I have the right to have my own thoughts and beliefs and to choose my religion, with my parents’ guidance.
Article 14 of the UNCRC says that children and young people are free to be of any or no religion. Their parents can help them make decisions around religion, but:
- a parent can’t force a child or young person to adopt a religion
- a parent can’t force a child or young person to stop following a religion.
No religious discrimination
Children and young people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their religion. They should be treated the same as everyone else, no matter what they believe.
Freedom of thought
Article 14 also covers the right to freedom of thought. This is the right of a person to have their own ideas, thoughts, opinions and beliefs― and for nobody to be able to stop them from holding them. A person has the right to keep their beliefs private, and shouldn't be forced to reveal them.
Freedom of conscience
The right to freedom of conscience is also covered by Article 14. This is a person's right to refuse to do things which they object to for real moral reasons. Some decisions a child or young person may make that involve freedom of conscience are:
- becoming a vegan or vegetarian
- refusing to sign up to the armed services
- refusing to drink alcohol.
Article 5 talks about the responsibilities of parents towards a child or young person, and how they change as that person grows up.
Article 8 says children and young people have a right to an identity, which includes the right to their religion.
Article 13 says children and young people have the right to express their beliefs in the way they want.
Article 15 says children and young people have the right to meet and join groups of people who have similar opinions to them.
Article 17 says children and young should have access to information that helps inform their beliefs.
If a child or young person is going into care, they should be able to keep practicing their religion.
Article 29 says that a child or young person's education should allow them to respect other people's beliefs.
Article 30 says that a child or young person should be able to practice their religion, culture and language if they are a member of a minority group.
Children and young people should still be able to practice their religion if they are in detention.
Young people have the right to conscientious objection: they can refuse to join the armed forces if they believe this would be morally wrong.
This article is a simplified version of Article 14 of the UNCRC. The full text of the Article can be found below:
1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.