The right to apostasy recognised? Reaffirming the right to religious freedom

M. van Schaik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The freedom of religion or belief is internationally recognized. However, studies demonstrate that the implementation of the right to apostasy, an essential aspect of this freedom, encounters difficulties in state practices. Doctrinal and historical research is conducted regarding the UN legal documents and the drafting history in order to demonstrate that the phrasing of the freedom to change religion in the provisions has been gradually altered since the legal establishment in 1948. Within the UN, member states have succeeded in changing the provisions, resulting in conceptual ambiguity regarding the right to apostasy. It is a matter of concern that there is little recognition, within the UN and in academia, of the fact that the explicit right to apostasy has been disregarded, resulting in diminishing the normative force of the religious freedom provision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-287
Number of pages21
JournalPolitics, Religion & Ideology
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • 1981 Declaration
  • Freedom of religion or belief
  • United Nations
  • Universal Declaration
  • apostasy


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