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Freedom of religion/Timelines

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A timeline (or several) relating to Freedom of religion.


  • 399 Athens executes Socrates on charges including introducing new gods
  • c. 250 Indian Emperor Asoka declares freedom of religion but bans animal sacrifice

  • 313 Edict of Milan grants freedom of religion throughout the dominions of Emperors Constantine and Licinius (by the end of the year this covered the whole Roman Empire)
  • 843 Most Chinese Buddhist monasteries closed by imperial decree
  • 1099 First Crusade "liberates" Jerusalem, massacring most of the population, Muslims and Jews
  • 1215 Canon 3 of the fourth Lateran Council orders extermination of heretics; rulers failing to implement this to be excommunicated and their subjects absolved from their allegiance
  • 1290 Jews expelled from England
  • 1452 Bull Dum diversas: Pope Nicholas V authorizes King Alfonso V of Portugal to conquer, dispossess and enslave all Muslims, pagans and other unbelievers; later popes variously confirmed, amended or contradicted this
  • 1492 Jews expelled from Spain; Muslims expelled soon after
  • 1555 Peace of Augsburg: Holy Roman Empire adopts principle of "Cujus regio, ejus religio": subjects to follow the religion of the local ruler, Catholic or Lutheran, or else move
  • 1568 Edict of Torda: Prince John Sigismund of Transylvania declares freedom for all forms of Christianity
  • 1598 Edict of Nantes: Henry IV of France legalizes Protestantism
  • 1613 The Mystery of Iniquity by Thomas Helwys (a Baptist), first published argument in English for the freedom of religion, the author promptly imprisoned
  • 1660 Massachusetts: 4 Quakers hanged for heresy on Boston Common
  • 1685 Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes and bans Protestantism in France
  • 1687 James VII and II of Scotland and England declares suspension of laws restricting freedom of religion
  • 1688/9 James overthrown; declaration annulled, toleration only for mainstream Protestants
  • 1689 John Locke, Essay concerning Toleration argues for freedom for most religious groups; Catholics and Muslims excluded as subject to foreign powers; atheists also excluded
  • 1731/2: Protestants expelled from Salzburg
  • 1778 Catholicism legalized in Great Britain
  • 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen: Art. 10. - Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l'ordre public établi par la Loi. (No one must be harassed for his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not trouble the public order established by the Law)
  • 1791 First Amendment to the United States Constitution "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." (note that this refers only to Congress, i.e. the federal government, leaving individual states unaffected)
  • 1793-6 persecution of the French Catholic Church provokes a peasants' revolt; of the order of 200,000 people killed in ensuing civil war and reprisals
  • 1824 Mexican constitution bans religions other than Catholic
  • 1826 last official executions for heresy in Christendom (Spain)
  • 1829 Hindu tradition of (theoretically voluntary) widow burning banned in territories governed by the British East India Company
  • 1833 Massachusetts repeals law requiring everyone to belong to a religious body chosen by their local community, in practice the Congregational Church; last established church in USA
  • 1926-9 Mexican Church responds to persecution by placing the country under interdict; ended by the Pope
  • 1936-9 Spanish Civil War, provoked by burning down of churches (among other things?): hundreds or thousands of priests, monks and nuns murdered by Republican forces
  • 1948 United Nations General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18: "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 teaching, practice, worship and observance."
  • 1950:
    • Article 17 of Indian Constitution bans Hindu tradition of untouchability ([1])
    • European Convention on Human Rights Article 9 repeats 1948 almost verbatim, adding "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."
  • 1965 Dignitatis humanae: Second Vatican Council declares belief in freedom of religion
  • 1966 (in force 1976) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18 "1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. 2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. 3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. 4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions." (Note that, unlike the 1948 Declaration, this does not explicitly guarantee a right to leave a religion.)
  • 1967 Religion banned in Albania
  • 1998 (England) Peter Tatchell fined £18.60 for disrupting a church service with a political protest ([2])
  • 2004 French law banning wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by pupils in state schools
  • 2006 Abdul Rahman placed on trial in Afghanistan for becoming a Christian; released as a result of executive action and given asylum in Italy
  • 2009 Swiss constitutional amendment banning building of new minarets (4 existing ones unaffected); ECHR has not yet heard the case as only someone wishing to build one has locus standi
  • 2012 (Russia) 3 women sentenced to 2 years for holding a political protest in a church (without its permission); one sentence suspended on appeal
  • 2014 Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, born to a Muslim father but brought up as a Christian by her mother, sentenced to death in Sudan for "apostasy"; granted asylum in the USA
  • 2014-16 Northern Ireland: evangelical preacher James McConnell prosecuted after calling Islam satanic; acquitted
  • 2015 Kim Davis, elected Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, imprisoned for refusing to allow her staff to issue homosexual marriage licences in her name; released after 5 days, wording of licences changed to omit her name
  • 2016 Catholic care home in Belgium fined for refusing to allow euthanasia on its premises
  • 2017 Russian Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witmesses as "extremist": [3]
  • 2020 Queensland passes a law imposing up to 3 years jail for clergy convicted of failing to report confessions of child sexual abuse ([