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Home > Know Your Rights > Right to Freedom of Religion
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Q1.  What is meant by the right to freedom of religion?

A1.  Right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by Constitution of India to all citizens to secure the secular character of India’s democracy. It gives to every citizen of India, the right to practice and promote their religion peacefully. The right also entitles different religious communities to impart religious instructions and set up educational institutions. The right prohibits the State to collect taxes from propagation of religion.


Q2.  Why was right to religious freedom granted to the people of India?

A2.  India is a country where people from different religions reside. Although Hindus are in a majority, but Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Buddhist are also in substantial numbers. In order that all the religious groups can exist peacefully, India adopted a secular form of government, which means that all religions are equal in the eyes of law and there is no religion of the State. According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the State and no religion shall be given preference over the other. Constitution gave the people the right to religious freedom to secure the secular structure of Indian democracy.


Q3.  What are the main features of the right to religious freedom?

A3.  Right to religious freedom gives the people of India the freedom to profess, practice and propagate the religion of their own choice. It also gives the right to religious bodies to set up educational institutions from their own funds and manage their activities on their own. Religious education can be imparted in these educational institutions. However, religious instruction in any of the State funded educational institutions is prohibited under this right. The right also prohibits the state from collecting any tax from anyone for promotion of his religious faith.


Q4.  What does it mean to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion? How can I propagate my religion?

A4.  To profess a religion means the right to declare freely and openly one's faith. It means that if I am a Hindu, I can freely and openly tell others that I am a Hindu without any fear. Right to practice one’s religion means that every person in India can freely perform the duties, rites, and rituals prescribed by their religion. So, if I am a Muslim, I have the right to observe Ramazaan, celebrate Eid and perform Namaaz. The right to propagate one's religion means the right to communicate the person's beliefs to another person or to expose the tenets of that faith. I have the right to tell about my religion and its philosophy to others and even publicize it.


Q5.  This means that if I have the right to propagate my religion, then I also have the right to convert others to my religion?

A5.  No, religious conversions by pressure or force are strictly prohibited in India. Religious freedom means that everybody has the right to choose his religious faith and practice it freely. You are free to propagate and practice your religion, but so are the others. You cannot forcefully convert others to your religious faith. You can only tell others about the philosophy of your religion and if it appeals to the other person, it is his choice whether to get converted or not.


Q6.  Can the activities of religious educational institutions be restricted by the state?

A6.  Although religious communities are free to set up charitable and educational institutions of their own. However, activities in such institutions which are not religious are performed according to the laws laid down by the government. Establishing a charitable institution can also be restricted in the interest of public order, morality and health. Nothing can prevent the State from making any further law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice, or providing for social welfare and reform. The government can make progressive laws regulating religious practices. For example, the government can make laws throwing open all religious institutions to all classes of people.


Q7.  Can religious instructions be imparted in religious educational institutions partly funded by Government?

A7.  As per the Constitution of India, no religious instruction can be imparted in any educational institution that is funded by the State. This means that if an educational institution has been set up by the State, religious instructions cannot be imparted. However, if the State has partly funded a religious educational institution, then religious instructions can be preached, but they cannot be made compulsory. This is done to preserve the secular nature of Indian democracy. State has no religion and neither can it become biased towards a religion.


Q8.  I am a Hindu student studying in a Christian Missionary School. Is it compulsory for me to study the religious instructions that are part of the studies?

A8.  Educational institutions formed by religious communities are free to impart religious instructions. However, any person belonging to other religious group is also free not to take part in them. Every citizen of India has the fundamental right to choose his religion and faith and practice it. Nobody can force you to adhere to any faith against your will.

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