Religious intolerance

Religious intolerance is either intolerance motivated by one's own religious beliefs or intolerance against another's religious beliefs or practices. It manifests both at a cultural level, but may also be a formal part of the dogma of particular religious groups.

The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance. There are many cases throughout history of established religions tolerating other practices. Religious intolerance, rather, is when a group (a society, a religious group) specifically refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds.

Religious intolerance may be purely religious, but can be a "cover story" for an underlying political or cultural motive.

Contemporary attitude and practice

A number of countries worldwide contain provisions within their constitutions expressly forbidding the state from engaging in certain acts of religious intolerance or preference within its own borders. Examples include The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Article 4 of the Basic Law of Germany, Article 44.2.1 of the Constitution of The Republic of Ireland, Article 40 of the Estonian Constitution [ [http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/en00000_.html "Estonia - Constitution", ICL Document 28 June 1992, retrieved 25 may 2007.] ] , Article 24 of the Constitution of Turkey and Article 36 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Many other states, whilst not containing constitutional provisions directly related to religion, nonetheless contain provisions forbidding discrimination on religious grounds (see, for example, Article 1 of the French Constitution, article 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and article 40 of the Constitution of Egypt). It should be noted that these constitutional provisions do not necessarily guarantee that all elements of the state remain free from religious intolerance at all times, and practice can vary widely from country to country.

Other countries, meanwhile, may allow for religious preference, for instance through the establishment of one or more state religions, but not for religious intolerance. Finland, for example, has the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Finnish Orthodox Church as its official state religions, yet upholds the right of free expression of religion in article 11 of its constitution.

Some countries retain blasphemy laws, forbidding defamation of religious belief, which are sometimes seen as a way of condoning religious intolerance. Whilst some countries retain laws forbidding all forms of blasphemy (such as Germany where in 2006 Manfred van H. was convicted of blasphemy against Islam), the connection between intolerance and blasphemy laws is most closely connected if the laws apply to only one religion. In Pakistan blasphemy directed against either the tenets of the Qur'an or the Prophet Mohammed is punishable by either life imprisonment or death. Apostasy, the rejection of one's old religion, is also criminalized in a number of countries, notably Afghanistan with Abdul Rahman being the first to face the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

The United Nations upholds the right to free expression of religious belief in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while article 2 forbids discrimination on the basis of religion. Article 18 also allows for the freedom to change religion. The Declaration is not legally binding, however the United States chose in 1998 to pass the International Religious Freedom Act, creating the Commission on International Religious Freedom, and mandating that the United States government take action against any country found to violate the religious freedoms outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [ [http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/laws/majorlaw/intlrel.htm "International Religious Freedom Act of 1998", 27 January 1998, retrieved 25 May 2007.] ] The European Convention on Human Rights, which is legally binding on all European Union states (following the passage of the Human Rights Act 1998 in the United Kingdom), makes restricting the rights of an individual to practice or change their religion illegal in article 9, and discrimination on the basis of religion illegal in article 14.

In its 2000 annual report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department cited China, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Sudan for persecuting people for their religious faith and practices. The report, which covers July 1999 through June 2000, details U.S. policy toward countries where religious freedom is violated in the view of the U.S. State Department. [ [http://www.uscirf.gov/mediaroom/press/2000.html "United States Commission on International Freedom of Religion", Press Releases 2000, retrieved 25 May 2007.] ] The advocacy group Freedom House produced a report entitled "Religious Freedom in the World" in 2000 which ranked countries according to their religious freedom. The countries receiving a score of 7, indicating those where religious freedom was least respected, were Turkmenistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea. China was given a score of 6 overall, however Tibet was listed separately in the 7 category. Those countries receiving a score of 1, indicating the highest level of religious freedom, were Estonia, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway and the United States.Within those countries that openly advocate religious tolerance there remain debates as to the limits of tolerance. Some individuals and religious groups, for example, retain beliefs or practices which involve acts contrary to established law, such as the use of cannabis by members of the Rastafari movement, the religious use of eagle feathers by non-Native Americans (contrary to the eagle feather law, 50 CFR 22), or the practice of polygamy amongst Mormons in the 19th century. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/od/1 "Official Declaration", Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 October 1890, retrieved 25 May 2007.] ] The precise definition of "religion", and to which groups it applies, can also cause controversy, for example the case of Scientologists who have all rights of religious freedom but complain that the highest court decided not to grant the status of a Non-profit organization in several states. Attempts to legislate against acts of religious intolerance amongst citizens frequently come up against issues regarding the freedom of speech; whilst in France being convicted of incitement to religious hatred can carry a maximum of 18 months in prison. An attempt to pass a similar law by Tony Blair's Labour government in the United Kingdom had to be dropped in April, 2006 after criticism that it restricted free speech. In Victoria, Australia the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 makes illegal "conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons" on the grounds of religious belief.

In 2008, Gallup polls reported that 34% of Americans said they had no prejudice against Muslims, and 74% of Americans said they had no prejudice against Jews. [ [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89766811 Obama Name Games Painful to Muslims] (starting at around 04:00)]

Notes and references

ee also

*Antireligion
*Anti-Catholicism
*Anti-cult movement
*Anti-Hinduism
*Anti-Judaism
*Anti-Mormonism
*Anti-Semitism
*Christian Identity
*Christianity
*Christianophobia
*Conversational intolerance
*Demonization
*Deprogramming
*Fundamentalism
*Islamism
*Islamophobia
*Pakistan Studies
*Persecution of Baha'is
*Religious tolerance
*Religious freedom

External links

* [http://www.hate.info Hate.info] Worldwide Religious Hate and Blog
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4075442.stm "New Effort to Ban Religious Hate", BBC News, 11 June 2005] retrieved 25 May 2007

Further reading

* Garth Blake, "Promoting Religious Tolerance in a Multifaith Society: Religious Vilification Legislation in Australia and the UK." "The Australian Law Journal", 81 (2007): 386-405.


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