Explain the following:
Some people think that sharing your beliefs with another person with the aim of encouraging them to change their religion or beliefs is immoral. Others see sharing their faith as a central religious duty, considering it immoral to fail to share the ‘good news’ or truth of their beliefs. Human rights take no position on the question of the morality of sharing your beliefs, but three things are important:
- The right to change your beliefs is an absolute right. It may never be restricted, by anyone.
- Both freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression protect the right to tell other people about what you believe and why you consider your beliefs to be good or true. We also have a right to access to information about ideas. Religious ideas are no different to political or other ideas in this sense.
- Freedom of religion or belief explicitly forbids coercion to have, change or maintain your religion or belief.
But where do we draw the line between persuasion and coercion? Elicit responses from one or two participants, asking: How would you define the difference between persuasion and coercion?
Thank them for their thoughts and ideas and continue to provide input as follows:
In any given case, we need to weigh up the following four factors:
Who is doing the persuading?
Does the person or body doing the persuading hold a position of power and influence over the person being persuaded? Are they abusing that power in their manner of persuasion?
Who is the recipient?
Is the person being persuaded particularly vulnerable to coercion for some reason? Is their vulnerability being taken advantage of in the manner of persuasion?
Where is the persuasion taking place?
Is the recipient there by choice and are they free to leave? If not, there is an increased risk of coercion.
What form does the persuasion take?
The following forms of persuasion are NOT acceptable, as they are coercive:
- Promises or offers of something of material value in exchange for conversion, e.g., money, work, humanitarian assistance or social advantages.
- Removal or threat to withhold something of value, e.g., access to education, medical care, employment, civil and political rights.
- Threat or use of physical violence or blackmail.
Elicit reactions to these criteria from one or two participants.