The Right to Religious Freedom and World Public Order: The Emerging Norm of Nondiscrimination

Discrimination based upon religious beliefs and expressions forms the basis for some of the most serious deprivations of civil and political rights. The religious beliefs and expressions that are commonly the ground for discrimination include all of the traditional faiths and justifications from which norms of responsible conduct–that is, judgments about right and wrong–are derived. These beliefs may be theological in the sense that they refer to a personalized transempirical source of an unchallengeable message or metaphysical in the sense that they are grounded upon nonpersonalized transempirical conceptions; sometimes they are more empirical, based upon varying conceptions of science or fundamental humanity. Deprivations may be imposed upon an individual because he refuses to accept the established belief system, adheres to a belief system different from the established one, attempts to create a new set of beliefs, expresses doubt about existing belief systems, or explicitly challenges the validity of belief systems. The individual may be deprived of rights either through formal community decision-making processes or through less obvious workings of effective power.