What is Article 9?

Article 9 of the Human Rights Act protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It is an essential part of the international human rights framework and has several important implications for individuals, communities, and governments.

Firstly, it ensures that individuals have the right to hold any religious beliefs of their choosing or none at all. This means that governments cannot discriminate against individuals based on their religion or belief, and individuals are free to practice their religion or belief without interference.

Secondly, Article 9 protects the right to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching. This includes the right to gather and worship with others, wear religious symbols or dress, and engage in religious practices or rituals. Governments cannot restrict these activities unless they can demonstrate a compelling reason for doing so.

Thirdly, Article 9 protects individuals from coercion or compulsion to adopt or follow a particular religion or belief. This includes protection against forced conversions or indoctrination.

Overall, Article 9 is important because it protects the fundamental human right of individuals to practice their religion or belief freely and without interference, ensuring that governments respect and protect the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in society.

Here is a summary of some of its provisions:

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
  • This right includes the freedom to change one’s religion or belief and to manifest it in worship, practice, teaching, and observance.
  • The right can only be restricted if necessary in a democratic society for public safety, order, health, or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
  • Any restrictions must be proportionate and necessary, and cannot undermine the essence of the right.
  • No one shall be forced to belong to a religion or belief, or to participate in religious practices against their will.
  • Parents have the right to provide their children with religious or moral education in accordance with their own beliefs.
  • The state must respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and must not interfere with it unless necessary and justified by law.

Further resources:

UK Government Website – Freedom of religion or belief: understanding this human right

Council of Europe – Freedom of Religion and Belief

United Nations – Special Rapporteur on FoRB