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IHEU on Freedom *From* Religion


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/19

The Mothership, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, is on the move.

Elizabeth O’Casey, Director of Advocacy for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, was telling the truth and takin’ names, recently. As she reported in the IHEU news, the first statement to the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was a response by IHEU to the claims made by the Vatican delegation about freedom from religion not being a human right.

O’Casey corrected the Vatican delegation. The Vatican delegation representative named Ivan Jurkovic, on an earlier Friday, said, “Of the utmost concern, the use of the term freedom from religion, which is not contemplated in the international instruments, reveals a patronising idea of religion, going beyond the mandate of the special rapporteur.”

In the international forum where O’Casey correct the Vatican delegation representative, the term for the Vatican is the Holy See. She listed the established rights for freedom from religion in order to accentuate the need for freedom from religion for those without a formal religious faith in their lives.

“…freedom from coercion to adopt a religion is protected by law; freedom to have no religion is protected by law,” O’Casey explained, “freedom to leave a religion is protected by law; and freedom to criticise a religion is protected by law.”

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of Religion or Belief, corrected the Holy See representative as well. The freedom of religion and belief protects freedom from religion.

Shaheed pointed to those non-believing bloggers whose lives are at risk throughout the world. That is, the freedom to the religion or belief is for people, not for the religion or the belief; hence, the ability of individual members of the international community to be free from religion is a matter of freedom of belief or religion, as Shaheed and O’Casey astutely pointed out, respectfully, to Jurkovic.

O’Casey cautioned that the statements of Jurkovic on behalf of the Holy See were dangerous as well as objectionable. She noted the cases of punitive socio-cultural contexts and hate from the state for those who lack a religious belief or faith.

As Dr. O’Casey is a highly informed commentator on world affairs and the arena of the faithless, she described the 85 nations in the world that “severely discriminate against non-religious individuals” with 7 countries being highly active in their discrimination against the religious in 2017.

O’Casey made a closing statement, “…so long as the rest of the international community stay silent, the rights of the invisible minority of non-believers across the world will continue to be trampled upon, including by members of this Council.”


IHEU Admin+. (2017, December 4). Humanists “actively persecuted” in seven countries in 2017, finds IHEU report. Retrieved from

O’Casey, E. (2018, March 9). Actually, ‘freedom from religion’ is a human right, IHEU tells Vatican at the UN. Retrieved from

United Nations (Web TV). (2018, March 2). ID: SR on Religion — 13th Meeting, 37th Regular Session Human Rights Council. Retrieved from


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


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