Human Rights Review

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 83–98

Is There a Human Right to Freedom of Religion?


DOI: 10.1007/s12142-014-0342-2

Cite this article as:
Tiedemann, P. Hum Rights Rev (2015) 16: 83. doi:10.1007/s12142-014-0342-2


A human right to freedom of religion is not equivalent to a right to tolerance. Human rights and tolerance-rules serve for different purposes and are based on different justifications. Tolerance-rules serve to protect a peaceful living together with strangers who share no common values. Human rights serve to protect every individual’s personhood. Religion can only be a matter of human rights, if and so far as it is a condition of development and maintenance of personhood. Discussion about a human right to freedom of religion makes sense only if we can identify a particular scope of protection which concerns only religion and if the freedom of religion is not embraced by wider-framed freedoms. The freedom of religious thoughts and the freedom of religious speech are embraced by the general human rights to freedom of thoughts and freedom of speech. Here, there is no need for a special human right to freedom of religion. The right not to be forced to act contrary to religiously founded moral rules is embraced by the general human right to freedom of conscience. And again, there is no need for a special human right. The target of religious practices in a narrower sense (rites) is to become flexible and porous and not to resist the threats of the sacral in order to avoid the destruction of personhood. Therefore, we have to recognize a human right to freedom of religious rites. It protects only the actions of accommodation to the overwhelming power of the sacral. It does not protect, however, any action with which it is intended to rule the world or to rule over others, to organize certain practical challenges, or to discover or to maintain scientific theories or technical means.


Human rights Tolerance Religion Sacral Personhood 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Frankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of LawJustus-Liebig-UniversityGiessenGermany

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