Freedom of Religion

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Religious freedom (aka religious liberty or freedom of religion) has the status of a universal human right. It is an essential tool for religious minorities to assert their status. In many countries, furthering religious freedom is also a foreign policy goal.

This course combines two perspectives: (a) a historical and (b) a contemporary one. The class will discuss the following issues: (a) Where did this idea come from, how did it spread, how did it become a universal right, and where and when was it adopted, adapted, and implemented? (b) But what does freedom of religion actually mean in practice? What does this right cover? Is it at all possible to determine this positively and for all countries? A fundamental issue here is what is meant by "religion".

Learning Outcomes

The student shall by the end of the course have gained the following learning outcome defined in knowledge, skills, and general competence:


The student

  • has advanced knowledge of the major developments in the history of the idea of religious freedom
  • has a thorough understanding of religious freedom as a human right
  • can analyze the different interpretations of this right in different international contexts


The student

  • can critically communicate in writing, using the academic terminology of the field, about the various trajectories that determine different interpretations of freedom of religion
  • can use methods and knowledge relevant to the study of religious freedom to formulate research questions relating to freedom of religion
  • can engage in critical discussion about issues surrounding religious freedom
  • can cooperate with peers in preparing an oral presentation about an issue regarding religious freedom

General competence:

  • can analyze research and ethical issues surrounding the concept of religious freedom and assess their social and political implications by giving a balanced and analytical account of lawsuits involving religious discrimination

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Autumn and spring, but not regularly

Place of Instruction

Online course, and therefore not restricted to Bergen.
Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
The course literature is in English. Students should therefore have a sound knowledge of English
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
Admission to the Master's Programme Religious Minorities.
Teaching and learning methods

The teaching and student activities in this course will entirely take place online.


  • short introductory videos
  • assigned reading and quizzes related to the reading
  • researching background information
  • individual feedback on submitted materials from the instructor
  • participation in online discussions
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

In this course the following compulsory requirements have to be approved in order to sit for the examination:

  • Course quizzes that test the students' command of the prescribed course material, and successful completion of at least 70% online quizzes. On average two quizzes per week.

Compulsory requirements are evaluated with "approved/not approved."

Forms of Assessment

1. An essay of 2.000 words relating to the history of the idea of religious freedom and its legal and political implications.

2. A 20 or 30-minutes talk (recorded) on one contemporary dispute over religious freedom, prepared by two or three students, who are each responsible for 10 minutes of the talk. The manuscript of the talk (1.800 to 2.400 words) has to be uploaded in CANVAS.

The students own contribution will be the basis of the grade. The two parts will count 50 % each in the total grade.

Grading Scale
A graded marking scale (A to F) is used. A is the top grade and F means Failed.
Assessment Semester
The course is normally assessed in the teaching semester only.
Reading List

The reading list consists of approximately 800 pages, plus sources for the selected case study.

The reading list is published by July 1st. for the autumn semester and by December 1st. for the spring semester.

Course Evaluation
The course unit will be evaluated regularly.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee for The Study of Religion
Course Coordinator
The Programme Committee for The Study of Religions, Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies- and Religions (AHKR)
Course Administrator
Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies- and Religion (AHKR)