Between religious freedom and national security

OSCE document "Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security" in Western, Russian and Ukrainian contexts


  • Victor Yelenskyy I.F. Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnonational Studies of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine



Freedom of Religion and Belief, National Security, OCSE, Ukraine, Russia, Western democracies


The article deals with the OSCE Document "Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security. Policy Guidance"(2019) from the perspective of the status of freedom of conscience and belief, as well as the political and legal realities that  prevailes in the Western countries (USA, Canada, EU member states), in Russian Federation, and in Ukraine. Author proves that attempts to balance issues of religious freedom and national security in Western countries after the 9/11 led to the establishment of a new security regime, primarily in the United States. Some essential changes designed for an effective response to current and future threats were introduced in national legal system by lawmakers in Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, France, and Italy. With all this going on, many policymakers and commentators called governments to use all necessary means to not allow terrorists and religious extremists to take advantage from what could be regarded as a vulnerability of Western democracies, namely their openness, liberal legislative regime, democratic procedures, sensitivity to human rights and human dignity. The author emphasizes that, despite some shortcomings that followed the shaping of the new security’s regime, it contains obvious components that are quite in the line with the 2019 OCSE Document’s fundamentals.

Absolutely opposite, author argues, is the approach to the religious freedom and national security dichotomy in Russian Federation. The restrictions of the religious freedom in this country motivated by the interests of national security, are such brutal that destroy the main pillars of the international law in this realm and  put Russia on a par with the most flagrant violators of religious freedoms all over  the world.

Finally, inspired by the Ukrainian model, author is proving that almost thirty years long experience in forming a model of state-church relations adequate to the spirit and letter of internationally recognized principals in the field of the freedom of conscience and belief can be productive even if the country faces enormous external and internal challenges and the balance between religious freedom and national security can be achieved even for a country at war.


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