The Right to Mission in Human Rights Law, Mission to Amish People and Jews for Jesus

Maria Grazia Martino


This paper examines the position of international human rights law towards missionary or proselytizing activities with a special focus on the American context. By evaluating UN legal acts such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1960 Arcot Krishnaswami Study and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and the American Convention of Human Rights, it investigates the extent to which such activities fall within the scope of the right to free speech and to freedom of religion for religious organizations (corporate freedom of religion). This is exemplified by looking at two Evangelical religious organizations founded for the purpose of luring away groups of believers from their original religious communities: Mission to Amish People, targeting the Amish People, and Jews for Jesus, aimed at the Jewish community. The clash of one religious community which considers mission a fundamental element of its religion (as many Evangelical churches do) with a religious community who is highly skeptical about mission (such as the Amish or Jews) constitute the extreme test case of the right to free speech and to corporate freedom of religion. Given the highly various importance which mission can play in different religions, the article suggests to solve each case individually by carefully examining the content of each religious doctrine.


human rights, freedom of religion, mission, proselytism, Amish, Jews, United States.

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