INTL 1203 Freedom for Religion

In this course on freedom for religion, we will explore the wide range of arguments used to shield religion from the state. For instance, the concept of separating the church and state is mentioned over 100 times in the Christian Bible. Although it has religious origins, the idea of legal separation has become a secular principle designed to restrain the state's power and protect religion from government overreach. Indigenous people have made similar legal arguments when seeking freedom for their religion from colonial laws and culture. Throughout the globe, additional freedom for religion arguments are made: freedom for religion from critique/offense, as seen in blasphemy and defamation laws, and the freedom for religion from adherents changing or leaving their religion, known as apostasy laws. In this course, we will examine which of these arguments are and are not protected by human rights law and why.

Rutgers University · February 17, 2021

Freedom for religions has different meanings in different contexts. We will examine for predominant understandings.

  1. Protection for Indigenous Religions
  2. Protection for Religion from the State
  3. Protection for Religions from Critique/Offenseu2014Blasphemy & Defamation Laws
  4. Protection for Religions from Adherents Changing or Leaving their Religionsu2014Apostasy Laws

Which of these frameworks are and are not protected by human rights law and why?


Dr. Nathan C. Walker

President, 1791 Delegates

Civic Education for a Common Good

We apply the U.S. Department of Education’s Consensus Statements about Constitutional Approaches for Teaching about Religion

▸ Our approach to religion is academic, not devotional;
▸ We strive for student awareness of religions, but do not press for student acceptance of any religion;
▸ We sponsor the study about religion, not the practice of religion;
▸ We expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view;
▸ We educate about all religions, we do not promote or denigrate any religion;
▸ We inform students about religious beliefs and practices, it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief or practice.

We apply the American Academy of Religion’s “Religious Literacy Guidelines”

▸ “Religious Literacy Guidelines for College Students.” American Academy of Religion, 2019.
▸ “Teaching About Religion: AAR Guidelines for K-12 Public Schools.” American Academy of Religion, April 2010.

We apply the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Frameworks for Religious Studies

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, “Religious Studies Companion Document for the C3 Framework.” Silver Spring, MD: National Council for the Social Studies, 2017.