Abrasive rights

The scope and limitations of religious autonomy


  • Arie de Pater
  • Dennis P. Petri




FoRB, religious autonomy, non-discrimination, religious minorities


Freedom of Religion or Belief, or FoRB, provides for autonomy of religious communities, including freedom to organise themselves, to train their leadership, and to educate their members, without government interference. Tensions between the tenets of the religious community and the wider society are inevitable. In this article, we justify religious autonomy through three lenses: transactional, traditional FoRB, and minorities. If people are free to join and leave the community, religious autonomy should prevail. We then analyse European cases that illustrate the tension between religious autonomy and non-discrimination.

Author Biographies

Arie de Pater

Arie de Pater is the Brussels representative of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) and the European representative of the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF). An alumnus of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, he has now more than 20 years of experience as an advocate for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), both at the national and the international level.

Dennis P. Petri

Dr Dennis P. Petri is international director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom; founder and scholar-at-large at the Observatory of Religious Freedom in Latin America; Professor and Head of the Chair of Humanities at the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (UNESCO); and director of the Foundation Platform for Social Transformation.