Religion

Your rights

Everyone is entitled to have and express their own personal beliefs including religious beliefs.

International treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief.

How you can expect to be treated

  • We all have the right to the equal enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights
  • All Indigenous peoples are entitled to self-determination (to choose their political status and the way they want to develop) and the protection of their language, culture, heritage, and relationship to the environment
  • We all have the right to enjoy one's culture and to use one's own language
  • We all have the right to freedom of religion and belief.
  • We all have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and equity. We also have the right to not be harassed, taunted or teased because of our colour, our accent, the way we dress, the food we eat or anything else related to our race or ethnicity.

The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the ground of religious belief in any of the prohibited areas of public life. Read more here.

Religious Rights

Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act the following rights are provided for:

  • The right to hold a belief
  • The right to change one’s religion or belief
  • The right to express one’s religion or belief
  • The right not to hold a belief.

The right to religion entails affording this right to others and not infringing their human rights.

The Statement on Religious Diversity

In 2007 the Human Rights Commission first published the Statement on Religious Diversity. The statement provides a framework for the recognition of New Zealand’s diverse faith communities and their harmonious interaction with each other, with government and with other groups in society.

It sets out a number of principles:

  • freedom of religion, conscience, and belief
  • freedom of expression
  • the right to safety and security
  • the right to reasonable accommodation of diverse religious practices in various settings.

The State and Religion

The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.

The Right to Religion

New Zealand upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other belief. This right also includes the right to express your religious beliefs through wearing religious items. Read more here

The Right to Safety

Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.

The Right of Freedom of Expression

The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media are vital for democracy but should be exercised with responsibility.

Recognition and Accommodation

Reasonable steps should be taken in educational and work environments and in the delivery of public services to recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices. Read more here.

Education

Schools should teach an understanding of different religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the diversity of their national and local community.

Religious Differences

Debate and disagreement about religious beliefs will occur but must be exercised within the rule of law and without resort to violence. This is covered under the Human Rights Act.

Cooperation and understanding

Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding.

Religious holidays

The Holidays Amendment Act 2010, passed in November, enabled workers and employers to agree to transfer public holiday entitlements from the standard statutory date (e.g. Christmas Day or Good Friday) to another working day – for example, to observe a day of greater religious or cultural significance to them.

Race Relations in New Zealand report

Read the Commission's report card on the state of race relations in New Zealand: Human rights and race relations – Whakawhanaungatanga a iwi for a comprehensive view on the human rights situation in Aotearoa. 

This report includes a section on the Freedom of religion and belief – Wateatanga o te hahi me te whakapono.

Balancing rights freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination

The Commission has provided an opinion on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act. Read can read it here.

If you have further questions about the laws that protect your rights you can either view our Enquiries, Complaints, and Support section or our Frequently Asked Questions section.

Visit our Using your rights section to find out what your options are if you think you have faced racial discrimination.

You can visit this section for more info about religion.