BYU Law Review


Ryan Cheney


Legal analyses of proselytism have tended to focus on the rights of the proselytizer and on the right of the target of proselytism, or “proselytizee,” to be free from such “interference.” However, such analyses do not fully account for all rights involved in proselytism. When people are prevented from being proselytized, such as by law or by persecution, an important consequence is that they are cut off from a significant source of information on and mechanism for exploring and joining other religions. Despite stigmatizations of proselytism, many people regularly accept it and learn about and join other faiths through it. Cutting people off from proselytism thus impedes their ability to receive information, exercise their capacities of reason and conscience, and order their lives as they choose. These results harm people’s human dignity, to which the capacities of reason and conscience are central, and human rights, such as the right to have or to adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice. These consequences suggest people have an international legal right to be proselytized. This Note explores whether such a right exists in international law and shows that several rights guaranteed by the ICCPR together establish and support the right to be proselytized. These rights include the rights to proselytize, adopt a religion or belief free of coercion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom from religious discrimination. Like some of the rights that constitute it, the right to be proselytized can be validly limited in certain circumstances. Considering and respecting the right to be proselytized can make a meaningful, positive difference in legal analyses and decisions, including by more fully respecting proselytizees’ human dignity.


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