Religious freedom is one of the fundamental human rights and a constitutionally guaranteed right. It encompasses the right to free choice, change of religion or not to choose a religion, freedom of expression and non-expression of religious belief, and the freedom for everyone alone or together with others privately or publicly to express their religion through worship, lessons, practice and religious ceremonies or otherwise.
Positive and negative aspects
The positive aspect means the right to have a religious belief and the possibility to participate in a religious community. An individual may profess their faith freely alone or together with others publicly or privately by learning, fulfilling religious responsibilities, worshipping and performing religious rites. This aspect ensures any (oral or written, private or public) expression of faith, including praying and spreading of religious truths. The conduct denoting the fulfilment of religious rules (worship, rites, rituals, processions, wearing of religious dress, symbols, etc.) are also protected. The positive aspect of religious freedom includes external conduct significantly linked to an individual’s religious belief. On the contrary, the negative aspect of religious freedom means having the right not to have a religious belief and the possibility not to participate in a religious community. An individual is not obliged to have a faith or to state it, and may thus not be punished, discriminated or ignored. They may not be forced to express their belief, and have the right to decline participation in conduct which denotes the exercising of faith. The constitutional practice highlights that the negative aspect of religious freedom does not take precedence over the positive aspect.
Individual and collective aspects
The religious freedom is realised individually and collectively. The collective aspect gives individuals the right to form religious communities and participate in them. From this point of view, religious communities have the right to independently and autonomously manage their internal affairs relating to their operations and internal positions of their members. In addition to the right to engage with others (so-called positive freedom of association), everyone also has the right to not engage with others (so-called negative freedom of association). From the point of view of free establishment of religious communities, it is not mandatory for a religious community to be officially recognised or registered. Constitutional protection also covers completely informal religious communities. The collective aspect of religious freedom simultaneously ensures religious communities their own religious freedom, i.e. as the right to freely and in accordance with their own rules profess religious beliefs and perform religious rites.
Constitutional principles determining the status of religious communities in relation to the state
In Article 7, the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia determines three principles defining the status of religious communities in the Republic of Slovenia: the principle of separation of the state and religious communities, the principle of freely pursuing their activities and the principle of equality of religious communities. As per the constitutional practice, the human right to religious freedom or freedom of conscience of Article 41 of the Constitution serves as the foundation for regulating the status of religious communities and in this sense takes precedence before constitutional principles determining the status of religious communities in relation to the state.