Term 7.1.2: Available in Practice


A Community Compendium of Legislation and Local Regulations should be created in the absence of a national compendium. Such a document would be an important aide in learning how to become a responsible citizen in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. It would help to understand the impact of the constitutional provisions and national laws that impact a community, as well as the local laws, rules and regulations that may be specific to the local culture of a community. A Compendium like this should include the religious laws of a country and community, if there are any, as well as the criminal laws and how they relate to freedom of religion or belief. Learning what information to compile is an educational program in itself.

Related Examples

 There are numerous recent examples among States of enacting or rescinding national and local legislation in matters relating to religion or belief.

  • France: In 1989 the National Assembly created a Commission to “analyze the phenomenon of sects,” without defining what is meant by the term or how sects differ from religions or beliefs. The Commission has identified 173 groups as sects.
  • Nigeria: In Nigeria, the governor of the regional state of Zamfara in 1989 signed into law two bills aimed at instituting Islamic Shari’a Law in his region. This will have far-ranging consequences on penal codes and civil regulations abased on religion or belief.
  • Chile: In 1999, Congress adopted a new religious law designed to bring other religious entities closer to the legal status enjoyed by the Catholic Church which retains a privileged position.
  • Indonesia: The official state ideology is called “Pancasila,” a belief in one supreme God. They have six officially recognized religions; Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Atheism is forbidden. In 1998, the People’s Consultative Assembly adopted a new Human Rights Charter which provides citizens the freedom to practice their religion without specifying any particular religions. 5
  • United States of America : In 1998, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief visited the United States . In an extensive and detailed report, he called the situation of freedom of religion or belief generally favorable, with some exceptions in the Muslim, Jewish and Native American communities.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur, in his report on the United States of America , included detailed case studies from the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are two examples:

  • United States of America: In 1990 a case, Employment Division vs. Smith, 494 U.S. 972 (1990) held that state drug laws in the State of Oregan may be applied to bar the sacramental ingestion of controlled substances such as peyote in exercising Native American religious beliefs.
  • United States of America: The U.S. Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) in order to subject all national and state laws to strict scrutiny regarding religious freedom. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court in Boerne vs. Flores, 117 S Ct. 2157 declared RFRA unconstitutional in that it was an incursion into the traditional prerogatives and general authority of the 50 states to regulate the health and welfare of their citizens

These are examples in the United States of the fluid and changing nature of national and local legislation in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The U.N. Special Rapporter report went on the include a quote from a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia: “The development of a coherent and comprehensive framework for interpreting and applying the two constitutional religions clauses in the First Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights would be most useful.”

Learning Experiences

Create a Community Compendium of Legislation and Regulations designed for easy and quick reference to all the national, regional and local laws that impact matters of religion or belief in your community. A longer assignment might be a research paper, more detailed than a chart. Excerpts from such a paper might be included in the Community Report on Freedom of Religion or Belief. This would give the individual or group an opportunity to increase skills of information gathering, inquiry and critical thinking on what laws should be enacted or rescinded, and how they may be available in practice. Carrying out the assignment might include attending local city or village councils to observe how a law or regulation is enacted, or inviting leaders of community religions or beliefs to address the monitors on what they would like to see in future legislation.


Term 7.1.2: Available in Practice

Create a chart and title it a Community Compendium of Legislation and Regulations in Matters of Religion or Belief. Include all national, regional and local laws and regulations that pertain to this subject. Attach the chart as an Addendum to your Community Report on Freedom of Religion or Belief and make it available to your community. Summarize below the steps you have taken to create the chart.

5. These country examples, France, Nigeria, Chile, Indonesia, are from the 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, published b the U.S. State Department.

6. A. Amor, U.N. Special Raporteur, report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-fifth session, Visit to the United States of America, E/CN.4.1999/58/add.1).