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IHEU to the Defense of the Right to Religious Dress


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/09/12

‘One of the things they told us was that if a boy or a man went into the church, he had to remove his hat in order to honor the presence of God, but they already told me that God was everywhere. So, I used to wonder, ‘Well, if God was everywhere, why would you even own a hat?’ Why not show your respect, don’t even buy a fucking hat! And just to confuse things further, they told the women exactly the opposite! Catholic women and girls had to cover their heads when they went into a church. Same as in certain temples, Jewish men have to cover their heads, in those temples. In those same temples, Jewish women, not allowed to cover their heads. So try to figure this shit out. Catholic men and Jewish women, no hats. Catholic women and Jewish men, hats. Somebody’s got the whole thing totally fucking backward, don’t you think?’

George Carlin

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has been active in the protection of the religious and irreligious with respect to their rights. In some areas of the world, citizens, often women, are told not what they can wear, but what they have to wear.

In other areas of the world, women are told what they can’t possibly wear, but what they have to not wear. Both cases seem egregious to me. In either case, the severity comes from the means of implementation and the type of clothing enforced to be worn or not.

Elizabeth O’Casey, the Director of Advocacy for IHEU, at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), defended, in mid-September, the right of the religious to wear what they wish to wear. that is, the right to wear religious dress is a right, which is violated by numerous laws throughout the world in the name of extremism. O’Casey argues the arguments based on extremism are fallacious.

She spoke alongside Harlem Désir, the Special Representative on Freedom of the Media, who is from the OSCE. Free expression, broadly interpreted, includes clothing, attire, e.g. religious dress or the latest fashion trends, and so on. Her defense of the religious to wear religious dress came from that angle, and in the context of anti-extremism legislation.

She spoke on these issues at the 2017 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) with the emphasis on fostering rather than hindering or discouraging freedom of expression of belief, where the attire a religious individual wears is part of that belief.

There has been a “crackdown” in Central Asian countries, which is the place that O’Casey used a recent examples. “As the OSCE representative on freedom of the media points out, free expression can play a critical role in promoting equality and combatting intolerance. We urge the governments of the Central Asian states concerned to foster not hinder expression of belief so that an environment of debate, inquiry and tolerance can be fostered,” O’Casey stated.

More here.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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