OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) II on Democratic Law-Making: Ensuring Participation
Submission of Humanists International
26-27 April 2021
My intervention will address the importance of secularism as the political model which best serves the rule of law and inclusive law-making.
Upholding the rule of law means guaranteeing equality before the law. It means nobody is able to claim special privileges which allow them to operate above the law.
This principle applies not only to individuals, but also to institutions: corporate entities should not be able to use their wealth and influence to escape legal accountability, and equally, powerful religious lobbies should not be able to exercise influence over politics and legislation to their exclusive benefit.
To ensure equality, the rule of law needs to involve a commitment to secularism. Maintaining neutrality and impartiality between different religions or beliefs is the model that best serves human rights while upholding individual dignity and freedoms.
States that uphold neutrality are much better equipped to confront hate crime and discrimination on equal grounds. A secular education system is more likely to equip students with objective history, scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills.
Worryingly, some States in the OSCE region have abandoned a commitment to secularist principles of late, and have become increasingly prone to religious influence in their law-making or judicial outcomes:
It is important to acknowledge that, in the same sense that religion can be weaponized, ‘secularism’ can too, if it is misused to undermine human rights. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, both OSCE States, the threat of extremism has become an argument for enforced uniformity of belief in public spaces, and has justified a crackdown on the manifestation of religious practices and freedom of expression.
We recommend that the ODIHR examine the important role played by political secularism in advancing the rule of law and human rights, as well as promoting democracy, socioeconomic development and better educational outcomes.
 See Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on Relationships between State and religion and their impact on freedom of religion or belief, 2018, <https://undocs.org/A/HRC/37/49>
'Role of secularism in promoting rule of law and inclusive law-making', Humanists International