Introduction: The Foundations and Frontiers of Religious Liberty

11 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2011 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019

Date Written: 2007


This article introduces a symposium commemorating the 25th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance and of Discrimination Based Upon Religion and Belief. The symposium was aimed at comparing religious liberty in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and addressed a range of questions regarding the subject. These countries were chosen as a topic of conversation because they share the same common law tradition, they share a deep devotion to religious liberty, and all seven ratified the U.N. Declaration.

The U.N. concept of religious liberty underwent several changes from 1966 to 1992, and issues arose from the U.N. framework of religious liberty. One issue is the need to protect religious minorities, especially controversial groups. Likewise, limits on religious and anti-religious exercises that are offensive or harmful must be implemented. Both of these issues underscore the need to balance private and public expressions of religion.

For the most part, all seven of these nations have handled these questions peacefully. They have had robust exchanges regarding these ideas and have strong democracies that have allowed them to withstand the challenges of implementing religious liberties. These countries serve as a model, not necessarily of how to implement religious liberty, but rather of how the process of securing religious liberty should be approached.

Keywords: Religious Liberty, U.N., United Nations, Religious Discrimination, Religious Equality

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Introduction: The Foundations and Frontiers of Religious Liberty (2007). Emory International Law Review, Vol. 21, 2007, Available at SSRN:

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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