Children and Religious Freedom: An Enquiry into Children’s Capability of Being Holders of Rights and the Nature of Religious Freedom in the Western World
FAMILY LIFE AND HUMAN RIGHTS, pp. 533-551, Peter Lodrup & Eva Modvar, eds., Glydendal Akademisk, 2004
21 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 3, 2003
The paper aims to have both an analytical and a normative implication on the question of what freedom of religion means for children. The analytical one aims to show that the discourse about fundamental rights as a new and sometimes acclaimed as universal narrative often runs in counter to long lasting traditions and practices. Thus its realisation often requires the transformation of both the factual and the imaginary ‘reality’ as much as its development is a still ongoing and maybe open-ended project. This latter is exemplified in the differentiation of the meaning even of prototypical rights, such as the freedom of religion. The paper suggests that freedom of religion is a right of a person, not of a community or a religion itself. It thus presupposes freedom of choice and not merely freedom of worship.
If this analytical suggestion is cogent, then a normative one arises. If we choose freedom of religion as a subjective right over freedom of a religion to impose itself on the subjects, then normatively, we need to accept that children, since they lack moral and cognitive skills to make an informed and free choice of religion, should not be indoctrinated and adhere to a specific religion before they are mature enough to do so. We need furthermore to accept that parents do not have the right to choose their children’s religion and decide about their religious education. Freedom of religion for adults can only be realised if children have already enjoyed it, in its special manifestation as freedom from religion.
Keywords: religious freedom, children’s right, children and religion
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