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Religion and the UN

By adopting a long-negotiated declaration on religious freedom, the United Nations General Assembly signaled an essential concern about a freedom still widely under attack. Parts of the declaration, however, raise questions about its realism as a basis for a future convention binding on the parties to it.

To take an example of phraseology, the right to ''adopt'' a religion was altered to the right to ''have'' a religion -- reportedly in deference to Muslims opposed to sanctioning any possibility of conversion away from Islam. And ''belief'' or ''whatever belief'' was recognized in deference to communists professing atheism.

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Do such points risk diluting the idea of religion to a paradoxical degree? Not for individuals who know what their religion is and adhere to it. It is for them that the declaration's valuable assertions of noninterference are primarily intended -- and particularly important as church-state relations vary around the globe.

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