For our report, we have studied, and used, the following sources in order to develop the definitions and parameters that will be used:
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (webpages)
- UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
- The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights ODIHR (webpages as found under: http://hatecrime.osce.org/what-hate-crime)
- Dr. Mattia F. Ferrero, the Holy See’s National Point of Contact on Hate Crimes with OSCE/ODIHR.
- Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, professor at the University of Erlangen and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (webpages and personal interviews)
- Prof. Massimo Introvigne, founder of BitterWinter.org and of Center for the Study of New Religions (webpages and personal interviews)
- EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief (conversations with the responsible staff and policy-makers)
- UN Convention for the prevention and punishment of Genocide (1948)
- Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (webpages and conversations with Ellen Fantini)
- Dr Gregor Puppinck, conversations on the philosophy of Freedom of Religion, government competences and limits to this freedom
Reports by the following organizations, particularly their methodology section, have been reviewed including:
- US Department of State
- US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
- Pew Research Center
- Open Doors/Worldwatch List
- Reports by the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance
- The library of Human Rights Without Frontiers (www.hrwf.org )
- The library of Forum 18 (www.forum18.org)
- International Institute for Religious Freedom
- Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB)
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. (Source: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/)
Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is enshrined in Articles 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which should be read in the light of the UN Human Rights Committee's General Comment n°22.
Under international law, FoRB has three components:
- the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice - or no belief at all,
- the freedom to change of religion, and,
(c) the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief, individually or in community with others, in public or private, through worship, observance, practise and teaching.
Freedom of religion or belief is also protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 10 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.” (Source: paragraph -10 of the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief)
b) Limits to Freedom of Religion
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB’s webpges (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/Standards.aspx), the limits to this fundamental freedom are determined by:
- The fundamental Human Rights of others, as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
- Public interest. Demonstrable risk to public order and health
Also, the Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/40 (paragraph 12) and Human Rights Council resolution 6/37 (paragraph 14) explains that limitations of FoRB are permissible under international human rights law if they fulfil each and every one of the following criteria:
a) the limitation is prescribed by law;
b) the limitation has the purpose of protecting public safety, public order, public health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedom of others;
c) the limitation is necessary for the achievement of one of these purposes and proportionate of the intended aim; and
d) the limitation is not imposed for discriminatory purposes or applied in a discriminatory manner.
In spite of being considered obvious to some, we deem important to highlight that the right to FoRB exists along with Article 3 of the UDHR: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Freedom of Religion is therefore not an “absolute right” as it has limitations, but it is nevertheless a “non-derogable right” that cannot be suspended in a state of emergency.
It was on these grounds that during the Covid-19 pandemic (2020 to 2023) most all governments in the world limited several fundamental rights, including freedom of movement and the public manifestations of religion. It is difficult to identify, however, what made some governments decide that the religious communities needed more stringent measures, for example the limitation to a fix number of faithful in a temple at any given time regardless of the size of the venue. Such measure was not applied to shops, entertainment halls, casinos and other facilities where people tend to gather close to one another. Some lawsuits were initiated against abuse of power.