Religion and the UN

By adopting a long-negotiated declaration on religious freedom, the United Nations General Assembly signaled an essential concern about a freedom still widely under attack. Parts of the declaration, however, raise questions about its realism as a basis for a future convention binding on the parties to it.

To take an example of phraseology, the right to ''adopt'' a religion was altered to the right to ''have'' a religion -- reportedly in deference to Muslims opposed to sanctioning any possibility of conversion away from Islam. And ''belief'' or ''whatever belief'' was recognized in deference to communists professing atheism.

Do such points risk diluting the idea of religion to a paradoxical degree? Not for individuals who know what their religion is and adhere to it. It is for them that the declaration's valuable assertions of noninterference are primarily intended -- and particularly important as church-state relations vary around the globe.

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