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Cover Human Rights Law Directions

16. Article 9: freedom of thought, conscience, and religion  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. It discusses European Convention law and relates it to domestic law under the HRA. Questions, discussion points, and thinking points help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress and knowledge can be tested by self-test questions and exam questions at the chapter end. This chapter discusses Article 9, which establishes a general right to freedom of ‘thought, conscience, and religion’. The right to ‘manifest’ belief is ‘qualified’ in the sense that justified interferences are allowed. The duty of a court addressing an Article 9 issue is to decide whether there has been an interference, for which the state is responsible, that either restricts a person in holding religious beliefs or restricts the manifestation of belief. Manifestations of belief can be restricted if the restriction can be justified under the terms of Article 9(2). Important issues involving conscientious objection and the wearing of religious dress both in the context of employment and generally are considered in relation to justification. Article 9 can often be invoked in tandem with other Convention rights that also help to secure freedom of religion and belief.