Monday, March 4, 2013

Religion Provisions of the Constitution of Myanmar (2008)

One of my current research projects involves analysis of the religion provisions of various constitutions enacted since the year 2000. From time to time on this blog, I'll post extracts of those provisions arranged according to categories such as "Religious Freedom" (guarantee of individual rights), "Established Religion" (joining religion and government), "Establishment Clause" (separating religion and government), "Ceremonial Deism" (symbolic references to religion that have little or no legal effect), "Equal Protection of Religion" (non-discrimination guarantees), "Preamble", "Religious Education", and "Religious Limitations."
The 2008 Constitution of Myanmar contains a traditional religious freedom guarantee, though it couples it with a proviso that the right is subject to public order and other values.  One of the aspects that makes the Myanmar Constitution rather unusual is that it recognizes multiple religions: Buddhism is given a "special position", but four other faiths (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Animism) are "recognized."  How this works in practice (especially vis-a-vis non-recognized faiths) is not clear to me.


Constitution of Myanmar 2008

Religious Freedom

Article  34. Every citizen is equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely
profess and practise religion subject to public order, morality or health and to the other
provisions of this Constitution.

Article 354. Every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of the following rights, if not contrary to the laws, enacted for Union security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility or public order and morality:
(a) to express and publish freely their convictions and opinions;
(b) to assemble peacefully without arms and holding procession;
(c) to form associations and organizations;
(d) to develop their language, literature, culture they cherish, religion they
profess, and customs without prejudice to the relations between one
national race and another or among national races and to other faiths.

Equal Protection of Religion

Article 348. The Union shall not discriminate any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth.

Establishment of Religions

361. The Union recognizes special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the
great majority of the citizens of the Union.
362. The Union also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism as the religions
existing in the Union at the day of the coming into operation of this Constitution.
363. The Union may assist and protect the religions it recognizes to its utmost.

Fortune-Telling Can be Regulated Says 4th Circuit

The Religion Clause Blog reports on an important decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that municipalities may constitutionally regulate, through requirements for business permits and licensing, fortune-telling establishments.  According to the post, the opinion determined that the religious freedom claims asserted by the fortune-tellers involved were deemed to be "personal and philosophical choices" and "not deep religious convictions."  To me, this is a fascinating issue and one I hope to explore in a forthcoming law review article.