Americans understand religious freedom as separation of church and state. In international law, however, freedom of religion or belief is based on the principle of non-discrimination. Articles 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights define the parameters of "religious freedom" under international law.
In the past decade the independence of countries formerly under the hegemony of the Soviet Union, increasing religious fundamentalism in many parts of the world, and new legal initiatives by the United States government have changed the landscape concerning religious freedom.
The following essays by Robert Traer explore the meaning of religious freedom in international law and its realization in various contexts. Critiques of these essays will be welcomed and considered for publication on this web site.
1991 argument that under international law, freedom of religion or belief is not merely an individual right.
1996 analysis of international law with examples from American and Russian law.
1997 contextual approach to freedom of religion or belief that seeks to realize the spirit of the law, and not merely the letter of the law.
1998 statement at a United Nations Department of Public Information Briefing for the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
1998 statement at an Inter-religious Hearing held in the House of Commons in London.
1999 suggestions made at a World Council of Churches consultation involving Christians and Muslims.