Interpreting freedom from religion: A step too far?

By Caroline K Roberts, PhD Candidate (University of Bristol Law School).

crucifix_classroomIf conference themes are any indication of ‘hot topics’ then ‘freedom from’ religion is certainly one. The past year has seen the ‘Freedom of (and from) Religion’ conference at the University of California and the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s ‘Freedom of/from Religion’ conference in London, at which Baroness Hale of Richmond presented the keynote address.  And, in September 2016, the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) will be holding the ‘Freedom of/for/from/in Religion’ conference at the University of Oxford.

The language of ‘freedom from’ religion is not, however, just growing in academia. It is increasingly being used by practitioners, organisations and activists in discussions of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It is often claimed that if there is a right to freedom of religion, there must be an equal right to freedom from religion.

But what does ‘freedom from’ religion actually mean? And does it mean the same to everyone using the phrase? At the Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) Conference, I took the opportunity to address these questions in my paper, entitled ‘Is there a right to be ‘free from’ religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?’. The following is a summary of that paper. (more…)