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Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 9 guarantees that you can think what you want and can hold any religious or non-religious belief that you wish. It therefore protects religious belief and the beliefs of atheists, agnostics and those that are indifferent to religion, alike. You cannot be forced to follow or practice a particular religion and cannot be prevented from changing your religion. You are also protected from indoctrination by the State. This part of Article 9 is an absolute right and can never be interfered with.

For your beliefs to be protected they must be part of a sufficiently coherent philosophical scheme. Beliefs such as veganism and pacifism have been held to fall within the protection afforded by Article 9.

Article 9 also protects the right to manifest your religion or beliefs in worship, teaching, practice or observance whether alone or with others and whether in public or private. This aspect of Article 9 however, is a qualified right which means that an interference with the right can be justified in certain circumstances. The circumstances in which an interference can be justified are similar to those which justify an interference with rights under Article 8 and include the aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of others and public order (see section headed ‘A qualified right’ under Article 8).

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