Lords debate Article 18 and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 31 July 2014

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights honours the freedom to subscribe to whatever philosophy you choose, be that religious or not. A debate was held in the Lords on 24th July on ‘International compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief.’ Several examples of gross intolerance based on religion or belief were cited in the House, including the plight of the non-religious.

Baroness Berridge, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, addressed the House, ‘The report Freedom of Thought 2013 by the International Humanist and Ethical Union states that you can be put to death for expressing atheism in 13 countries.’ Lord Alton of Liverpool also spoke of two prominent cases of individuals who were persecuted for atheism, saying this highlighted the ‘universal applicability’ of Article 18. ‘A young Indonesian man, Alexander Aan,’ he said, ‘was jailed for more than two years simply for declaring his atheism on Facebook. Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian, was confined to a mental institution for the same reason.’

Many speakers expressed concern about events concerning religious hatred around the world, from persecution of Christians by the terrorist group ISIS, including demands that they convert to Islam, to anti- Semitic riots closer to home in France and Germany. Upholding Article 18 is imperative to progressive society, with attacks on religious groups often masking other ugly traits such as racism or sexism. Peppering the debate were many personal tales, including an impassioned plea from Lord Singh of Wimbledon: ‘Religions do not help themselves by claims of exclusivity or superiority. This simply demeans other members of our one human race and suggests that they, the others, are lesser beings. We all know what happens in the school playground when one boy boasts—it is usually boys—that, “My dad is bigger or stronger or cleverer than your dad”. The end result is fisticuffs. My appeal to our different religions and the leaders of religion is to stop playing children’s games.’

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https://humanism.org.uk/2014/07/25/lords-debate- article-18-freedom-thought-conscience-belief/ 

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