UN Special Rapporteur on children, parents and freedom of religion or belief

The UN has published the latest report of its Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on “the rights of the child and his or her parents in the area of freedom of religion or belief”.

He begins by noting that Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognises the child as a rights holder of freedom of religion or belief and that it should be understood “in continuity with all other international standards of freedom of religion or belief”, including Article 18 UDHR, Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. His principal theme is that children, too, have the right to respect for their religions and beliefs:

“Parents have the rights and duties to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her freedom of religion or belief in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child” [emphasis added].

In an accompanying press statement he points out that, as in other matters, the interests of parents and children in the area of freedom of religion or belief are not necessarily identical. His specific conclusions are as follows: Continue reading