If a person is treated unequally when compared to another person in a similar situation on the grounds of religion or belief, it may result in religious discrimination.

What is religious discrimination?

Religion or belief means that you adhere to a particular religion or not, have a religious background, other (usually philosophical) belief, or you do not believe. For example, you may be a member of an organized religion (with a clear structure and belief system) such as a Catholic, Protestant, Russian Orthodox, Muslim, Sikh, Mormon, Baptist, Judaist, or a non-believer, atheist, or hold no philosophical or religious views. Religious discrimination may also include treating someone differently because that person is a family member or is otherwise associated with an individual of a particular religion.

The prohibition of discrimination may be violated, when certain rights are denied to a person and they are treated differently [better or worse] than someone else because of their actual or perceived religion or belief. Moreover, there are different ways in which discrimination can occur, which is not always in a direct and overt manner. Therefore, it is important to recognize different types of discrimination.

Whilst discrimination based on religion or belief may occur in many areas of life, the most common areas of possible religious discrimination are connected with the workplace.


Human rights prohibit discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, salary, job assignments, promotions, training, and any other term or condition of employment.

example If a Muslim applicant has the best qualifications, it would be discriminatory not to hire him/her because the employer thinks the person will not fit into a predominantly Christian environment. 

However, not hiring a radical Christian person for a position as a hotel desk administrator, due to their refusal to check-in unmarried couples, would not be considered to be discrimination as there are other reasonable grounds for the decision not to hire.

There can, however, be justified exceptions when different treatment on religious grounds is permitted.

Restrictions on other rights and freedoms

Nowadays, due to security concerns about growing religiously motivated violence, a number of other rights and freedoms may be curtailed or violated on discriminatory grounds. Such guarantees as the freedom of expression, association, religion and movement might be the most affected.

example A political party may be denied registration if it can be established that they hold certain religious views, which are not compatible with democracy, or which incite violence.

In this Guide, you can read more about the most common areas of daily life where discriminatory practices may occur.


Last updated 26/09/2019