration for religious organizations. To register at the first (lowest) tier, a religious group must have at least 300 adult members permanently residing in the country. First-tier registration confers limited tax benefits and imposes annual reporting requirements, as well as a 10-year waiting period before the organization may apply for full second-tier registration. To register at the second tier, a religious group must have membership, with the requisite signatures, equal to at least 0.1 percent of the country's population (approximately 10,000 persons). Many smaller and less established religions were unable to obtain the signatures necessary for second tier registration. Second-tier registration entitles the organization to a share of state funding.
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.
Members of unregistered religious groups may issue publications without interference.
The Ministry of Culture sponsors religiously oriented cultural activities through a grant program. The Ministry sponsored some interfaith activities during the period covered by this report, including partial funding of the Christian and Jewish Society.
Under the 2002
religious registration law, the Ministry of Culture has responsibility for
registering religious charities and enterprises as legal entities. The Catholic
Church has criticized the law on the grounds that it unduly restricts Church
management and financing of many of its social projects. The Church reports
that religious charities and enterprises continue to experience difficulties
and delays in registering as legal entities, although there has been some
recent improvement in the speed of granting registrations. For example, in 2006
the Ministry registered a Catholic religious enterprise in northern
In 2006 the
There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice (see Anti-Semitism). Prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.
population was relatively small and included persons from
There were no reported violent anti-Semitic incidents against individuals in the country during the reporting period, and there were isolated reports of property damage or vandalism. A small but persistent and fairly well-organized extreme right movement with anti-Semitic views existed within the country. Some neo-Nazi rallies and concerts occurred throughout the year.
* Source: US
State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report;
Direct Link: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108442.htm
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.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the 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.”
Genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief calls for respectful discourse, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue includes people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The warning signs are clear, unless there is genuine dialogue ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism; conflicts in the future will probably be even more deadly.
In 1968 the UN deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance because of its complexity and sensitivity. Violence, suffering and discrimination based on religion or belief in many parts of the world is greater than ever. It is time for a UN Working Group to draft what they deferred in 1968, a comprehensive core international human rights treaty-a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. United Nations History – Freedom of Religion or Belief
The challenge to religions or beliefs at all levels is awareness, understanding and acceptance of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. Leaders, teachers and followers of all religions or beliefs, with governments, are keys to test the viability of inclusive and genuine dialogue in response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call for constructive and committed dialogue.
The Tandem Project title, Separation of Religion or Belief and State (SOROBAS), reflects the far-reaching scope of UN General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4). The General Comment on Article 18 is a guide to international human rights law for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts:
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.
The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) 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 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 is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations