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The modern era of religious freedom began in the 17th century in 13 American colonies that later rebelled and became the United States of America. In the middle of the 20th century, “freedom of religion or belief” became a human right under international law after the United Nations (UN) was created. It is not a coincidence that generally it has taken secular legal systems to protect what many describe as “the right of conscience,” for religious organizations are generally more concerned with maintaining discipline among their members than with protecting their rights. This entry compares the meaning of religious freedom in the United States as well as in international law. It then examines the development of religious freedom in various religious communities and nations. Finally, ...

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