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LAWS 3903 : Religious Freedom

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LAWS 3903 : Religious Freedom

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Course Code: LAWS 3903
University: Carleton University

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Country: Canada

Please choose one of the following topics and write an essay whereby your critical skills and analytical thinking are present throughout this final assignment. You should close the essay with a conclusions and recommendations section.
Please ensure that all references are listed. Plagiarism over 5% will mean your work will be automatically rejected.Topics:1. Migration2. Exploitation, Forced Labour & Trafficking3. Religious Freedom4. Environment and Health5. UN Human Rights Council

Conflicts involving communities belonging to different religion is one of the most common occurrences in the world and has remained an unsolved issue. Most instances of conflict occur when one religious community feel or find that they are not allowed the freedom to follow their religion. Religious freedom thus, is the principle that encourages freedom of the people or community to follow religion without any interference. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations has incorporated this freedom of religion in the International Law. It shows the importance of religious freedom in the world (Un.org).
This essay shall discuss on the topic of religious freedom by drawing upon several facts and information across studies to understand it better. Further, the essay will provide a detailed description of the principle of religious freedom followed by the status in different countries. It will then highlight the legislation regarding freedom of religion in the International Human Rights Law (IHRL).
Religion came from the Latin word religio meaning the going over again or considering carefully. Cicero was the one who had first provided a clear definition of religion. According to him, religion is cultum deorum, which meant that it is the “proper performance of rites in the veneration of gods”. On the other hand, Julius Caesar defined religion as the “obligation of gods”. It is thus evident that the term had several different definitions however; the theme remained the same, which was the gods. The definition was not difficult to discern because the main difficulty arose when the gods were divided. Different communities and people worshipped different gods and that created chaos since the dominant community began forcing its gods to the suppressed one. The Christians began converting the pagans and other religions because they were the dominant community in most parts of the world. Then, other religions started enforcing their gods and their ideologies wherever they ruled. This led to numerous conflicts and bloodsheds and people began to realize that freedom of religion must be given to everyone. During the modern era in the 19th and 20th century especially after the two World Wars, the principle of religious freedom was more fully realized. The atrocities carried out by the German Nazis against the Jews were the focal point behind formulating the UDHR and the IHRL protecting religious freedom.
After the IHRL was drafted, leaders of the nations believed that it would protect the basic rights of the humans across the globe that also included religious freedom. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) formed under the UDHR underpins the various rights of the people, one of which is the freedom of religion or belief. As per Article 18(1) of the ICCPR, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his or her choice” (Ohchr.org). It is however important to note that the ICCPR laws are viable to be violated by the states and no concrete resolution is available to address this. Therefore, many scholars and political thinkers across nations have voiced their opinions against the IHRL. The document of ICCPR also does not mention anything relating to the violation of the principle of religious freedom. Moreover, all the countries have their own laws regarding religious freedom and those laws are punishable as per the state’s law and not the IHRL.
The United States constitution guarantees protection of the rights of its citizens concerning religious freedom and the freedom of belief. The First Amendment Rights states that the government has no right to form any law regarding the “establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Uscourts.gov). However, the situation in reality has been markedly different and especially under the Trump regime, it has worsened. As The Conversation reports, the issue of religious freedom in the U.S. is very messy as it frequently collides with other human rights laws. One instance where it was visible was when a cake baker refused to prepare cake for a gay couple stating that his religion does not permit it (State.gov). Now here, the right to freedom of belief and religion and the homosexual rights seem to collide. It is therefore evident that the religious freedom principles sound great in paper but messy in reality. After the election of Donald Trump as the President, minority religions living in the U.S. have been living in fear owing to certain decisions of the President. The decision to ban Muslims from entering the country has been one of the most controversial issues concerning religious freedom. This decision was an outright violation of the IHRL but none could do anything about it.
The situation is even more complicated in the Middle Eastern countries including Egypt where religion and government are intricately connected (Krämer). The constitutional law and culture in Egypt, both involve the government and the religion in shaping one another. Hence, the freedom of religion although is recognized the constitution, the government has the right to intervene. It is in direct contrast to the International Law protecting the right to religious freedom (Hurd). Further, the country’s laws concerning the practice of different religions other than Islam also violates the human rights laws on freedom of religion. The non-Muslim communities in Egypt are not provided any aid to build their places of worship neither any other assistance. As per the U.S reports on Egypt, the people of faith other than Islam have been subjected to great violence and neglect by the state officials especially in the rural areas (Hamilton).
Abbink states that that these instances of violence against one religious sect by the other clearly indicate the failure of international bodies in protecting the religious freedom of the people. The terrorist attacks in the name of religion and with the view to establish a religion further violate the rights of religious freedom.  As Saiya further mentions, religious freedom cannot be achieved if the international regulations are not made stricter and more transparent. Egypt is not the only Middle Eastern country that violates international human rights laws on religious freedom, others like Iran, Iraq, and Syria and so on are also in the list.
Religious freedom is important in terms of business and growth as well. In the views of Grim et al., “religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development and disrupt huge sectors of economies”. The authors further observe that countries where the Muslims are in majority, religious freedom is the most neglected and damaging especially for budding entrepreneurs. Religious freedom is thus “a key ingredient to peace and stability”, which in turn provides better opportunities for investors especially in the new and emerging markets (Grim et al.). According to Richardson, focus on religious freedom has seen a rise in the past few decades owing to the rise in conflicts and violence due to religion. The author argues, “Most constitutions and other international documents around the world guarantee religious freedom even if those guarantees are sometimes honored in the breach” (Richardson). In the last part of the statement, the author mentions that the guarantees of religious freedom are often honored when a nation or a community breaches those guarantees. By this, the author probably meant to state that when individuals of one religion practice their faith at the cost of another, then the laws that guarantee religious freedom has to be breached in order to safeguard the rights of other religion followers.
Statistical data show that the countries with higher levels of restrictions on religious freedom have grown since 2015. The study by Pew Research Center revealed that 40 per cent of countries surveyed have registered “high” to “very high” levels of restrictions on religious freedom. The trend shows a 34 percent hike from the year before 2015(Cruxnow.com). The report also revealed that the Middle Eastern and North African regions had the greatest percentage of government harassments on religious minorities amounting to 95 per cent.
The above analysis unearths the fact that religious freedom although the most sought after issue of human rights, has yet to be fully realized. It is thus recommended that the governments of powerful nations should take the initiative to protect the rights of the citizens when to comes to religious freedom. The United States in particular, which the most powerful nation in the world and which has the tendency to interfere in the affairs of other countries especially the Muslim majority countries, must realize its responsibility. Further, it is recommended that the IHRL be examined again and the laws be made stricter to reassure the citizens that their religious freedom is protected. In addition, countries where the citizens enjoy religious freedom better should be more vocal in the international platform. Therefore, as evident from the above discussion, the right to freedom of religion and belief is in a vulnerable state and world powers must keep aside their profit mindset to find a credible solution to the issue.
Abbink, Jon. “Religious freedom and the political order: the Ethiopian ‘secular state’and the containment of Muslim identity politics.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 8.3 (2014): 346-365.
Cruxnow.com. “Pew Study: Worldwide Religious Freedom Restrictions On The Rise”. Crux, 2018, https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/04/12/pew-study-worldwide-religious-freedom-restrictions-rise/. Accessed 16 Sept 2018. 
Grim, Brian J., Greg Clark, and Robert Edward Snyder. “Is religious freedom good for business?: A conceptual and empirical analysis.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 10 (2014).
Hamilton, Marci A. “The case for evidence-based free exercise accommodation: Why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is bad public policy.” Harv. L. & Pol’y Rev. 9 (2015): 129.
Hurd, Elizabeth Shakman. “Alevis under law: The politics of religious freedom in Turkey.” Journal of Law and Religion 29.3 (2014): 416-435.
Krämer, Gudrun. “Modern but not secular: Religion, identity and the ordre public in the Arab Middle East.” International Sociology 28.6 (2013): 629-644.
Ohchr.org. “OHCHR | International Standards – Framework For Communications”. Ohchr.Org, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/freedomreligion/pages/standards.aspx. Accessed 16 Sept 2018
Richardson, James T. “Managing religion and the judicialization of religious freedom.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 54.1 (2015): 1-19.
Saiya, Nilay. “The religious freedom peace.” The International Journal of Human Rights 19.3 (2015): 369-382.
State.gov. “International Religious Freedom Report For 2017”. State.Gov, 2018, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper. Accessed 16 Sept 2018. 
Un.org. “Universal Declaration Of Human Rights”. Un.Org, 2018, https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/. Accessed 16 Sept 2018. 
Uscourts.gov. “First Amendment Activities”. United States Courts, 2018, https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/educational-activities/first-amendment-activities. Accessed 16 Sept 2018

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