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The author has written this article in order to signify what religious freedom is. However, before that we require to understand what religion is. Religion is associated to human being’s relation to that which they favor as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine. Religion is commonly observed as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions.
Religion is a phenomenon that is as complex as it is paradoxical. It has been linked with the human attempt to find the depths of meaning both in humans and in the universe. The existence of religion is as old as society itself. Religion of one sort of the other seemed to be universal among human beings. Religious worship had been expressed with all the magnificence of the arts, customs and traditions.
“Religion is rather the attempt to express the complete reality, or goodness through every aspect of our being.”- Matthew Arnold Religion helps to realize our own goodness through others ae well as our own behaviours. Religion is a way to express those actions and feelings to others.
Freedom of religion is a basic human right that protects the ethics of all people. It allows us to think, express, and act upon what we extremely believe. Religious freedom or freedom of conscience is critical to the health of her diverse society. It allows different faiths and beliefs to flourish. Religious faith protects the rights of all groups and individuals, including the most respected, whether religious or not. Religious freedom is not as much a duty as it is a right. Religious freedom and civility rest on each other and form a shared responsibility founded on the essential dignity of each person. Religious organizations and people are responsible to state their views rationally and respectfully.
Religious freedom is recognized in constitutions and declarations all over the world. It is our birthright as human beings. It is the architecture that allows diverse faiths and principles to coexist; it’s the right to live our moral opinions freely in Public. Religious liberty allows us to worship how we choose and gives all people the right to think what they want, come and say spontaneously and publicly what they think, and to live flexibly their lives and believes while allowing others to do the same. When religious freedom and conscience are protected societies are more likely to enjoy greater benefits of health prosperity harmony and stability. Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion. Religious freedom is the right to exercise your faith, to have faith, and to manifest it publicly and privately. it is also the right to act and interact with people of different faiths in a way that is dependable with your religious convictions. Religious freedom is a principle that helps the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or acceptance in teaching, practice, worship, and performance. It also includes the freedom to transformation one’s religion or beliefs.
The positive religious freedom of religion, which assures religious freedom in general under the provisions of the Constitution of India, has been guaranteed by three Articles with all their clauses and explanations. These are Articles 25, 26, and 30, which deal with the ‘freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion’, ‘freedom to manage religious affairs’, and the ‘right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions’, respectively. They all enjoin the protection of the freedom of religion enjoyable by any person either individually or collectively, subject of course, to such limitations as the state may, for the well-being of its citizens, think it imperative to impose as warranted by the situation from time to time. This freedom springs positively and directly from the state’s acceptance of the fact that a person, who is the follower of any religious faith or belief, must be allowed to perform its practices through acts.
The provisions of the Constitution of India, which guarantee the negative freedom of religion, i.e., the freedom of religion one enjoys as a citizen, are Article 15 and regarding ‘prohibition and discrimination on the grounds of religion, face, etc.’ Under the Indian Constitution, it means that no citizen of India is deprived of any advantages, privileges, or immunities for belonging to any religious community or for following its beliefs and principles by the overt and explicit act.
The provisions are meant for guaranteeing religious freedom which has not been adequately and exhaustively covered under the two former forms of freedom. The duty of the Constitution is not over when it prescribes the positive and negative guarantees of religious freedom. It must be careful enough to protect and safeguard the same by ensuring an atmosphere of neutrality and provisions are made for the free exercise of every religious faith and act unless it runs contrary to other expressed and guaranteed provisions of constitutional rights.
Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India. Modern India came into existence in 1947 and the Indian constitution’s preamble was amended in 1976 to state that India is a secular state. However, in S.R Bommai v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India ruled that India was already a secular state from the time it adopted its constitution, what was done through this amendment is to state explicitly what was earlier contained implicitly under article 25 to 28. Every citizen of India has a right to practice and promote their religion peacefully. However, there have been numerous incidents of religious intolerance that resulted in riots and violence, notably, the 1984 Anti-Sikh Massacre in Delhi, 1990 Anti-Hindu riots in Kashmir, 2002 Gujarat Riots, and the 2008 Anti-Christian riots in Odisha. Some perpetrators of the 1984 Anti-Sikh Massacre in Delhi have not been brought to justice despite widespread condemnation.
The preamble of the constitution has the word ‘secular’ and article 25 to28 implying that the state will not discriminate, patronize of meddle in the profession of any religion. The government has set up the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to investigate religious discrimination and to make recommendations for redress to the local authorities. Though they do not have any power, local and central authorities generally follow them. These organizations have investigated numerous instances of religious tension including the implementation of ‘anti-conversion’ bills in numerous states, the 2002 Gujarat violence against Muslims, and the 2008 attacks against Christians in Orissa.
Post-independence state laws: The Article 25 of the Indian Constitution is a basic human right guarantee that cannot be undermined or misinterpreted in any manner. Anti-conversion laws are promulgated on the evidence that forced conversions happen and need to be prevented.
Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968: The Madhya Pradesh ‘Freedom of Religion Act’ requires that a convert produce a legal affirmation that she was not under any pressure, force to convert but was converting by own will and desire after evaluating the religion properly. Also, according to this law, anyone who writes or speaks or sings of ‘divine displeasure’ can be imprisoned for a period of up to two years and fined up to five thousand rupees.
Orissa Freedom of Religions Act of 1967: The Orissa Freedom of Religions Act of 1967 states that “no person shall convert or attempt to convert either directly or otherwise any person from one religious’ faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fake means nor shall any person abet any such conversion.” Contravention of this law was punishable with imprisonment of up to one year andor a fine of up to Rs 5,000.
Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1978: The Arunachal Pradesh government enacted this Act to protect the tribal of Arunachal Pradesh from forced conversions of any kind. It reads: Prohibition of forcible conversion. No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise any person from indigenous faith by use of force or by inducement or any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet any such conversion. Punishment of Contravention of the Provision of Section. Any person contravening the provisions contained in Section 2, shall without prejudice to any civil liability, be punishable with imprisonment to the extent of two years and fine up to ten thousand (10, 000) rupees.
Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill 2002: The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill 2002 stated that ‘No person shall convert or attempt to convert directly or otherwise any person from one religion to another either by use of force or by allurement or by any fake means.
Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2006: Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2006 is a bill totally passed by the Legislature of Himachal Pradesh state in India on 19 December 2006. According to Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, ‘The Bill was intended to prevent forcible conversions. Conversions created resentment among several sections of the society and also inflame religious passions leading to communal clashes.’
Religious freedom protects people’s right to leave speak and act according to their beliefs peacefully and publicly. It protects the ability to be themselves at work, in class, or at social activities. Religious freedom is more than the freedom to worship at a temple, church, or mosque it makes sure that people do not have to go against their core values and beliefs to conform to culture or government. Religious freedom benefits everyone. The religion has a great role in a democratic society where there is freedom to hoard and use the material goods for selfish purposes ignoring the claim of others, the community and the nation. It preserves diversity in the nation command where people of different faiths, worldviews, and beliefs can peacefully leap together without fear of punishment from the government.
The constitution command which was the outcome of the freedom movement laid the foundation of The Indian Republic. In the accords everybody the right to practice, propagate and preach their religion. Those who have faith in God and those who are ignoring not atheists had the same rights and are free to leave by their values. Freedom of religion is basic to these articles of the constitution, but in the last few decades in general and recent years in particular, the degree of religious freedom in India has declined.
India being a secular state provides equal protection to all religious. The violation of freedom of religion is against the constitution, which makes it the duty of the state to protect this freedom. The problem is that its communalism on the rise, those out to torment religious minorities and violate the freedom of religion, enjoy a lot of impurities. India needs a humanist society that does not tolerate but celebrates diversity, which was the core strength of our freedom movement. It is the duty of government to protect the rights of the people and ensure respect for all. The exercise of the religious freedom should be free. As we live in this democratic country, we all have the choice of choosing any religion which we like to follow. We all have the freedom to have faith in the religious beliefs of any particular cult or denominations. India, being a secular nation, every citizen of this country has the right to follow the religion in which they believe. “The religion … of everyman must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man.” -James Madison
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