Religion, Secular Beliefs and Human Rights

25 Years After the 1981 Declaration


Religion, and beliefs related to religion, are a central factor in international life and politics. International law, and human rights law in particular, have to take into consideration the religious dimension, and have done it to some extent. A body of positive law has already been developed for the protection of freedom of religion, and from religion, by the United Nations and regional and specialized organizations.

The first edition of this book appeared six years ago, in coincidence with the 25th anniversary of the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion of Belief. It discussed the legal meaning of religion and belief, the United Nations work in this respect, religious minorities, relevant regional and special arrangements, the issue of proselytism, religion and terrorism, religious symbols, international criminal law, and some particular cases such as the state and religious communities in Israel, and this country’s agreement with the Holy See.

This second edition of the book updates the information on relevant developments that took place in the time elapsed. and incorporates several new chapters on important issues related to religious freedoms. Such are the chapters on freedom from religion, religion and freedom of association, religion and freedom of expression (including the controversy with respect of defamation of religions), and group rights and legal pluralism. The order of the chapters has been rearranged.

It is hoped that law and political science schools, human rights associations and scholars, as well as governments and bodies active in the area of religious freedoms, will find interest in this second, revised and considerably enlarged, edition.


EUR €111.00USD $160.00

Biographical Note

Professor Natan Lerner, after retiring from Tel Aviv University, teaches international law, human rights, and law and religion, at the Faculty of Law of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. He is the author, among others, of The UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Group Rights and Discrimination in International Law, both published by Martinus Nijhoff and translated into other languages, and of numerous articles in his field. He was appointed by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations as a member of the expert
seminar dealing with defamation of religions and incitement to racial and religious hatred.

Table of contents

Preface to the second edition;
Foreword by John Witte, Jr. to the first edition;
Preface to the first edition;
1. Introduction
2. The Legal Meaning of Religion and Belief
3. Religious Human Rights under the United Nations
4. Freedom from Religion
5. A Secular View of Human Rights
6. Religion and Freedom of Association
7. Religion and Freedom of Expression
8. Group Rights and Legal Pluralism
9. The 1992 UN Declaration on Minorities
10. Proselytism and Change of Religion
11. Regional Protection and Special Arrangements
12. Protecting Religious Groups and Communities
13. Bilateral arrangements
14. Religion and Terrorism
15. Religious symbols
16. State and Religious Communities: The Case of Israel
Concluding remarks