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Right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief

Section 14 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) means that every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. This means you are free to think and believe what you want and to share your thoughts publicly. The Charter applies to public authorities in Victoria, such as state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of the government.

How does the law protect me?

What we think, feel and believe are central parts of our sense of sense of self. This section of the Charter includes two related rights. 

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief

Under the Charter, you have the right to think, feel and believe what you want, and the right to share your thoughts and beliefs publicly, whether individually or as part of a community. 

The right to not be prevented from practising your religion or belief

Under the Charter, you cannot be coerced or restrained to stop you practising your religion or beliefs. 

This section of the Charter relates to many different aspects of a person’s religious or spiritual life. It covers organised religious rituals, such as ceremonies and services at places of worship. It also covers religious texts, such as the Bible or the Koran, and the display of religious symbols of wearing of particular clothing connected to your religious practice. It can also relate to observing a particular diet or custom because of your religion or beliefs, or observing holidays or days of rest as part of your faith. 

Can this right be limited in any way?

In some circumstances, one person’s right may come into conflict with the right of another person or group. In these circumstances, it can be necessary to limit or restrict these rights. Under section 7(2) of the Charter, rights may be limited in certain circumstances, but it must be reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate.

How we can help

We can give you information about Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities but the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission does not handle complaints related to the Charter.

If you would like more information about the Charter and your rights contact us.

For information about the legal history of this right, case law or Australia’s human rights framework, you can read more in our Policy and Legal sections of this website.

How to make a human rights complaint

If you think your human rights have been breached, you should contact the Victorian Ombudsman.

If you want to make a complaint about police conduct, contact the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.