Freedom of religion or belief

Freedom of religion or belief

Secularism protects freedom of religion or belief for all.

Freedom of religion or belief is a secularist issue.

We defend freedom of religion, and freedom from religion.

Freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is a fundamental human right. It is explicitly protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Protecting everyone's freedom to hold and express religious or non-religious beliefs equally is key to secularism. In a secular democracy, no religion or belief is advantaged or disadvantaged, which maximises true FoRB for all.

Some of the worst violations of FoRB occur in theocracies, where laws based on fundamentalist religious doctrine severely restrict other religions and beliefs. This can result in horrific persecution of religion and belief minorities, including those with no religion.

Crucially, FoRB is a qualified right. This means it can be limited where it may impact the rights and freedoms of others. Unfortunately, many religious groups falsely claim they are oppressed when they are prevented from interfering with the rights of others, including women, LGBT people and members of minority religion or belief communities.

FoRB protects people, rather than their beliefs themselves. It does not, and should not, shield religions from criticism or ridicule.

The NSS campaigns at the national and international level to uphold FoRB for all. We also work to ensure FoRB is limited where necessary, to ensure other human rights are not threatened by the imposition of religion.

Take action!

1. Share your story

Tell us why you support this campaign, and how you are personally affected by the issue. You can also let us know if you would like assistance with a particular issue.

2. Join the National Secular Society

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

Jonathan A Jones, via Wikimedia Commons

School’s decision to restrict prayer rituals lawful, court finds

Posted: Tue, 16 Apr 2024 11:40

Disadvantage to Muslim pupils outweighed by need to promote interests of whole school community, judge says.

Established church hinders religious freedom, NSS tells UN expert

Established church hinders religious freedom, NSS tells UN expert

Posted: Tue, 30 May 2023 08:37

The NSS has told a UN expert that lack of separation between Church and state is undermining freedom of religion or belief in the UK.

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