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Conscience Magazine

Religion, Extremism Should Not Be Conflated

September 16, 2013

Thank you so much for taking up the issue of religious extremism. Human rights law is clear that while we have the freedom to think and believe anything we want, respect for the rights of others requires temperance in the manner in which our thoughts and beliefs are expressed. This is particularly true for state-imposed policies and laws. Last year, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights held that states may not implement laws that reflect one particular faith, because that would impose this faith on those who do not share it. State-sponsored religious extremism is an obvious example of this.

Through the years, I have spoken to hundreds of women who’ve had abortions, many of whom found deep meaning in their faith. Without exception, they were able to reconcile the decisions they made with regard to their health and families with a strengthened faith in a loving God, even as many faced condemnation from public representatives of their religion. To me, this is the strongest possible proof that faith, religion and extremism are separate concepts, which we must take care not to conflate.

Senior Policy Advisor,
Amnesty International
New York, NY