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Russia remains a country where freedom of religion or belief is severely restricted. The state’s prosecution of and discrimination against religious minorities, actions that deprive believers of their basic religious rights (such as the right to practice religion freely or use their properties for religious purposes), as well as the stigmatization of religious minority believers in the media, including state-controlled media, are widespread. As the country is moving towards a more authoritarian regime and the state continues to strengthen its control over civil society, I see no ground for improving the freedom of religion or belief situation in the short-term view.

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Under President Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has made some progress in furthering religious freedom and, therefore, covenantal pluralism. The next steps on this path, however, will be much more difficult. Sustainable progress will require candid and constructive dialogue and reforms that decisively move away from state micro-management of religion and exclusivist cultural assumptions about religious tolerance, which are hardly compatible with comprehensive religious freedom for all. This conclusion can help to shape priorities and direct international assistance to Uzbek reforms in the religious sphere. While further support of legal reforms is important, engaging Uzbekistan in religious literacy initiatives and programs that encourage interfaith dialogue and promote a more inclusive and dynamic model of religious tolerance may be of even greater importance. Holistically aligning such programs with strengthening the rule of law and democracy can make these changes both possible and irreversible.

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The Tribunal recalled its earlier jurisprudence on the notion of dignity. It must be emphasized that this jurisprudence is largely based on the understanding of human dignity, developed in German constitutional-law doctrine and case law of the Federal Constitutional Court. Therefore, the so-called “object-formula” (Objektformel), emphasizing that human beings cannot be treated as mere objects, is often utilized. In the abortion case, the Tribunal stressed the linkage between dignity and the protection of life. In fact, this linkage had already been put forward in the case concerning the destruction of an aircraft used as a tool of a terrorist attack (judgement of September 30, 2008, No K 44/07). The novelty of the analyzed judgment is that it emphasized the dignity of a child who has not yet been born. The language used in the judgment is also significant. The term “unborn child”, rather than “fetus”, was consistently used.

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The crime of grievous religious persecution is an interesting addition to the landscape of international crimes. It provides a clearer definition of religious persecution in relation to other types of persecution or to persecution in a general sense. It is possible that this crime could be adopted by national jurisdictions or UN courts, which could aid in closing an impunity gap. The crime, however, is unnecessarily specific for the ICC. Instead of introducing this new crime to the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court could address more instances of religious persecution if it overcame issues related to jurisdiction, policy or resources.

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Human Dignity Initiative

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an invitation to a global conversation about preserving and protecting human dignity for everyone everywhere.

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