Religion: the right not to believe

Suggested constitution clause:

'Every individual is free to have no religion and to express non-religious ideas.  No individual shall be discriminated against in law by reason of having no religion or expressing non-religious ideas.'

(And this shall either be a stand-alone clause or built into equality and freedom of thought and expression clauses.  The LSE team can no doubt make the final decision on that.  I suggest that any further comments and votes simply consider the merits of the idea as being in the constitution in one form or another)

Idea behind the draft clause:

Much is said about freedom of religion.  My idea is that we also need a constiutional right to have no religion.

There are states in the world where being an atheist renders a person liable to persecution.  There alre also states where it is almost socially unnacceptable to admit to such beliefs and where pressure is put on educators to remove scientific learning, in particular evolution theories, from schools.

I believe that we should ensure that this important right is stated to be so, thus helping ensure that the UK does not evolve into a place where professing to be a rationalist, an agnostic, or indeed an atheist is anything other than normal and acceptable and that these theories can be taught in schools alongside evolution theories.


edited on Apr 13, 2015 by Ian Smith

Ian Smith Apr 5, 2015

Dear All,

I am posting a quick comment here and in my other ideas.

Firstly, I want to say how much I have enjoyed seeing all of your contributions on this and other ideas and how impressed I am with the range of expertise and erudition which has filled these debates.

Secondly, I wish to put forward a couple of suggestions as to a way forward at this stage.  They are:

A.   I suggest that we all refrain from further voting until the ideas have been refined and represented and have then been debated for a while.  My thinking here is that we will want to see the reshaped ideas and see the comments on those refined ideas before we decide whether they are to be voted up or down,  I do not think that we should refrain from voting on comments but perhaps try not to vote to hastily on them.

B.  Now that the hurly burly of the "Hacking" phase (some of it quite savage) has passed, I hope and wish that we will adopt a more collaborative and less combative approach in our commentary, so that commentary is given a chance to be constructive and really do the job of refining the ideas in question.

C.  I would hope that we can refrain from attacking the very existence of the idea under discussion in this phase or the fact that it has successfully gone through to this phase against the wishes of those who voted it down.  I sincerely hope that the previous critics of an idea, will still respect that it found favour with the crowd and now help to refine the idea in this phase.

Thirdly, I will try my best not to introduce any more typos and mangled phrases! 

Best (secular) wishes for the holiday week end!


Eser Utku Apr 7, 2015

Hi Ian,

Shouldn't this be incorporated alongside the right to belief? In other words: the relevant parts of the constitution should always state something along the lines of "citizens of any belief and none". This would ensure that every belief and no belief (of religion or any other objectively unverifiable type of belief) are accorded equal status. The fact that belief and no belief being mentioned together everywhere would underline the purpose that they are all treated the same

Imogen Galilee Apr 9, 2015

Well, I would repeat the comment that I made in the previous phase: it is entirely contained in a standard right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Ian Smith Apr 10, 2015

Dear Imogen,

It is precisely because it is not explicit in any standard clause, that I introduced this idea and that it found favour with so many voters.  We are now in the refinement phase and so it is important to concentrate on how the idea is refined into a workable clause (or part of another clause) rather than to argue that it had not been voted up in the first place.

Kind regards,


Andrew Bulovsky Apr 13, 2015

With only one week remaining in the refining stage, the facilitators will draft some language for this idea. We'll do everything we can to redraft the original submission in line with your comments and suggestions. If the original poster would like to take over the idea they are more than welcome to at any point. Please do comment to offer suggestions on specific wording and to guide us on which suggestions should take priority (by voting them up/down).

To address your comment in particular, Ian, perhaps you'll be satisfied with this wording. If not, please do propose an amendment.

"Individuals possess the inalienable right to sift and winnow through the marketplace of ideas in any way they see fit. This includes, but is not limited to, adhering to religious, political, or philosophical beliefs that guide one's thinking. The absence of any of these belief systems shall also be respected as a right."

Imogen Galilee Apr 13, 2015

Andrew, Prof Gearty has already drafted this:

The only relevant addition is: "this includes freedom to not have a religion".

Andrew Bulovsky Apr 13, 2015

Wonderful. Do you think there should be a massive list of rights/freedoms in the Constitution? That may work more easily than the sort of jumbled mix of proposals that are floating around.

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Mark Cooke Apr 15, 2015

Yet another area in which I would advocate sticking to the well established ECHR right without tinkering.  There is absolutely no doubt that this encompasses atheism as much as religion.