The Politics of Article 18: Religious Liberty in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 2013
- pp. 429-447
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This essay provides a historical contextualization of the Universal Declaration’s statement on religious liberty. It suggests that its main components—the stress on the inner dimensions of conscience and belief, as well as the right to change one’s religion—reflected very particular political and intellectual currents in the postwar moment. Article 18 was not the product of an abstract overlapping consensus; instead, it marked a victory for some actors to whom the details of this statement mattered. In this respect, this essay highlights the influence of Charles Malik and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. What these actors did in the context of writing the UDHR was essentially to recast international religious liberty as primarily concerned with the formation of the individual person’s beliefs, rather than the “free exercise” of religion.