The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion and Public Life

We, at the World Athe­ist Con­fer­ence: “Gods and Pol­i­tics”, held in Copen­hagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, here­by declare as follows:

  • We rec­og­nize the unlim­it­ed right to free­dom of con­science, reli­gion and belief, and that free­dom to prac­tice one’s reli­gion should be lim­it­ed only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We sub­mit that pub­lic pol­i­cy should be informed by evi­dence and rea­son, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a soci­ety based on democ­ra­cy, human rights and the rule of law. His­to­ry has shown that the most suc­cess­ful soci­eties are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equi­table sys­tem of gov­ern­ment in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety is based on sec­u­lar­ism: state neu­tral­i­ty in mat­ters of reli­gion or belief, favor­ing none and dis­crim­i­nat­ing against none.
  • We assert that pri­vate con­duct, which respects the rights of oth­ers should not be the sub­ject of legal sanc­tion or gov­ern­ment concern.
  • We affirm the right of believ­ers and non-believ­ers alike to par­tic­i­pate in pub­lic life and their right to equal­i­ty of treat­ment in the demo­c­ra­t­ic process.
  • We affirm the right to free­dom of expres­sion for all, sub­ject to lim­i­ta­tions only as pre­scribed in inter­na­tion­al law – laws which all gov­ern­ments should respect and enforce. We reject all blas­phe­my laws and restric­tions on the right to crit­i­cize reli­gion or non­re­li­gious life stances.
  • We assert the prin­ci­ple of one law for all, with no spe­cial treat­ment for minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties, and no juris­dic­tion for reli­gious courts for the set­tle­ment of civ­il mat­ters or fam­i­ly disputes.
  • We reject all dis­crim­i­na­tion in employ­ment (oth­er than for reli­gious lead­ers) and the pro­vi­sion of social ser­vices on the grounds of race, reli­gion or belief, gen­der, class, caste or sex­u­al orientation.
  • We reject any spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion for reli­gion in pol­i­tics and pub­lic life, and oppose char­i­ta­ble, tax-free sta­tus and state grants for the pro­mo­tion of any reli­gion as inim­i­cal to the inter­ests of non-believ­ers and those of oth­er faiths.  We oppose state fund­ing for faith schools.
  • We sup­port the right to sec­u­lar edu­ca­tion, and assert the need for edu­ca­tion in crit­i­cal think­ing and the dis­tinc­tion between faith and rea­son as a guide to knowl­edge, and in the diver­si­ty of reli­gious beliefs. We sup­port the spir­it of free inquiry and the teach­ing of sci­ence free from reli­gious inter­fer­ence, and are opposed to indoc­tri­na­tion, reli­gious or otherwise.

Adopt­ed by the con­fer­ence, Copen­hagen, 20 June 2010.


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Rick Beckman