Religious freedom is a basic human right, argues new report

A third of people believe religious freedoms have been restricted over the past decade 

On the day that the House of Lords debates the British Humanist Association's approach to human rights and religious liberty, the public theology think tank Theos has launched a new report entitled Free to Believe?

The paper, written by Roger Trigg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and Academic Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Kellogg College, Oxford, tackles the silent downgrading of religious rights in contemporary Britain. It argues that human beings are naturally religious animals and have a prima facie natural right to freely exercise their religion, which should not simply to be equated with the right to free speech.

The Theos report comes at a time of growing concern about restrictions of religious liberties in the UK. In a poll, conducted on behalf of Theos by ComRes, nearly a third of people (32%) said they believed religious freedoms had been restricted in the UK over the last ten years.

In the report, Professor Trigg argues that: "If religious freedom is itself one of the most important rights, it must itself by the same token be entitled to equal respect from others. It cannot automatically be overridden in a clash of such rights."

In recognising that the importance of Christianity in establishing the rights which people in Britain currently enjoy, Professor Trigg adds: "The role of religion in public life and the scope and limits of religious freedom cannot be decided simply by the democratic will of the people… The right to religious freedom is itself a basic right."

Commending the report, Nicolas Wolterstorff, Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University, said: "Free to believe? is a rich, probing, and lucid critique of some of the dynamics shaping how liberal democracies in the West are dealing with religiously diverse citizenries."

Shadow Justice Secretary, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, added: "Professor Trigg has made an important contribution to the debate on religious freedom in our society. His strong advocacy that the religious foundation to society has served this country well is undoubtedly reflected by the evidence around us of what tolerant Christianity has been able offer to a multiplicity of other faith and secular groups within our country."

Theos is a public theology think tank. It was launched in November 2006 with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
For more information and to read the report in full see:

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