Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Annex III

Human Rights Act 1998

(a)  Extracts

  3.—(1)  So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.

  (2)  This section—

    (a)  applies to primary legislation and subordinate legislation whenever enacted; . . .

  6.—(1)  It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right . . .

  (3)  In this section "public authority" includes—

    (a)  a court or tribunal, and

    (b)  any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature . . .

  (6)  "An act" includes a failure to act . . .


  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.


  The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

  (b)  Relevant Court Cases under Article 9 of the ECHR:

    "As enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought conscience and religion

is one of the foundations of a `democratic society' within the meaning of the Convention. It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, sceptics and the unconcerned."—Kokkinakis v Greece: (1994) 17 EHRR 397, para 31

    "The right to freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Convention excludes any discretion on the part of the State to determine whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs are legitimate."—Manoussakis v Greece: (1996), EHRR 387, para 47

    Belief means "more than just `mere opinions or deeply held feelings'; there must be a holding of spiritual or philosophical convictions which have an identifiable formal content."—McFeekly v UK: (1981), 3 EHRR 161

    "The term `beliefs' . . . denotes a certain level of cogency seriousness cohesion and importance"—Campbell and Cosans v. UK: (1982), 4 EHRR 293 para 36 ( this case related to Article 2—right to education).

  In re Crawley Green Road Cemetery, Luton—St Alban's Consistory Court: December 2000—it was taken held without argument that Humanism was a belief within the meaning of the Human Rights Act.

  (c)  Commentary

  from the UN Human Rights Committee on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which is essentially similar to Article 9 of the European Convention):

    "Article 18 protects theistic, non- theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions."—Human Rights Committee, 1993 (General Comment no 22(48) (Art 18) adopted on 20 July 1993, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, 27 September 1993, p1.)

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