Diversity over Uniformity

The rule of law has often been used to suppress freedom of religion and discriminate against religious minorities. However, history shows that the rule of law can be effectively used to promote mutual understanding of one another’s differences. These four principles explain how the rule of law can protect freedom of religion or belief as a fundamental human right, rather than be used to coerce or harm:

  1. The rule of law should promote diversity over uniformity. [But it cannot stop there. The rule of law should promote pluralism––see Diana Eck's definition of pluralism.]
  2. Peaceful co-existence can derive from mutual understanding, with the awareness that understanding need not imply agreement.
  3. States should move beyond the zero-sum game, where one person’s win is another’s loss, to ensure that the rule of law does not put religious rights in opposition to human rights.
  4. Religious freedom flourishes when liberty is legally defined as a shield that protects people, not a sword that harms them.

These principles, not to be construed as a definitive list, can help move beyond culture wars where religious rites are pitted against civil and human rights. They support the adoption of legal frameworks that transcend the mere tolerance of religious difference toward the active promotion of peaceful coexistence, as promoted on ReligionAndPublicLife.org.

Reference: Lyal S. Sunga and Nathan C. Walker, Freedom of Religion or Belief through Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons Learned, Rome, Italy: IDLO, 2014/2016.