Freedom to Change One's Religion is Fundamental Right

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Support at the Institutional Level and its Implications for Other Rights and Freedoms
In drafting the United Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it was decided, after lengthy debates between state representatives, that the article on freedom of religion should include the right to change religions. Thus, Article 18 of the UDHR reads “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. As Margaret O. Thomas looks at Western-Christian and Middle-Eastern Muslim concerns over the freedom to change
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Moreover, if one chooses to convert away from one’s birth religion to atheism, no secular law exists to administer such matters. As Justice Dickson would argue, religious freedom must not only mean the freedom to adopt and practice any faith but, must also mean freedom from religion (Charter Cases – Big M, 24/01/2011). In this case, individuals are not free from religion as they are forced to deal with religious courts. Hence, the legal structure brings complex issues to the freedom to choose not to be religious or to adopt a minority religion.
A second example is the Lina Joy case in Malaysia, a moderate Muslim state which endorses the UDHR. Lina Joy was born a Muslim but decided to convert to Christianity in order to marry a Christian man. According to the 1976 Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, she needed to get her non-Muslim status recognized to enter such a marriage contract. Therefore, she changed her name to Lina Joy. In 2000, amendments to the act were made so that every Muslim would have their religion clearly marked on their identity card. Consequently, she applied to get “Islam” removed from her card. The National Registration Department rejected her application and told her she needed a

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