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THE TANDEM PROJECT
http://www.tandemproject.com.
info@tandemproject.com
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State


Universal Periodic Review - Norway

Only contributions submitted in one of the United Nations official languages are admissible and posted on this webpage
Date of consideration: Wednesday 2 December 2009 - 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m.

National report 1 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

            

 Compilation of UN information 2 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

      

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

 A | C | E | FR | S

Questions submitted in advance :

 E

     Questions submitted in advance - Addendum :

 E 

Questions submitted in advance - Addendum 2 :

 E

 

  

Outcome of the review   :

 

Report of the Working group   :

 A | CE | F | R | S

Report of the Working Group - Addendum

 E

Related webcast archives

Flag of Norway 

Some links above do not open in the UN Official Documents System (ODS) for all  browsers: http://documents.un.org/welcome.asp?language=E. If you have trouble open the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights website below and click on Universal Periodic Review in the upper left-hand corner.  The documents above will appear and can be opened.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Report:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/NOIndex.aspx
U.S. State Department Annual International Religious Freedom Report, The Tandem Project Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief source for 195 countries.
Norway: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148970.htm


I.
THE TANDEM PROJECT RECOMMENDATIONS

The Tandem Project is an NGO based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.  In 1986  the Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee was invited to give an address on the meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize at an International Minnesota Conference on Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief. This led to an annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum in its twenty-third year sponsored by five Norwegian-American colleges in the Upper Midwest. http://www.peaceprizeforum.org/

In 1998 The Tandem Project, founded the idea and co-organized the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief that led to the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief located in the Norwegian Center for Human Rights (NCHR) at the University of Oslo. http://www.oslocoalition.org/


The Tandem Project Recommendations will Monitor the Following Reports

NATIONAL REPORT: “Norway has a constitutional state church system that has been the subject of criticism as a matter of principle from several quarters, including the UN Human Rights Committee. Article 2 of the Constitution protects certain aspects of freedom of religion or belief, but does not go as far as the protection provided by international human rights principles.” “A White Paper has been discussed in Parliament, and formal proposals to amend all seven articles in the Constitution establishing the state church system has been submitted. The proposals will be voted on in the next parliamentary session.” “In connection with continuous focus on dialogue, cooperation between religious and life stance communities, the authorities and the general population, grants are provided for three councils for religion and belief: the Council of Religious and Life Stance Communities, the Islamic Council of Norway and the Christian Council of Norway.” “Religious and belief communities outside the Church of Norway have a statutory right to claim an annual financial grant from the State and municipal authorities. This grant scheme is unique internationally.” 

National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) Report: NCHR established in 2002 is Norway’s independent National Institution for Human Rights under the Paris Principles.
“The Government has purposed a new formulation of the Constitution § 2 articulating basic values. It mentions humanity and Christianity specifically, with no reference to other religions or beliefs. This may not be in conflict with any human rights conventions; it might however exclude groups of the population. The same problem arises in the statements of objectives in the law on both schools and kindergartens. NCHR finds the principle of inclusion to be highly relevant in this debate. NCHR recommends that Norwegian authorities reconsider whether there is a need for explicitly highlighting the Christian belief in the constitutional values and in the statement of objectives in the laws on schools and kindergartens.”

“Norway has prepared two overall documents on human rights in Norway, one in 1977 and one in 1999. The latter is a National Plan of Action for human rights. This document is no longer in use, the last report covering the years 2004-2005. The present lack of a comprehensive plan leaves Norway without a holistic approach to human rights. In addition, Norway has no body that gives attention to these matters on an overall basis. The NCHR recommends that Norway strengthens the implementation of human rights by developing a new National Plan of Action for human rights as recommended in the 1993 Vienna Declaration. The work should be led by a high-level National Committee for Human Rights – a national coordinating and monitoring body – either at the Government or Parliament level.”

“NCHR has been operational as a national institution since 2002 and was accredited internationally with “A”status in 2006. Norway is up for consideration for new international accreditation in 2011. NCHR finds that the time is right for an evaluation, assessing to what extent the National institution for human rights has the desired effect and sufficient capacity and resources to fulfill its role.”

STAKEHOLDER LETTERS: The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ERCI) Norwegian Forum on the Rights of the Child (NFRC) and Norwegian Ombudsman for Children concurred that legislation be “fine-tuned” in this field. The ERCI recommends “strengthening efforts to counter instances of racist expression committed through the Internet; monitor all manifestations of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, indigenous (Sami) population,” which The Tandem Project Recommendation strongly concurs and will approach the ERCI to see how they plan to follow-up on this recommendation.

“Implementation of human rights at the local level, where most human rights are implemented is a challenge.” NCHR recommends “the government give priority to offering quality training programmes in human rights implementation to local authority employees.”

U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC/c/NOR/co/4) for 29 January 2010 for Civil Rights and Freedoms welcomed an amendment to the Education Act, the newly  named Religion, Philosophical Life and Ethics curriculum and were concerned about implementation at a local level.  The Committee recommends that the State Party “conduct a study on how the aims of the revised subject are achieved and what kind of support teachers need to implement the objectives.” The Committee for the CRC further “recommends the State Party (Norway) examine educational objectives and practices of isolated religious communities with respect to their compatibility with the child’s right to a holistic, human rights oriented education.” http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/index.htm

WORKING GROUP REPORT: Recommendations which enjoys Norway’s support includes #18 “Consider continuing to ensure that children are not discriminated against on the basis of their religion or ethnic backgrounds (Malaysia), #43 “Continue providing assistance and sharing its experience with other countries in the area of human rights education and training (Viet Nam), #44 “Continue to engage with human rights civil society groups in the follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review (United Kingdom).

U.S. INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT: Recommendations identifies specific issues (quotes from the report) to monitor during the four year follow-up cycle that covers the reporting mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

1. “The constitution provides the right to practice religion in general, but there have been examples of existing law clashing with practical lifestyle aspects of certain religious groups,” for example, by law the practices of the slaughter of an animal for religious practices and importation of kosher meat. “The penal code covers violations of the right to religious freedom It specifies penalties for expression of disrespect for religious standpoints or followers, and for public discrimination on the basis of religion.” “There is “continued public debate about introducing greater separation between church and state”- the power to appoint bishops and public financing for all religious groups. “The power to appoint bishops will not be transferred to the church until parliament votes on the proposed constitutional amendments, expected sometime during the 2009-13 parliamentary session.” 

2. “In June 2010 the National Courts Administration (NCA) determined by a vote of seven to two that restricting religious and political symbols in the courtroom is unnecessary and that existing neutrality rules are comprehensive enough to accommodate religious and political symbols” – on a case-by-case basis.

3. “A 1997 law introduced the Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) course for grades one through 10 (generally ages six to sixteen). “This course is mandatory, there are no exceptions for children of other religious groups. One 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 rights to provide religious instruction to their children (Article V of the 1981 U.N Declaration).  They won a case before the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 and 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 a majority of its citizens.” The Tandem Project Recommendation is to monitor how this is being taught in the revised name of the curriculum identified by the Concluding Observations in 2010 of the treaty-body Committee on the Rights of the Child.

4. “In May 2010 the Directorate of Education granted permission to Foreningen Fredsskolen to establish a Muslim elementary school in Oslo, despite opposition from governing coalition and opposition party politicians. The city of Oslo appealed the decision to the Ministry of Education, arguing that the decision is undermining integration in Oslo. The minister of education rejected the appeal, stating that to deny the Muslim school’s application based on integration concerns could be discriminatory and violate human rights, since there are 95 Christian schools in the country and no Muslim ones.” The Tandem Project Recommendation is to consider a Tandem Forum for Schools on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief, to follow the NCHR recommendations to see how effective national law is being implemented in local areas, especially municipalities.

5. “During the reporting period, the University of Oslo permitted Muslim students to begin using a building in the sports stadium for prayer services after students complained that the on-campus space for Friday night prayers was insufficient. Although the university also provides prayer space for other religious groups, the request and the university’s response sparked a heated debate over whether a secular university should remain neutral vis-à-vis different religious groups or whether secularism should prohibit any religious expression on campus. Some students expressed concern that a larger prayer space would unfairly favor Muslims and pressure nonpracticing Muslims.”  The Tandem Project Recommendation is to include this issue in a Norway Forum for Academic Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief.

6. “A television news feature in March 2010 produced by a state-owned broadcasting company, highlighted increasing anti-Semitic attitudes, expletive-filled language and bullying incidents against Jewish students in schools, particularly by Muslim youth.” – in “response to the news report, the Ministry of Education inaugurated a working group in May 2010 tasked with recommending ways to counter increasing incidents of racism and anti-Semitism in primary and secondary schools.” “The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities will be the secretariat for the group, which is expected to provide recommendations to the government in December 2010.  The Tandem Project Recommendation is to include this task force in a Norway Forum for Schools on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief and consider Norway Forums for Places of Worship and for Civil Society on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

7. “The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (housed in the WWII-era residence of Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling) continued to support Holocaust-related research and sponsored seminars related to the Jewish experience during the Nazi occupation period. Membership in Muslim congregations (126 mosques nationwide) has increased to 93,000 (from 84,000 in 2009) while membership in Jewish congregations has decreased to 800 (from 850).”

8. “In early February 2010, approximately 3,000 persons marched through downtown Oslo in a protest against two newspapers that printed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. An estimated 1,000 taxi drivers in Oslo and neighboring municipality Baerum also refused to drive for several hours in protest against the caricatures.  A debate arose as to whether news editors should apologize to the Muslim community; the editors ultimately declined to do so, and the foreign ministry reaffirmed the government’s strong support for freedom of expression – the basis for religious freedom he noted.” This is an issue recurring in many countries and again in the debate over the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the 2007 and 2010 sessions of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Tandem Project Recommendation is to partner a Norway Forum for Civil Society with a similar Forum in the United States and other countries experiencing this tension between freedom of expression and defamation or blasphemy laws in other countries.

9, “On March 22, 2010, Oslo’s governing mayor invited representatives from the Jewish community, the Islamic Council, Norway’s Christian Council, the Holocaust Center and the Municipal Department of Cultural Affairs and Education to consult on what the country can do about harassment of religious minorities. The city’s goal is to research the scope of the problem and then introduce targeted measures based on the results of the study.” Beginning February 1, 2010, “Oslo municipality commenced a campaign called OXLO – Oslo Extra Large, aimed at combating the growing incidence of “morality police” in Muslim communities. Campaign posters, describing the city as a place that welcomes diversity, were placed at bus and tram stops and metro stations during the first week of February 2010. School leaders and teachers were encouraged to discuss the campaign with students.”

TANDEM FORUMS: invitations to build global awareness of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief in local areas as a follow-up to Universal Periodic Reviews, and assess interest, exchange information and consider local partnerships within and between countries as best practice models for international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief.

The Tandem Project in Minnesota will hold Tandem Forums for Places of Worship, Academic Discourse, Schools, Women and Civil Society as a follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review. The Tandem Project invites NGO’s in Norway to partner these Forums and other ideas as best practice models for international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief. 


II.

NORWAY CONTACTS 

These are eighteen government and non-governmental organizations and religions or beliefs in and outside of Norway that will be contacted by The Tandem Project over the four year follow-up cycle on implementing recommendations in the adopted Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Norwegian Centre for Human Rights:
http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session6/NO/NCHR_NOR_UPR_S06_2009_NorwegianCentreForHumanRights.pdf

The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) is Norway’s national institution for human rights, accredited with A-status according to standards of the International Coordinating Committee of the global network of national institutions of human rights (ICC).

Government of Norway: http://www.regjeringen.no/en.html?id=4

The Constitution and constitutional practice determine which matters must be formally decided in the Council of State presided over by the King, and which may be decided by the competent minister. In both cases the government conference is the main forum for discussing important policy matters before formal decisions are taken. As of February 2007, there are 17 ministries, plus the office of the Prime Minister, while the Government consists of the prime minister and 18 ministers. The Tandem Project for purposes of an exchange of information on follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review will seek advice from the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs.

Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/selected-topics/human-rights.html?id=1160

The Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway is Jonas Gahr Store. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry is responsible for: Development cooperation; High North; Human Rights; Humanitarian Efforts; International Law; Peace and Reconciliation efforts; Public Diplomacy and Cultural Cooperation; Security Policy; Trade Policy; United Nations. Bente Angell-Hansen, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva delivered Norway’s opening statement at a member of the UN Human Rights Council on 2 December 2009. The Tandem Project will request an exchange of information with the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Norway Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/kkd.html?id=545

The Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs is responsible for cultural policy, church affairs, regulations and other matters regarding the media and sports. The Tandem Project will contact them for advice on follow-up efforts for education on human rights and freedom of religion or belief after the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

University of Oslo: CULCOM research program; http://www.culcom.uio.no/english/news/2009/borsum.html

The University of Oslo is Norway’s largest and oldest institution of higher education. It was founded in 1811 when Norway was still under Danish rule. Today the University of Oslo has approximately 27,700 students and 5,900 employees. CULCOM, Cultural Complexity in the new Norway is a strategic university program, University of Oslo 2004-spring 2010. This website article is on a Master’s thesis “Cooperation rather than religious dialogue “by Kjersti Borsum, pointing out “there is a great distance between the elite participating in dialogue and the grassroots level. The Tandem Project will approach a variety of departments in the University of Oslo including CULCOM, the School of Theology, School of Law and department of Sociology for an exchange of information as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Church of Norway: http://www.kirken.no/english/engelsk.cfm?artid=5730

The State Church of Norway has represented the main, almost the only, expression of religious belief in Norway for a thousand years. Around 86 percent of the population or 3, 868,943 Norwegians are members of the Church of Norway. The Constitution of 1814 states that the Evangelical-Lutheran faith shall be the religion of the Kingdom of Norway and embodied the principle democratic ideals and a process of church reform still continuing to this day. The Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations has a long history of dialogue with other faiths including on the formation of the Declaration on Religious Freedom signed with the Islamic Council of Norway in 2007. Separation of Church and State issues remain such as the requirement that the King be a Lutheran and an issue of Christian education in the Norwegian public school system in which the European Court of Human Rights found them in violation of Council of Europe human rights principles. The Tandem Project worked with the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations in organization of the 1998 Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and will ask for an exchange of information with them as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities: http://www.trooglivssyn.no

The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities in Norway was established in May 1996. Membership includes thirteen religious and non-religious Norwegian communities. The goals of the Council are to promote mutual understanding and respect between different religious and life stance communities through dialogue; to work towards equality between various religious and life stance communities in Norway based on United Nations covenants on Human Rights and on the European Convention on Human Rights; to work internally and externally with social and ethical issues from the perspective of religions and life stances. The Tandem Project will seek out all community members of the Council for an exchange of information on how they promote Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 UN Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief in integration, dialogue and education, as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Diakonhjemmet University College ; http://www.diakonhjemmeths.no/web/english

Diakonhjemmet University College was established in 1890. The University College is a diaconal foundation within the Norwegian Lutheran church and consists from the date of 1 Jan 2006 of two campuses: Oslo and Rogaland. Campus Oslo is located to the same site as much of the rest of the activities within The Foundation of "Det Norske Diakonhjem". Campus Rogaland draws its history back to 1969 when the primary owner founded the school of social educators in connection to the regional institution at Nærland for mentally retarded people. Campus Rogaland has its main campus in the town called Sandnes, but with a branch campus in Haugesund.

Diakonhjemmet University College aims to practice a holistic philosophy, viewing the human being as a unity of spirit, soul and body, created in the image of God, interwoven with others in social and economic structures on local, national and global basis. The College stresses the importance of interdisciplinary expertise, and makes the efforts to combine professional and academic aspirations with their practical application

Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief: www.oslocoalition.org

The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief was established by participants of the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief which was held in August 1998 in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The activities of the Oslo Coalition are based on the Oslo Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief which was adopted by the Conference of over 200 participants and was signed by leaders of all major Norwegian faith communities in 2001. Projects of the Oslo Coalition include New Directions in Islamic Thought and Practice; Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief; Missionary Activities and Human Rights; Teaching for Tolerance and Freedom of Religion or Belief; China Project; Indonesia Project; Caucasus Project and Central Asia Project. The Tandem Project as the founder idea and then co-sponsor of the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief will seek an exchange of information with the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights: http://www.oslocenter.no/

The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights was established as an independent foundation in August 2006. The Oslo Center’s work is structured around three main programs: Dialogue for Peace, Promoting Democracy and Human Rights. The Oslo Center works through contact and dialogue with policy makers, organizations and key actors in Norway and internationally. Several members of the staff of nine are former diplomats and experts from the Government of Norway.  The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights president and founder is Kjell Magne Bondevik, Prime Minister of Norway from 1997-2000 and 2001-2005. Mr. Bondevik was ordained as a priest in the Lutheran Church of Norway in 1979. He is a member of several key international associations the United Nations endorsed Alliance of Civilizations and the Club de Madrid made up of former presidents and foreign ministers from countries throughout the world. Mr. Bondevik is in a unique position having been a Norwegian Foreign Minister and an active priest in the State Church of Norway. The Tandem Project will call on the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights to exchange information on ways they intend to follow-up on the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Islamic Council of Norway: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/norway.christians.and.muslims.sign.declaration.on.religious.freedom/12636.htm

The Islamic Council of Norway is an umbrella group of Islamic organizations and mosques in Norway and a Member Community of the Norway Religious and Life Stance Communities. In 26 August 2007 they signed a Declaration on Religious Freedom with the Church of Norway that was a previous to tension in the UN Human Rights Council in 14 December 2007 that led to members of the Council who are also members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) abstaining on a resolution to extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief by three years (A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1). Muslims in the Islamic Council of Norway as all Muslims worldwide are in the Ummah the 1.4 billion family of Islam. But they live outside the Diaspora of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (IOC) a 57 member organization of countries either with Sharia law or where Islam is the majority religion. The Tandem Project will request an exchange of information with the Islamic Council of Norway on ways they plan to promote human rights and freedom of religion or belief in Norway, as a follow-up to the Norway 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 Geneva, Switzerland. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the world representing 68.5 million Christians. Their mission includes humanitarian assistance, mission and development, theology, international affairs & human rights and ecumenical relations. Lutheran churches see the protection of human rights as a basic Christian concern and LWF monitors human rights abuses around the world and, in consultation with its member churches, makes representations in relation to crucial issues. The Church of Norway is a member of the Lutheran World Federation. LWF and the Church of Norway will be approached by The Tandem Project for an exchange of information on ways they approach integration, dialogue and education at international, national and local levels in Norway and abroad at a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.


Norwegian Humanist Association; http://www.human.no

The Norwegian Humanist Association is an organization for people who base their ethics on human values. Humanism is a life stance in which the understanding of reality and ethics is based on reason and experience, rational and critical thinking, feelings and human compassion. The by-laws are non-theistic and reject supernatural views of reality. They have more than 75,000 members in Norway and are a partner association with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). They are one of the thirteen member communities in the Norwegian Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities. The Tandem Project was a founding co-sponsor of the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in 1998 with the Religious and Life Stance Communities and will call on the Norwegian Humanist Association for an exchange of information on their programs in Norway for equal protection of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, at a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review. 

Forum 18: http://www.forum18.org/Forum18.php

Forum 18 is a Norwegian-Danish non-profit charitable initiative. The Forum 18 believes that religious freedom is a fundamental right, which is essential for the dignity of humanity and for true freedom. Forum 18 is committed to religious freedom for all on the basis of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forum 18 News Service (F18News) is a Christian initiative which is independent of any one church or religious group. Its independence is safeguarded by a board whose members are Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Christians, and who are responsible for matters of policy and fundraising. F18News is committed to Jesus Christ’s command to do to others what you would have them do to you, and so reports on threats and actions against the religious freedom of all people, regardless of their religious affiliation. The Tandem Project believes Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights equally protects against discrimination all theist, non-theist and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The Tandem Project will request an exchange of information with Forum 18 on freedom of religion or belief as a follow-up after the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Norway Pen Centre: http://www.norskpen.no/en/index.shtml

The Norway PEN Centre (Poets, Editors, Novelists) has 253 members in Norway made up of writers, publishers, journalists, etc.  They co-sponsored a side panel at the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2010 on freedom of opinion and expression and a draft resolution being prepared on peaceful assembly, with Article 19 and the International PEN Secretariat.  Several PEN authors and writers gave testimony by video.

Fritt Ord – Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo: http://www.fritt-ord.no/en/om_fritt_ord/category/styre_og_administrasjon/#

The mission of Fritt Ord reads; “The paramount object of the Freedom of Expression Foundation – Oslo, is to protect and promote freedom of expression and the environment of freedom of expression in Norway, particularly by encouraging lively debate and the dauntless use of the word.”  Fritt Ord has contributed to Norway Pen Centre through its grant program. Professor Francis Seyersted, Chair of Fritt Ord, was Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in 1986 and gave an address on the meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize to The Tandem Project 1986 International Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief and ways to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

Human Rights House Network (HRHN): http://humanrightshouse.org/About_HRHN/index.html

The Human Rights House Network is a community of human rights organizations based in Oslo, Norway with a program in Bergen and several countries around the world. There is an affiliated Human Rights House in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Human Rights House Networks support projects, strengthen and support human rights organizations around the world. 

Norwegian Resource Bank for Democracy and Human Rights (NORDEM) http://www.jus.uio.no/smr/english/about/programmes/nordem/ 

Nordic was established in 1993 by the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA). Since then, it has seconded more than 2000 persons to international operations promoting human rights and democratization. The main receiving organizations of NORDEM personnel are the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations and the European Union. NORDEM is a programme at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and is run in cooperation with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who carries the administrative responsibility for the projects, and is the formal employer of the seconded while they are on an assignment.
The stand-by roster consists of 250-300 members with relevant expertise. Recruitment to the roster usually takes place once a year. All newly recruited members are offered training in human rights field work and election observation. Members are required to be available for assignments for international organizations on a short notice. Members are not compensated for being on stand-by and are not guaranteed offers of assignments.


III.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

U.S. State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, Norway

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. International Religious Freedom Report 2010

November 17, 2010

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, the state church, enjoys some benefits not available to other religious groups.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.
There were a few reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, but prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 150,000 square miles and a population of 4.8 million. Its constitutional state church system has been criticized from several quarters, including the UN Human Rights Committee. Citizens are considered to be members of the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, unless they explicitly state otherwise. For example, citizens may elect to associate themselves with another denomination, nonreligious organization (for example, the Norwegian Humanist Association), or to have no religious affiliation at all. An estimated 79.2 percent of the population (3.8 million persons) nominally belongs to the state church; however, actual church attendance is quite low.

Other religious groups operate freely and include various Christian denominations (235,000 registered members), which make up 54 percent of all registered members of religious groups outside of the state church. Of the Christian denominations, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest and has through recent immigration increased to 57,000 registered members, while the Pentecostal Church has 40,000 registered members. Membership in Muslim congregations (126 mosques nationwide) has increased to 93,000 (from 84,000 in 2009), while membership in Jewish congregations has decreased to 800 (from 850). Buddhists, Orthodox Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus are also present in small numbers, together constituting less than 4 percent of the population. The Norwegian Humanist Association -- the largest national organization for those who do not formally practice any religion, including atheists -- has 80,000 registered members. An unknown number of persons belong to religious institutions but do not formally register with the government; they are not reflected in the statistics.

Of all the religious communities in the country, Islam increased by the greatest number in 2009, with 9,000 newly registered members (an 11 percent increase). Hinduism saw the largest percentage increase, with 15 percent more registered members in 2009 than in 2008.

The majority of European and American immigrants, who make up approximately 45 percent of the foreign-born population, are either Christian or nonreligious, with the exception of Muslim refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Most non-Western immigrants practice Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, or Hinduism. Of registered religious minority members, 55 percent are concentrated in the Oslo metropolitan area, including 57 percent of Muslims and 38 percent of Buddhists.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The constitution provides that "all inhabitants are free to have and express religion." The law on religious freedom and affiliation further specifies the right of individuals to choose, change, and practice their religion. Any person over the age of 15 has the right to join or leave a religious community.

Religious freedom is further secured by the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides individuals the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

The constitution provides the right to practice religion in general, but there have been examples of existing law clashing with practical lifestyle aspects of certain religious groups. For example, by law the slaughter of an animal must be preceded by stunning or administering anesthetics. The Muslim community was split over whether stunning conflicts with halal requirements, but they ultimately accepted a compromise with authorities over this issue. The law effectively bans the production of kosher meat in the country. The Jewish community has to import kosher meat. The community's ability to import kosher meat, and particularly kosher chicken, is regularly an issue of concern, due to the country's strict regulations on import of agricultural products.

The penal code covers violations of the right to religious freedom. It specifies penalties for expressions of disrespect for religious standpoints or followers, and for public discrimination on the basis of religion.

Citizens have a right to sue the government for violations of religious freedom, and may also file cases with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud was established in 1978 as the Gender Equality Ombud, the first of its kind in the world. In 2006 the ombud was reorganized to include discrimination in general. The ombud’s mandate is to enforce the Gender Equality Act, antidiscrimination provisions of the Worker Protection and Working Environment Act, and the Discrimination Act. The latter act prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, and ethical orientation. During the reporting period, the ombud issued a new handbook entitled "Religion in the Workplace," addressing the rights and duties of employers and employees regarding prayer in the work place.

The country's first national report on registered hate crimes was published in January 2009. The report consisted of data from 2007, during which 257 hate crimes were registered in the country. Because ethnicity and religion are often inextricably linked, it is difficult to determine the precise number of incidents characterized by religious intolerance, although religion is tracked separately as a motive for hate crimes. Of the 257 registered hate crimes in 2007, 19 were reported as motivated by religious intolerance, while race or ethnicity was listed as the motive for 80 percent of registered hate crimes in that period. Religious communities are working with the state to improve the database by specifying whether an incident is motivated by anti-Semitism or other forms of religious intolerance. They noted, however that many religious minorities prefer not to file complaints with the police or community organizations and monitoring bodies, fearing reprisal or doubting a positive outcome. Thus, the number of incidents, both violent and verbal, might be much higher than the figures presented. Both the police and civil society organizations have characterized the current system as flawed, as it results in both under- and over-reporting. The 2009 hate crimes report recommended that the government implement a new reporting system, including a hate crimes unit to train police officers to detect, raise awareness of, and inform the public about hate crimes. The government reportedly is responding to the concerns, but the outcome of these recommendations is currently unknown. To date, the police have not published information relating to statistics from 2008 or 2009, but a new report is expected by the end of August 2010.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway is the state church. The state supports it financially, and there is a constitutional requirement that the king and at least one-half of the cabinet belong to this church. The king, who heads the state church, formally nominates bishops, and clerical salaries and pensions are regulated by law.

There is continued public debate about introducing greater separation between church and state. In April 2008 the minister of culture presented a parliament-commissioned report on the state and church relationship. The report, which took five years to complete and included significant public input, called for maintaining, but further democratizing, the state church. It proposed changes to the constitution to further separate church and state functions. One of the immediate effects was an agreement, signed by seven parties in parliament, to support amending the constitution to give the state church the ability to select, but not appoint, its own bishops. The agreed wording also would institute the system of public financing for all religious groups recognized in the constitution, similar to the existing public financing already in place for the Church of Norway. The power to appoint bishops will not be transferred to the church until parliament votes on the proposed constitutional amendments, expected sometime during the 2009-13 parliamentary session.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Whit Monday, Christmas Day, and Saint Stephen's Day.

Individuals citing conscientious or other objection to military service are free to serve their duty time in a civilian capacity.

In June 2010 the National Courts Administration (NCA) determined by a vote of seven to two that restricting religious and political symbols in the courtroom is unnecessary and that existing neutrality rules are comprehensive enough to accommodate religious and political symbols. The administrative body stated that if any parties to a court hearing should object to the wearing of religious or political symbols in court, the issue should be resolved on a case-by-case basis under disqualification rules. The decision effectively reversed the same administrative body's September 2009 decision, which banned judges from wearing the hijab in the courtroom. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ), which previously validated a hijab ban not only in courtrooms but also among the police force, has not addressed the NCA's reversal.

In May 2010 parliament voted against a proposal to ban burqas (full body covering) and niqabs (face veil) in public, following a MOJ decision that a ban would violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Three years earlier, the MOJ had reached the opposite conclusion in a different context, determining that the city of Oslo's ban on burqas and niqabs in schools, as implemented in 2006, was not inconsistent with national law and international conventions.

A religious community must register with the government only if it desires state financial support, which is provided to all registered denominations in proportion to their formally registered membership. Some faith groups argued that this registration requirement disadvantages their efforts to get funding, since the religious groups most popular among immigrants generally, including Islam and Catholicism, are also most popular among individuals who are in the country either illegally or as political refugees, and who may be leery of contact with state officials.
Foreign religious workers are subject to the same visa and work permit requirements as other foreign workers.

A 1997 law introduced the Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Information (CKREE) course for grades one through 10 (generally ages six to 16). The CKREE course reviews world religions and philosophy while promoting tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs. Citing the country's Christian history (and the stated importance of Christianity to society), the CKREE course devotes an extensive amount of time to studying Christianity. This course is mandatory; there are no 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 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.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

In April 2010 parliament amended the Worker Protection and Working Environment Act (WPWEA) and the Gender Equality Act to remove exemptions for discrimination on religious grounds. The amendments removed religious organizations' explicit right to inquire about an applicant's sexual orientation or discriminate on the basis of gender, unless the differential treatment is shown to have a legitimate purpose. Until April 2010 the WPWEA permitted employers to ask job applicants applying for positions in religious or other private schools, or day care centers, whether they would agree to teach and behave in accordance with the institution's or religion's beliefs and principles. In effect, however, the right of religious organizations to use discretion in their hiring processes has been retained as "legitimate purpose" is broadly defined.

On August 5, 2009, the government officially initiated a "Hamsun Year" celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, the 1920 Nobel laureate in literature, who became a prominent Nazi sympathizer during World War II. Leading international Jewish organizations strongly criticized the observance and called on the country to relinquish the chairmanship of the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research. The government responded that Hamsun was being honored for his literary achievements and stated that the anniversary in no way condoned Hamsun's support for the Nazi regime.

The government did not enforce a ban on the wearing of burqas and niqabs in schools, permitting every school to determine independently whether to implement such a ban. During the reporting period, one Oslo student asked to wear a niqab to school and was told she could not do so, because all students are required to show their faces in class. The decision generated little controversy.

A ban remained on policewomen wearing the hijab (head covering) with police uniforms, despite the government having earlier briefly supported a proposal to allow wearing of it. Anecdotal reports from Muslim leaders during the reporting period suggest that some Muslim women have been unable to obtain police employment because of the hijab ban.

In May 2010 the Directorate of Education granted permission to Foreningen Fredsskolen to establish a Muslim elementary school in Oslo, despite opposition from governing coalition and opposition party politicians. The city of Oslo appealed the decision to the Ministry of Education, arguing that the decision is undermining integration in Oslo. The minister of education rejected the appeal, stating that to deny the Muslim school's application based on integration concerns could be discriminatory and violate human rights, since there are 95 Christian schools in the country and no Muslim ones.

During the reporting period, the University of Oslo permitted Muslim students to begin using a building in the sports stadium for prayer services, after students complained that the on-campus space for Friday night prayers was insufficient. Although the university also provides prayer space for other religious groups, the request and the university's response sparked a heated debate over whether a secular university should remain neutral vis-a-vis different religious groups or whether secularism should prohibit any religious expression on campus. Some students expressed concern that a larger prayer space would unfairly favor Muslims and pressure nonpracticing Muslims.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were some reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Citizens were generally tolerant of diverse religious practices. Anti-Semitism existed, however, and some Muslims engaged in nonviolent protests over perceived societal discrimination of Muslims. Law enforcement authorities maintained statistics on hate crimes.
Debate arose over alleged "morality police" in an Oslo district populated largely by immigrants. The debate began when a leading newspaper reported complaints from Muslims and non-Muslims who have been scolded or threatened for not wearing conservative dress, eating during Ramadan, or acting "too western." Following suggestions by a University of Oslo professor to research the issue, the cabinet minister in charge of integration organized a study.

During the reporting period, and especially following the Free Gaza Flotilla incident in May 2010, anti-Semitism, and a corresponding debate about it, experienced another peak in intensity. In contrast with the anti-Israel riots in December 2008 to January 2009, however, protests after the flotilla incident were peaceful and without incident. Nonetheless, Jewish community leaders gave a consistent message: Jews in the country are safe, but there is a worrying rise in anti-Semitism. The line between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitism continued to be discussed.

A television news feature in March 2010, produced by a state-owned broadcasting company, highlighted increasing anti-Semitic attitudes, expletive-filled language, and bullying incidents against Jewish students in schools, particularly by Muslim youth. Four teachers interviewed anonymously on the news program said that anti-Semitism has become acceptable among some students, with some denying the Holocaust openly in the classroom and claiming Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The television report triggered a public debate that is continuing, focusing on the existence of "old" and "new" fashioned anti-Semitism in modern society. In response to the news report, the Ministry of Education inaugurated a working group in May 2010, tasked with recommending ways to counter increasing incidents of racism and anti-Semitism in primary and secondary schools. The working group is diverse; in addition to representatives from religious groups, it includes teachers and school leaders, parents and police. The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities will be the secretariat for the group, which is expected to provide its recommendations to the government by December 2010.

Nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives and leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities alike have applauded the government's prompt response to the problem. Some have expressed concern, however, that the news feature identified Muslim youth as the main instigators, noting that the problem is more nuanced.

Asylum centers increasingly have come under attack during the reporting period. In October 2009 some boys threw stones through a window at an asylum center in Fossanaasen. A note with Nazi symbols was attached to the stones with the message: "Go home to your own country." In September 2009 an asylum center for unaccompanied minors in Namsos was attacked three times. Nazi symbols were sprayed on the walls, notes with racist messages were left on the door step of the center, and three windows were broken. In August and September 2009, an asylum center in Sjoholt off the western coast was shot at with training rifles from cars on three occasions. No one was hurt, but the bullets went through the windows. Because ethnicity and religion are often inextricably linked, it is difficult to categorize these incidents specifically as ethnic or religious intolerance.

Anecdotal press reports during the reporting period indicated that job seekers with first or last names that appear to be Muslim continue to be much less likely to receive responses to their applications for employment.

In May 2010 the Equality Tribunal determined that a woman who refused to work with a Muslim real estate agent and demanded a Christian or nonreligious agent acted discriminatorily within the meaning of the Discrimination Act, which states that "direct and indirect discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, color, language, religion or belief is prohibited." The woman had refused to let a Muslim real estate agent assess the value of her house and filed a claim with the Equality Tribunal when the real estate agency declined to offer her another agent and asked her to find another agency.

On the Thursday of Holy Week, April 1, 2010, Norwegian State Radio broadcast a show on the origin of myths during which a well-known journalist commented that whereas the Christian Easter was connected to the death of Jesus, the Jewish Passover relates to "the slaughter of Egyptian children."

During the reporting period, politicians, the media, and civic and religious groups continued to debate Islam and so-called Islamification in the country. These debates included exchanges over the use of the hijab in the courtroom and niqabs in schools, prayer space for Muslim students at the University of Oslo, and whether newspaper editors should apologize for printing material that Muslims found offensive. Muslim leaders and NGO representatives have expressed concern that these types of debates serve to marginalize Muslims in society by focusing on distinctions between Muslims on the one side and mainstream society on the other.

In early February 2010, approximately 3,000 persons marched through downtown Oslo in a protest against two newspapers that printed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The protest was peaceful, apart from one firecracker that was thrown into a cafe's outdoor area with minor burn marks to a sofa. Police were on hand throughout but maintained a low profile. An estimated 1,000 taxi drivers in Oslo and neighboring municipality Baerum also refused to drive for several hours in protest against the caricatures. A debate arose as to whether news editors should apologize to the Muslim community; the editors ultimately declined to do so, and the foreign minister reaffirmed the government's strong support for freedom of expression -- the basis for religious freedom, he noted.

The debate over the caricatures revealed that a growing number of Muslims feel alienated. Although influential Muslim leaders discouraged demonstration attendance due to the involvement of radicals, the protests gave radical Islam a face. Commentators have expressed concern that more extreme views are increasing among second-generation Muslims.

The government is a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research and completed a one-year rotation as chair of the organization in March 2010. Schools nationwide observe Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 as part of a National Plan of Action to Combat Racism and Discrimination. In addition, high school curriculums include learning about the deportation and extermination of Jewish citizens from 1942 to 1945. The government also continued to support the foundation "The White Buses," an extracurricular program which takes some secondary school students to Auschwitz, Poland, to educate them about the Holocaust. During the reporting period, the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (housed in the WWII-era residence of Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling) continued to support Holocaust-related research and sponsored seminars related to the Jewish experience during the Nazi occupation period.

The Oslo city government has also launched a project to research students' attitudes toward and knowledge of religious minorities, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. On March 22, 2010, Oslo's governing mayor invited representatives from the Jewish community, the Islamic Council, Norway's Christian Council, the Holocaust Center and the Municipal Department of Cultural Affairs and Education to consult on what the country can do about harassment of religious minorities. The city's goal is to research the scope of the problem and then introduce targeted measures based on the results of the study.

Beginning February 1, 2010, Oslo municipality commenced a campaign called OXLO -- Oslo Extra Large, aimed at combating the growing incidence of "morality police" in Muslim communities. Campaign posters, describing the city as a place that welcomes diversity, were placed at bus and tram stops and metro stations during the first week of February 2010. School leaders and teachers were encouraged to discuss the campaign with students.

On November 12, 2009, the board of the Norwegian Technical University in Trondheim (NTNU) unanimously rejected a proposed academic boycott of Israel. Before the NTNU Board's vote, the minister of higher education spoke in parliament and in the media against the proposed boycott, and she later saluted the board's decision to reject the proposed boycott on the grounds that it was inconsistent with academic freedom. Following public reaction to the Free Gaza Flotilla incident of May 31, 2010, there were renewed calls for an academic boycott of Israel, this time by the University of Oslo. The board considered the proposal in June 2010, but ultimately rejected it with nine votes to two. The University of Oslo's dean did not support the proposal, stating that dialogue is essential in the academic community and that a boycott would violate individual academic freedom.

The country has several civil organizations designed to combat anti-Semitism, including the Norwegian Center Against Racism and the Norwegian Association Against Anti-Semitism. The latter organization was revitalized in May 2010, after having lain dormant for five years.

The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities in Norway was established in May 1996 and includes the state church and 12 other religious and humanistic communities, among them the Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities. The council seeks to prevent differences in belief from being used as a basis for prejudice and xenophobia and has received government support for its work since 1998. The council, acting as an umbrella organization, organized many events that furthered interreligious dialogue and debate, including a debate about religion in educational institutions.

The Oslo Coalition for Freedom of Religious Beliefs facilitated closer coordination and international cooperation on religious freedom problems both domestically and outside of the country. The coalition continues to research new directions in Islamic thought and practice, how to facilitate freedom of religion, missionary activities and human rights, and how to teach tolerance and religious freedom.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the reporting period, the U.S. embassy regularly sponsored speakers and hosted events to highlight religious freedom, including an iftar (evening meal during Ramadan), an interreligious Thanksgiving meal, an interfaith introduction to the Passover seder, and, in January, a human rights NGO reception during which the importance of religious freedom, both in the country and around the world, was discussed. In March 2010 the Department of State's Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, met with young persons representing every major Muslim organization in the country to discuss what it means to be Muslim in the country and Europe. The embassy takes full advantage of exchange programs such as the International Visitor Leadership Program in its outreach to a diverse set of religious communities.


IV.

BACKGROUND

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.
– First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What are Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx


INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The principal instruments for International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument


Article 18: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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.

No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.

Freedom of 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.

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions.


The Third Rail

International human rights law on freedom of religion or belief protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, - General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations does not favor one religion or belief over another. This law protects individuals from discrimination based on religion or belief. It values the equal rights of majority and minority religions or beliefs, indigenous, traditional and new religious movements. It is a universal, neutral and impartial moral principle. Lexicographers may describe the terminology as agnostic, the third rail on the God idea between theism and atheism.


MANDATE OF THE U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Monitoring the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/religion/index.htm

Open the link above to get the complete history, actions and reports of the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  The mandate is up for review and renewal every three year by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The most recent cycle is the mandate from 2007-2010.  A new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was appointed in June, 2010, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt of Germany.  The Tandem Project focus under Special Procedures is solely on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

The U.N. Human Rights Council every three years draft a resolution for the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief who serves as an independent expert on human rights and freedom of religion or belief through a process known as Special Procedures.

In 2007 the right to change one’s religion or belief was resisted by Pakistan on behalf of the 57 country Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a requirement they could not subscribe to. In 2010 Pakistan and the OIC withdrew the objection when the U.N. Human Rights Council dropped 9 (a) from the mandate on freedom of religion or belief without a vote. 


2007 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37)

In 2007 the U.N.Human Rights Council mandate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37) failed to achieve consensus because of objections by Pakistan and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) over the right to change one’s religion or belief:
9. Urges States:

  • (a) To ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction, inter alia, by the provision of effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, or the right to practice freely one’s religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief, is violated;

Pakistan speaking on behalf of 57 countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)  objected by saying, “It called  for respect for norms about the right to change one’s religion.  The EU draft explicitly urges States to guarantee the right to change one’s religion or belief,  a requirement the OIC could not subscribe to.”

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) said over 40 paragraphs in the draft resolution was eliminated in an attempt at consensus with the abstaining states, but consensus over the right to leave one’s religion or belief is inviolable and could not be compromised.  The Resolution (A/HRC/RES/6/37) with recorded votes can be viewed by clicking on this link:
http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_6_37.pdf


2010 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11)

In 2010 at the 14th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council Pakistan and the OIC dropped their objections to the resolution.  The resolution was adopted without a vote for the three year mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11). Paragraph 9 (a) the point of tension and abstentions in 2007 was deleted and an amendment withdrawn by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and several other countries to achieve consensus.

Does (A/HRC/RES/14/11) still urge states to guarantee the right to change one’s religion or belief as it did in the 2007 resolution or does it accommodate cultural norms not to change one’s religion? 

Paragraph 9 (a)  in the opinion of the EU still applies to the discharge of duties in 2010 for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief . Whether the OIC agrees after abstaining in 2007 based on cultural norms is a key issue and needs clarity for 9 (a) to be fully implemented. 
UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief


IMPLEMENTING 9 (a)

If the mandate in 2010 includes a call to implement 9 (a) it will be a significant step forward  to resolve the question of universality vs. cultural relativity, for norms that guarantee the right to change one’s religion or belief.  As a principle of universal democracy the right to leave a religion is  inviolable for all religions or beliefs, all governments, all members of the human family.  
The global challenge is to build widespread awareness and acceptance of this right as international law through dialogue with governments and non-governmental organizations, civil society, schools and places of worship, including leaders of the Ummah in Islamic schools and mosques. 

Implementing 9 (a) must respect the sensitivity and complexity of this issue which was one of the causes of the 1968 impasse by the U.N. in drafting a legally-binding international treaty (History).


MANDATES RELATING TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/index.htm
Mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm

Ad-Hoc Committee on Complimentary Standards: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/AdHocCommittee.htm


TREATIES & DECLARATIONS

International Human Rights Treaties: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/treaty/index.htm

The original intent in 1960 was to draft two core legally binding human rights treaties on religion and race. “ The decision to separate the instruments on religious intolerance from those on racial discrimination constituted a compromise solution designed to satisfy a number of conflicting viewpoints. Western states insisted on addressing both matters in a joint instrument. Communist states were not anxious to deal with religious matters. African and Asian states considered the question of religious intolerance a minor matter compared with racial discrimination.  In contrast to the religious intolerance matter, international instruments on the elimination of racial discrimination were adopted fairly swiftly, in 1963 and 1965 respectively.

At the General Assembly’s twenty-second session, the Third Committee had an opening general debate and a line-by-line review of the text of the draft convention. The convention’s most fierce critics were the Soviet Union, other communist states, and several African and Asian States. Since the draft Convention’s definition of “religion or belief’ included theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs; there was strong opposition from Islamic states, the Catholic church, and other religious groups. At its twenty-third session, the General Assembly decided to defer consideration of the draft convention.” (History).

In 1968, the UN deferred work on a legally-binding treaty on religious intolerance as too complex and sensitive and passed a non-binding declaration in its place. The Tandem Project believes until a legally-binding Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief is adopted by the UN the core concept and philosophy of international human rights law will be incomplete.


HISTORY & STATISTICS

  • HISTORY: The United Nations failed to achieve consensus on a legally binding international treaty on religious intolerance, settling instead for the non-binding 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm

  • STATISTICS: The United Nations protects all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. Statistics: builds the case for an  inclusive and genuine approach to implementing human rights and freedom of religion or belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/major_religions.htm


THE TANDEM PROJECT 

1984: The Tandem Project co-founder represented the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in 1984 at the two week Geneva Seminar called by the UN Secretariat on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In 1986 The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference on the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

1986: Minnesota held the first International Conference on how to implement the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Thirty-five international delegates and thirty-five Minnesota delegates were invited. Minnesota organizations and individuals proposed twenty- seven Community Strategies on how to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration under: Synopsis, Strategy, Objectives, Program Approach, Obstacles and Outcomes. These Community Strategies can be read on the following link:
Minnesota Community Strategieshttp://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf

2011: Since 1986 The Tandem Project has built support for Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief simultaneously from top down and ground up. In 1986 the U.N. Human Rights Commission, now its successor the U.N. Human Rights Council.  The Tandem Project approach from the ground or local level up for national Universal Periodic Reviews & Freedom of Religion or Belief includes; Forums for Places of Worship, Academic Discourse, Schools, Women and Civil Society.

Tandem Project Database: http://www.tandemproject.com/databases/forms/card.htm

Tandem Project Internet Course: http://www.tandemproject.com/toc/toc.htm

The Questionnaire is a checklist for inclusive and genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief and conflicting truth claims, for places of worship, government and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, schools and civil society, in preparation for Tandem Forums. 

OPEN QUESTIONNAIRE


Reflections

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: 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.

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.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible use of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to consider whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs or neither trumps the other. Can international human rights law help to stop the advance and use of such weapons in the face of this historic truth?

  • QUESTION: Weapons of mass destruction as history teaches are legitimized for national security and justified by cultural, ethnic and religious or other ideology. The U.N. Review Conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and studies on biological and cyber weapons demonstrate advances in science and technology is being used to increase their potential for mass destruction. The question is whether an International Convention on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief, elevated and supported equally by the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. Security Council, would help offset the risk of weapons of mass destruction. Recognition of the need for synergy to balance rights and security is the foundation for solving this issue.

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” - Robert Oppenheimer, quote from the Bhagavad Gita after exploding the first atomic bomb, Trinity 1945.

The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material 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.

Document Attached: Norway - University of Oslo Forum for Academic Discourse on Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief.