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Waving the 'Freedom of Religion or Belief ' Card, or Playing It Safe: Religious Instruction in the Cases of Norway and Finland

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In order to gain an understanding of what it means to have a human right to freedom of religion or belief, one has to start by looking at the different actual conflicts that give rise to discussion in terms of such a human right. Different conflicts reveal different problems. It is therefore unsatisfying to attempt to essentialise the human right to freedom of religion or belief, and simply apply it to different cases. There are, for example, various ways of organising religious instruction in public schools. Neutrality consists in presenting these models and conflicts, not in saying that there is one right or wrong answer. This, of course, does not exclude critical examination and discussion. This article examines one model attempting to accommodate religious freedom within a public education system while including religious instruction on the curriculum, and juxtaposes it to a second model of organizing religious instruction that has given rise to conflict. The models discussed have different problems and potentials. However, both trigger a critical analysis of how law perceives religion, especially religious manifestation and, within this framework, what it means to be a religious person. The analysis offers a contribution to ongoing debates about how to understand the human right to freedom of religion or belief.

Affiliations: 1: Researcher at the Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research at the University of Helsinki, Finland

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