Dedication to Human Rights &
Freedom of Religion or Belief

Cometan is now 23 and is currently conducting groundbreaking research on the structural issues that government systems for recognising religion and belief pose to the maintenance of high FoRB standards. Cometan's chief contributions to the field include RoRB, recognitionism, facilitationism and a series of new terminology.
 
Click here to view Cometan's 
Doctoral Research Proposal in full.

Brandon Reece Taylorian (a.k.a. Cometan) is a leading scholar and advisor on issues regarding freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) around the world and has been involved in the human rights field since he was nineteen years old. His interest in FoRB emerged after he founded his own philosophy and religious movement called Astronism at 15 years old. 

If you involved in Freedom of Religion or Belief advocacy and wish to contact Cometan directly, please email him at the following address: brt@brandontaylorian.com

The Doctoral Research Proposal of Cometan that introduces the Cometanic theory that religious recognition is central to freedom of religion impediments was accepted by the University of Central Lancashire's School of Humanities, Language, and Global Studies on Monday 2nd November and one week later,  on Monday 9th November, the Astronist Institution published this work of Cometan for public viewing.

Introduction

 

In their 2020 International Religious Freedom Report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) detailed the recognition processes for religious organisations by country. Although the dynamics of religious restriction were acknowledged, the data alone did not explicate the possible link between the abuse of recognition systems and issues such as religious freedom violations, forced migration, discrimination, and terrorism. This project is primarily concerned with how the legal apparatus of religious recognition could be abused by governments and why this may be fundamental to the conditions of religious liberty. Religious recognition denotes the mechanism for the legal registration of religious institutions in a country; government recognition normally permits institutions to conduct commercial operations and religious services legally.

Abuse of such a system may include a deliberate bureaucracy bias against some groups to make legal registration difficult to obtain. This can entail requests for members’ personal details to store in databases for surveillance purposes, or the weaponisation of terms like cult, foreign religion, and extremism against religious groups that the state does not approve of e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Studies of religious restriction divide the topic into government restriction and social hostility; government restriction is the focus for this research as the potential misuse of recognition systems by governments and political parties will be explored. Secondly, this study seeks to determine whether the commercial operations of religious institutions contradict religious principles and how governments may use recognition systems to restrict religious commerce e.g. the selling of religious texts or the collection of donations. Thirdly, determining whether economic freedom is relevant to religious freedom conditions will be important to this project’s study of the intersection between business, religious recognition, and freedom of religion.

Either an expert in the field of human rights or a representative of a religious or philosophical group.

Anonymous individuals whose human rights have been directly impacted by the misuse of RoRB.

Salah Ali.jpeg

Salah Ali

General Coordinator of the Iraq Religious Freedom Roundtable

(Retentionism)

Main insights:

institutionalisation of recognition, steps in the recognition process, and the promotion of FoRB through local mediators in communities wary of this right.

Heiner Bielefeldt.jpeg

Professor Heiner Bielefeldt

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (2010–2016)

(Retentionism)

Main insights:

RoRB certainly constitutes a separate branch of human rights alongside FoRB, the academic systematisation of recognition issues, recognition issues should be approached through the clarification of human rights as non-negotiable and universal, a focus on uniform terminology especially in national constitutions, the distinction between recognition (an existential act) and registration (a legal act) is paramount, a broad approach to country-specific issues is recommended and a recognitocentric approach to human rights would be valuable to the field.

Flag_of_Mongolia_(3-2).svg.png

Mormon missionary

active in Mongolia

(Abolitionism)

Main insights:

poor treatment and rejected service as a missionary both in the United States and in Mongolia; despite the LDS Church being recognised in Mongolia, this missionary explained that despite the recognition for their Church granted by the government, they continued to feel "nervous about immigration coming to interrogate us or send us home" and "made me feel nervous to be there and sad that I couldn’t talk openly with people about my beliefs"; this indicates that recognition is not always a guarantee of religious freedom and equal treatment and protection by the government; lack of recognition "hinders the growth and maintenance of the Church’s congregation and fosters discouragement and prejudice throughout the world for members of my faith"; however, sometimes a lack of recognition can galvanise a greater faith in God among members; "There are many places in the world where my faith isn’t recognized as an actual religion which makes it difficult for people to practice it"; recognition and freedom to practice one's religion are integral to community and fellowship among members; "I would hate for someone to feel forced into believing something and I think that is counteractive to developing a relationship with God"; "I do not believe that religious beliefs should be restricted, and I do not believe that the government has a right to force people what to believe. For many years our Church has prayed that we would be able to do missionary work in China (for right now missionaries are not allowed to be sent there). I think of the joy I have experienced through my faith in Jesus Christ, and it saddens me to know that there are millions who have no access to exploring their faith"; "it makes me deeply sad to see and experience these things happen, and not just for members of my faith but of all faiths. As a deeply religious person I know of the weight it carries in someone’s heart and life"; the fact that Latter-Day Saint beliefs often challenge mainstream or traditional Christianity is suggested as a further reason why restrictions imposed on the LDS Church and why it remains unrecognised in some countries; government backing of one religion gives that religion a sense of superiority over all others; recognition can in some cases in practical terms mean less recognition for one or all other religions; greater recognition for all religions would create a level playing field on which all religions could flourish; support for greater levels of government resources funnelled towards recognising and facilitating new or alternative religious groups is a "good thing"; greater representation for new or alternative religions in both the media and in education systems is important to facilitating greater recognition.

Russell Sandberg.jpeg

Professor Russell Sandberg

Lawyer and Specialist on Law and Religion in England and Wales at Cardiff University

Main insights:

recognition and registration systems oftentimes stop at religion to the exclusion of belief, philosophical or otherwise; enactment of law on recognition causes reliance on principles that quickly become out of date and "inherently conservative" and "inherently Judeo-Christian" when considering problems of the near and far future; recognition and registration systems are a "necessary evil"; religions can see wins in some areas of the law in which they may receive recognition but losses in other parts especially in what may be termed "ad hoc registration" systems; the 'religionisation' of non-religious movements (e.g. humanists) so that they fit into religiously-inclined legal frameworks; starting from scratch with a blank sheet of paper would mean firstly, what does the state need to know; less can be more when it comes to RoRB standards; England and Wales marriage law says the place of worship need to be registered and the act of marriage needs to take place inside that building in order for the marriage to be considered legal; facilitation of religion or belief could include a retreat from the state's overbearing role instead opting for religious organisations to work in healthcare and education once more; exclusion is inherent to defining laws on religious recognition and registration; spatial and temporal ; there is the RoRB scale – the fact that all countries sit at different, often unique stages along the path to the highest, most inclusive, most progressive conditions for RoRB; pragmatism when it comes to RoRB; the spectre of establishment of religion; deserving and undeserving claimants for registered and recognised status; issues of recognition pertaining to political beliefs; a very wide definition policy and a very rigorous regulation policy; not to filter out at the definition stage due to such decisions inherently going to be arbitrary; issues involving recognition and registration come down to issues of definition; objective criteria for subjective rights; FoRB can be simplified down to what extent can one reasonably act upon, manifest and express their opinion and assemble based on opinion and why and at what stage should the state be concerned about this; issues of recognition and registration come down to overbearing state involvement; comparative recognition takes place spatially and temporally as criteria for what is justifiable policy such as "how did the country cope before religious activity was regulated in this regard?"; constitutional provisions on religion often do not reflect the legal framework when dealing with matters of religion so a distinction should be made.

Screenshot 2022-03-18 at 22.08.00.png

Dr. Susan Kerr

Senior Advisor on FoRB at the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

(Regulationism)

Main insights:

States have a responsibility in terms of their FoRB commitments to remain even-handed in how they approach recognition of religion or belief. The securitisation of religious activity – namely, the use of a "national security" narrative to combat ongoing issues such as extremism and terrorism – is an increasing issue because it can result in the restriction of peaceful religious activity. From an OSCE perspective, the narrative that policy regarding religious activity is an internal issue for a country and therefore should not be critiqued by international organisations is inadmissible because each member state agrees that the security of one member is of concern to the security of all member states. Margin of appreciation should be considered in formulating standards for religious recognition and registration, but such standards would be a novel contribution to the field. More suitable conditions for FoRB allow for the facilitation of meaningful interfaith dialogue – FoRB and meaningful interfaith dialogue is symbiotic. The state does have a certain degree of duty to facilitate religion or belief which ultimately is based on religious freedom principles. Political sensibilities could inhibit international organisations from dispensing country-specific guidance due to their own funding commitments and due to the practicality of intending to keep dialogue open. Normative pressure is a principal means of the OSCE to guide countries in terms of their FoRB commitments. There are some European state churches that advocate for FoRB based on the principles of their faith. All human rights are aspirational and therefore total religious freedom remains unlikely.

StanleyCarlsonThies.jpeg

Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies

Founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

(Abolitionism)

Main insights:

issues pertaining to recognition and registration primarily come down to issues of definition and that these issues effect both authoritarian and democratic states, namely determining what is or is not 'religious' or providing definitions of religion that effectively exclude non-traditional forms of the manifestation of belief; state facilitation of religion or belief can be enacted through the government's funding of social projects that are purpose-built to encourage interfaith activities as found from the Cardus studies on religious freedom; recognition for new religious movements can be sought from scholarship, promotion of its discussion in the public sphere and rousing a court case to incite the government to recognise the religion in some way; positive rights (the right to do something) need to be applied through an institutional framework; in the United States, a policy of default non-registration for religious organisations remains in place; the important role of bottom-up freedom; the application of a fluid definition of religion in American law; definition of the boundary between different issues such as defining abortion or euthanasia as standard medical practices means opposition to these practices on religious grounds becomes a more different case to achieve success in; many of the social issues from lack of recognition for religious belief arise from not having enough plurality or freedom in allowing belief-based institutions to establish their own organisations to deal with matters such as healthcare and education especially in countries in which the state plays the main role which only then perpetuates the state-individual dichotomy but actually it should be a trichotomy between state-institution-individual; if there is not enough freedom granted through recognition to manifest their beliefs then this is certainly a factor in causing greater degrees of extremist views and belief-based violence; what religious freedom principally protects and is especially concerned with changes over time and is subject to shifts in the social, cultural and political spheres; an example of how tax-exemption has been used in the United States as leverage to have religious organisations conform to public policy; its easier for governments not to recognise or register to avoid cumbersome administrative responsibilities; without recognition, it is difficult to "obtain" religious freedom; the facilitative Dutch education system that allows for the development of bottom-up freedom; the American culture is based on default non-registration.

Andrew Copson.jpeg

Andrew Copson

Chief Executive of

Humanists UK

(Abolitionism)

Main insights:

promoted the ideal of there being no need for recognition systems; religious recognition is instead the problem and such systems operate from a place of exclusion; OSCE and the international system could establish a convention dedicated to FoRB that could include a section on RoRB issues and standards; recognition and registration law is commonly used to the detriment of the non-religious including those without any belief identity and those who identify with a particular non-religious or atheistic philosophy; how recognition is skewed holds real-world personal impacts for humanists; viewed country-specific RoRB standards as the way forward.

Flag_of_Egypt.svg.png

Coptic Christian

living in Egypt

(Retentionism)

Main insights:

recognition reduces interfaith tensions, a lack of state recognition leads to complacency and injustices, violations of RoRB bring about an opposite effect by making the faithful more resolute, while recognition fosters a sense of safety and security.

1920px-Flag_of_Germany.svg.png

Member of a New

Religious Movement

living in Germany

(Abolitionism)

Main insights:

member of a small, unrecognised religion in Germany; government should have no say on which religions are valid and those that are not; validation should not depend on membership or longevity; free zones, even in countries with state religions, where the government does not favour one religion over another yet still respects the national religion; state validity is not a personal requirement but the reality remains that recognition remains a prerequisite to some degree of protection; in Germany, it is a requirement that moving into a new area means that their has to be declared but the choices Catholic, Protestant and Muslim are the only ones provided; lack of sufficient recognition causes a disconnection between members and the state; only in matters of extremism and terrorism should the government be involved in religious matters; recognition systems are inherently discriminatory.

Flag-China.jpeg

Buddhist-Taoist

living in China

(Regulationism)

Main insights:

religious activity should be regulated to ensure harmony and stability for the whole society; opposed to state religions however supported the continuation of a religious recognition system; a lack of religion will leave the effected community feeling insecure and experience a lack of belonging in the society; although the ability for recognition to bring diversity and inclusiveness was affirmed, it was also conceded that balancing resources across different religions is the underlying problem; governments have the responsibility to prevent beliefs from being manipulated or used improperly.

2560px-Flag_of_Jordan.svg.png

Muslim who supported a Christian missionary

living in Jordan

(Retentionism)

Main insights:

Maintaining a state religion is important to upholding the traditional and common values of the Jordanian people; the Christian missionary whom he lived with was not able to proselytise publicly, only in private homes when invited by the homeowner; sometimes it is social pressure and stigma that restricts religious activity even more than the government itself and therefore inhibits the ability for Jordanian society as a whole to extended recognition to different religions; social media is helping to open people's minds, especially of the younger generation, to respect different religious communities which can manifest as positive recognition; conversion from Islam remains socially unacceptable.

1920px-Flag_of_Israel.svg.png

Armenian Orthodox

seminarian

living in Israel

(Retentionism)

Main insights:

the government and society has a duty to facilitate religion and belief; the recognition of the belief identities of citizens is comparable to their recognition as citizens; teaching the history of religion in schools is essential to maintaining of peace for future generations; the restriction of religion has the oppose effect of entrenching one's faith; without some kind of recognition system in place, "sectarian movements" will ultimately undermine religious freedom; restrictions should be placed on what religious buildings are allowed to be named in order to maintain the integrity of other existent religions that already use such titles for their own places of worship.

Mine.jpeg

Dr. Mine Yildirim

Founder of the Freedom of Belief Initiative and Specialist on FoRB conditions in Turkey

(Retentionism but on the basis of that the system isn't found to restrict or discriminate)

Main insights:

Turkey employs a policy of non-registration specifically for religious groups; however, there is a vertical recognition system in which some state-approved forms of the Islamic religion, namely Sunni Islam, are given state privilege, then Greek Orthodox, the Jewish community, the Armenian Apostolic Church and lesser recognition of the Syriac Orthodox community as the government's interpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne; they raised issues with the implementation of proposed RoRB standards such as placing doubt over whether an international organisation like the United Nations or the OSCE could implement or even devise such standards; a form of recognition called "implied recognition" is in effect in which a building may be granted "place of worship status" by the state as a way of recognising the religions or communities affiliated with those places of worship as a whole which in turn reduces the 'fullness of recognition'; recognition can be closely intertwined with the notion of legitimacy; registration procedures have the potential to be facilitate and to hinder religious freedom; recognition is oftentimes spoken about with a focus on collective rights and institutional rights, but upholding some aspects of individual rights (such as the right to conscientious objection) require the state to extend some often abstract degree of recognition (technically called acknowledgement in RoRB terminology) for one's religion or belief; privileges are granted to Sunni Muslim groups in the area of "public religious services" by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (PRA) which in turn creates a direct line of communication between Sunni Islamic organisations and the government; however, Muslim groups that define themselves outside of traditional Islamic groups and therefore reside outside the PRA structure are in turn restricted in what they may legal do such as the ability to open a building and call it a mosque because the PRA administers all mosques in the country and this also effects leaders of those groups excluded from the PRA structure; hence the provision of structures based on recognition can inhibit communities that do not fit into the definitions made by those structures; there is definitely an inequality when it comes to the distribution of state funds for public religious affairs skewed in favour of Sunni Muslim groups and therefore a demonstration of their state privilege; when it comes to considering religious recognition, we need to orient our approach around existing structures of international human rights, particularly regarding the principles of whether the act in question interferes in the free exercise of religion or belief, its necessity in a democratic society, whether it is discriminatory and what aims are interpretable from its implementation and are these objectives sound or otherwise compatible with FoRB; most recognition systems are in need of reform and a progressive approach due to immigration and changing social attitudes meaning that these systems may not have been discriminatory when they were first created and are in contemporary times as well as the progressions made in international human rights jurisprudence that produce normative demands that in turn mean some systems need to be reformed to correspond with those norms; state recognition exists even if registration procedures are abolished as one of the necessary functions of the state albeit in more implicit forms; adoption of a case by case basis rather than a more systematic approach of tackling the dismantling of restrictive parts of registration and recognition systems; in Turkey, a "glaring inequality" exists regarding how the state distributes funds to religious groups as well as restrictions being imposed on some groups and not others (double discrimination); registration and reregistration is an obstacle to FoRB in the OSCE region; in Turkey, although there are no formal registration procedures specific to religious groups, legal personality status is still required but is not therefore intertwined with registration per se; registration procedures and monitorial requirements (e.g. annual meetings and decision books) are the same for religious and secular associations (except for Islamic religious groups) (an example of indistinction); monitorial requirements in Turkey differ dependent on how a religious group has registered itself (whether as a foundation, an association or as an Islamic religious group); the state needs to be clear on what is involved in producing annual reports and what religious groups need to do to satisfy the state's requirements of them and depending on these factors, such aspects of monitorial requirements could be reasonably classified as impermissible; due to the variability of these restrictions, the broader criteria should be applied; there is a gap in international standards and lack of research around keeping registered status once a religious group has achieved this; the 'institutional' aspect of institutional religious freedom may serve to restrict its scope; the issue at the forefront of discourses should be the intersection of gender and FoRB as well as the issue of countries making hierarchies out of different rights and freedoms, essentially making a judgement over which rights hold more value than others especially as seen during the Covid pandemic in which public health superseded religious freedom in some states; although recognition may have the potential to facilitate FoRB, it may also equally inhibit FoRB by increasing state involvement in religious affairs; implementability and implementation are the most important aspects of protecting religious freedom today.

ed-brown.jpeg

Ed Brown

Secretary General of Stefanus Alliance International

(Retentionism but on the basis of recognition being use to facilitate)

Main insights:

registration and recognition issues are widespread because they are capable of controlling the religious activities of citizens; state funding is often the main determiner of the state involving itself in religious affairs meaning the activities of individual religious organisations; different moral standards and worldviews of individuals within governments can sometimes cause issues because the way they are approaching the issue of religious freedom is not always reflective of human rights norms; registration and recognition issues are not necessarily formed by loopholes in the human rights system but instead perhaps the complexity and diversity of contemporary life and the views, religious, philosophical, secular or otherwise that are entangled in how religion and belief are recognised by those in government; more research needs to be conducted on the positive aspects of freedom and the negative aspects of control – the idea that giving more freedom to religious groups from state actually could allow for groups to control and regulate themselves, especially when it is understood that having more freedom is better for security when the "national security" narrative tool is used by states; we need to work on broader FoRB literacy; FoRB Learning Platform are working to improve levels of FoRB literacy through videos for example;  proportionality and non-discrimination are the key criteria in determining the permissibility of a state-imposed restriction or administrative measure on religious groups under FoRB guidelines; a prioritisation should be placed on Bielefeldt's principle of the "maximisation of rights" meaning to maximise the protection of all rights much as possible is essential in order to combat ongoing issues with the misuse of narrative tools such as "public order" or "national security" and in instances in which one right is considered to be superior to another as an ongoing issue; equal recognition is essential to the discussion of RoRB; there needs to be a clear understanding on what the purpose of recognition or registration is and do such objectives hold water against the criteria of being necessary in a democratic society; recognition systems are positive if they have the purpose to facilitate or enable religious activities but are negative if they have the intended purpose to control; equal recognition also entails an approach to religious recognition that is devoid of the provision of privileges to religious groups simply based on members of religious communities that hold significant influence in the government and are therefore able to wield this power to benefit the group of which they are part; an importance needs to be place on different religious groups coming together to discuss recognition and minority issues together as part of their interfaith dialogue; there should be a movement away from the "privilege mentality" towards the "human rights and equal treatment mentality" to help minority communities and divergent communities within the majority to stand together to request change from the government; to declare the heterodoxy of a certain belief or practice and thereby any fraction within the community believing or practicing such is a right of a religious organisation or leadership to make; state definition of religion, especially in regards to the state deciding who are and who are not part of a certain community is impermissible; use mandatory registration and the purpose of registration as control as the main determinants of the restrictivity of a country's approach to religious recognition; the OSCE guidelines help in determining what is and is not determinable as 'control' when it comes to the nature of registration procedures; the human rights project has been a long term cinching in of these rights over time; support for a more general, thematic approach to the dispense of standards on RoRB; standards that are too specific and tight encourage governments to find loopholes; international norms, the situation in the country, and what can be recommended in terms of standards and conditions for countries to progress on matters of registration and recognition of religion or belief; the issue of enforcement is an issue and how human rights can be implemented and how restrictions on religion are enforced by states; there is an ongoing issue of the creation of a 'hierarchy of rights'; intersectionality of religious freedom with other freedoms and topics is essential to consider in form RoRB standards; studies on state attitudes to proselytism as being precisely indicative of a state's approach to or view of religious freedom and its ability to act as a litmus test for FoRB are lacking; the issue of the misuse of the term "harmony" (there is a majority religion that minorities 'know' how to act and what to say in relation to that majority to maintain "harmony"); Bielefeldt expounds the principle that FoRB is a "non-harmonious peace project"; the state's misuse of "disharmony" as a narrative tool; locked recognition (e.g. Treaty of Lausanne); the issue of legitimate discrimination (e.g. an atheist applies to become a pastor in a church or a moral standing on female leadership); to resolve this problem, there should be sufficient provisions granted to such individuals who wish to diverge from the main group to create their own; is it essential that any RoRB standards put in place are infused with good-intentioned purpose and a dynamic approach and are endowed with predictability based on "fundamental norms" that are slow-changing.

james-patton-headshot.jpeg

James Patton

President & CEO of the International Center for

Religion & Diplomacy

Main insights:

Cole-Durham-2247-small.jpeg

Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr.

Founding Director of the International Center for Law and

Religion Studies

Main insights:

Flag-Bahrain.webp

Oneness Pentecostal Christian

living in Bahrain

(_____)

Main insights:

Flag-Taiwan.webp

Lutheran Christian

living in Taiwan

(_____)

Main insights:

Flag-Hungary.jpeg

Member and leader of a New Religious Movement

living in Hungary

(_____)

Main insights:

Mariz Tadros.jpeg

Professor Mariz Tadros

Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies and convener of the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID)

Main insights:

2019-07-05-Photo-Marco-Ventura-ABU-DHABI.png

Professor Marco Ventura

European Consortium for Church and State Research and expert on religious freedom in Vietnam

Main insights:

Malcolm+Brown.jpeg

Reverend Dr. Malcolm Brown

Director of Faith and Public Life at The Church of England

Main insights:

2018.12.12_prodromou_elizabeth1_0.jpg

Professor Elizabeth Prodromou

Faculty Director of the Fletcher Initiative on Religion, Law,

and Diplomacy

Main insights:

Silvio Ferrari.jpeg

Professor Silvio Ferrari

Life Honorary President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies

Main insights:

image_normal.jpeg

Professor Roger Finke

Co-Director of the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)

(Abolitionism-Facilitationism)

Main insights:

mandatory registration may sometimes be justified by the narrative that all groups are required to register, not just religious groups which in turn reduces one's capacity to state that the government is targeting religious organisations; more attention needs to be directed towards understanding the scale of impacts that restrictions on institutional rights have on individual rights and how to resolve this issue; because registration restrictions typically impact minority religions, states are able to get away with imposing such restrictions because they impact groups that are not only smaller in size but are also institutionally weaker; the "tyranny of the majority" concept can be used as a narrative tool by both secular and theocratic states to suppress minorities on the basis that they pose a threat in becoming majority if they are allowed to gain social and political power; in some cases, leaders of the majority religion may in fact be in favour of suppressing minority groups or new religious movements which may be deemed "cults"; local authorities are given significant leeway in how they apply registration laws which means that such laws end up being erratically and arbitrarily imposed; more research needs to be conducted on the impacts of registration requirements from a qualitative perspective at the local, practical, personal level; registration issues could potentially be related to problems such as terrorism and extremism due to the grievances that issues of registration are likely to sow; recognition can be a double-edged sword because even though a lack of recognition evidently causes significant problems for unrecognised groups so too do groups that hold recognition and thereby often hold very close relationship to the state, they are also likely to possess significant difficulties in both maintaining that recognition and compromising on state actions that may not necessarily reflect religious doctrine (e.g. ROC's relations with the Kremlin); a focus in research is placed on outright persecutions on religious groups and for good reason but more attention needs to be placed onto these more subtle but more long-lasting restrictions and how they impact religious freedom; more awareness and understanding needs to be established around registration law, laws which on paper may seem reasonable to most but in practice actually have a largely negative impact on a significant amount of religious minorities; there have been swift, discriminatory responses to events like suicide cults in which then many other new religious movements are banned or restricted because the government assumes they have the potential to engage in the same behaviour (restrictions on other groups can be aptly understood as the collateral damage of restrictions imposed on institutional religious freedom); a better understand needs to be established on the connection between restrictions placed on what institutions can do and how this connects and translates to impacts on individual and collective rights; registration issues often arise from fears surrounding how a religious group will impact and more specifically change the local or national culture; registration and recognition is therefore used to curb social or political change; monitoring and reviewing registration and recognition issues is essential to an approach in eventually solving these issues; the principle of "formally neutral and general applicable" is problematic; collective and institutional rights are indistinguishable in some senses but registration requirements often have the objective of separating these categories of rights so that they can get away more easily with restricting religious organisations rather than infringing directly onto collective religious activity; it is very difficult to determine a country's intent especially surrounding issues of the ambiguity of registration procedures and their onerousness but in fact intent becomes irrelevant because the fact that these policies hold a negative impact on a religious group supersedes the question of whether this is intended or not; nefarious intent can therefore be determined by the consequences of restrictions which countries should then have the opportunity to deny and then to resolve; even though faith leaders agree with religious doctrines, but may disagree with how their institution is run, they feel they cannot leave to establish their own organisation because they would have no legitimacy; minorities are forced to understand the majority; how states misuse of registration as a means to demonstrate their religious tolerance but it is tolerance based on the fact that the group does as the state prescribes; it is possible that organisations are not "religious" could sign up with the intention of receiving benefits exclusively bestowed to religious organisations; ways that the RFSRB could have real impact in this area is by galvanising a much deeper understanding of the mechanisms of registration at each stage and how these different stages impact practically the religious group and personally the group members; the Global Religious Recognition Report could be added to ARDA; issues of recognition are closely intertwined with social pressures; what does a country allow to take place in the society regarding inter-religious tension (e.g. India); trying coding the data from the Religious Recognition Report to make it more digestible and reusable for those involved in the field; your country-specific approach is not appropriate but is essential; thematic reports on registration and recognition issues should still exist but should not be the sole material on this topic; all human rights are symbiotic so when you start denying one right this negatively impacts the others; online and offline options for registration can be a facilitative approach to registration procedures; using ambiguous terms like "onerous" and providing a couple of thematic examples of issues taking place isn't enough to resolve the registration issues which is a country-specific approach is needed; the issue of cultural relativism is apparent when ambiguous terms to describe registration issues and standards are used and there is a lack of country-specific recommendations; countries that don't have explicit registration procedures tend to impose other forms of restrictions that are underlying (both by the state and by the culture) and implicit than those states that have explicit registration policies; facilitation means to having a level playing field and have the freedom to exist (in the broad sense of what "existing" for a religious group encompasses); registration benefits can in some cases cause a competitive culture between religious groups in which the majority then attempts to deny minorities of the same privileges it receives; registration and recognition issues is the topic that needs to be broad to the forefront of discourses on religious freedom.

Professor Elizabeth Clark.png

Professor Elizabeth Clark

Associate Director for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies; Regional Advisor on Religious Freedom in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Main insights:

Recognising and registering religions, religious organisations and religious activity is certainly misused by a number of countries to exert control of citizens. This kind of misuse of widespread because 1. a consequence of administrative hassle systemic to bureaucratic states 2. those dealing with religious recognition tend not to be part of the "power ministries" such as the finance ministry, ministry of the interior, or ministry of defense for example 3. a lack of attention has been directed towards the area of recognition and registration issues from international bodies. The diversity of religious belief is seldom reflected in the outcomes of recognition. A tiered model of RoRB variables for the purpose of structuring RoRB standards could be helpful in deciphering which variables are central to registration and recognition procedures and which are more peripheral. It was also suggested during the interview that it could be valuable to consider RoRB restrictions through the lens of their enforceability, namely the consistency, frequency, and severity to which RoRB restrictions are enforced by the state. On the basis that religion is frequently instrumentalised to achieve political goals, so too is recognition undergoing a similar process of instrumentalisation in which it and registration are being misused to achieve the goals of some states to control the religious activities of citizens. The misuse of registration emerges as one of the major practical difficulties for individuals in the everyday practice of their religion. Registration issues can be a harbinger for worse violations of FoRB to come. The 'issue of opportunity' arises when countries seek to disestablish religions but state privilege remains which then begs the question: is it better to rid the privileges of that previous state religion so that its relations with the state restart on an equal footing with all other groups or is it better to provide all other groups or give the opportunity for all other groups to achieve the same privileges as the religion which currently enjoys state privilege; there needs to be a conceptual change that transitions the purpose of registration from serving to protect the state to facilitating religion or belief; determining the permissibility of registration requirements should be based on their necessity and their proportionality and so RoRB standards can be structured accordingly; changes in legislation will either come via court cases or through diplomatic efforts with guidelines dispensed by organisations like the OSCE with the international scope can help to provide the frameworks necessary to guiding positive change; reducing registration systems to their "bare-bones" could be necessary if there are deep, systematic problems with the registration procedures or if problems elsewhere in government are negatively impacting registration law.

Phase One (Preparatory work for PhD)

(November 2019 – December 2020)

  • Communications begin in November 2019 with Dr Carolyn King and Dr Carl Morris regarding my suitability for taking on PhD work at UCLan.

  • Cometan's first human rights work Islam in China & The Plight of the Uighurs is written and then published in December 2019.

  • Cometan writes his PhD proposal over the course of 2020 and submits the proposal in the autumn ready for January 2021 commencement of PhD studies.

Phase Two (First Year)

(January 2021 – April 2021)

  • Submission of RPA (Research Programme Approval) and ethics application, approvals for which were granted in April 2021, the latter being granted by Professor Christine Barter of UCLan for Category One participants.

  • Initial collection of references relating to recognition of religion or belief (RoRB).

  • Initial theorisation of recognition of religion or belief as well as the approach of recognitionism.

Phase Three (First Year)

(May 2021 – August 2021)

  • Initial development of the theory of recognitionism including recognition agency, sustainable recognition system and the extension of these to the thesis main body.

  • Creation of the Spectrum of Religious Recognition as well as the first iteration of the Religious Recognition Around The World table.

  • Writing first draft of the doctoral thesis.

Phase Six (Second Year)

(May 2022 – August 2022)

  • Completing the third draft of the doctoral thesis (focusing on parts 3 and 4).

  • Publication of both Recognition of Religion or Belief and the 2022 Global Religious Recognition Report.

  • Continue conducting interviews with Category One and Category Two participants and implementing main insights into the thesis notes.

Phase Five (Second Year)

(January 2022 – April 2022)

  • Founding The Religious Recognition Project and publishing the RoRB Index on Cometan.org.

  • Work on the First Edition of Recognition of Religion or Belief begins and on the 2022 Global Religious Recognition Report.

  • Ethics approval for Category Two participants was granted on 28th January 2022 by Dr Douglas Martin.

  • Scheduling and conducting interviews with Category One and Category Two participants.

  • Theorising RoRB standards as part of the broader establishment of the RoRB framework.

  • Implementing discoveries from participant interviews into the thesis notes.

Phase Four (First Year)

(September 2021 – December 2021)

  • Completing second draft of the doctoral thesis with an emphasis parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

  • Managing invitations and scheduling in the first wave of interviews for early 2022.

  • Further development of recognitionism, facilitationism and sustainable recognition.

  • Reapplying for ethics approval based on the new approach taken to interviews which will include participants who need to be anonymised for their safety.

Phase Seven (Second Year)

(September 2022 – December 2022)

  • Completion of the Category One and Category Two participant interviews.

  • Transcribing all participant interviews and compiling and interpreting all data retrieved.

  • Continuing implementing main insights into the thesis notes.

  • By December 2022, completing the fourth draft of the doctoral thesis.

Phase Eight (Third Year)

(January 2023 – April 2023)

  • Completion of the fifth draft of the doctoral thesis.

Phase Nine (Third Year)

(May 2023 – August 2023)

  • Completion of the sixth and final draft of the doctoral thesis.

Phase Ten (Third Year)

(September 2023 – December 2023)

  • Submission of the sixth and final draft of the doctoral thesis under the title: Religious Freedom & State Recognition of Belief.

  • Undergo the viva (oral examination) of the thesis by the university.

  • Graduation from the University of Central Lancashire held in either December 2023 or July 2024.