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思想自由是其他的自由的先决条件，并与它们密切相关，这包括了信仰自由和言论自由。尽管Though freedom of thought is axiomatic for many other freedoms they are in no way required for it to operate and exist. Conception of a freedom or a right does not guarantee its inclusion, legality, or protection via a philosophical caveat. It is a very important concept in the western world and nearly all[來源請求] democratic constitutions protect these freedoms. 例如，美国权利法案的宪法第一修正案中，作出了著名的明确保障，规定法律不得干涉宗教，“或阻碍宗教的自由实践”。美国最高法院大法官Benjamin Cardozo在Palko v. Connecticut一案（1937）中论述道：
联合国人权委员会认为， "distinguishes the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief from the freedom to manifest religion or belief. It does not permit any limitations whatsoever on the freedom of thought and conscience or on the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one's choice. 这些自由是无条件受保护的。". 世界人权宣言的第十九条也有类似的规定，”人人有权享有主张和发表意见的自由；此项权利包括持有主张而不受干涉的自由，和通过任何媒介和不论国界寻求、接受和传递消息和思想的自由。”
History of development and suppression[编辑]
尽管希腊哲学家柏拉图和苏格拉底在有限程度上讨论了思想自由，the edicts of King Ashoka (3rd century BC) have been called the first decree respecting Freedom of Conscience. In European tradition, aside from the decree of religious toleration by Constantine I at Milan in 313, the philosophers Themistius, Michel de Montaigne, Baruch Spinoza, Locke, Voltaire, Alexandre Vinet, and John Stuart Mill have been considered major proponents of the idea of Freedom of Conscience.
Queen Elizabeth I revoked a thought censorship law in the late sixteenth century, because, according to Sir Francis Bacon, she did "not [like] to make windows into men's souls and secret thoughts". During her reign, philosopher, mathematician, astrologer, and astronomer Giordano Bruno took refuge in England from the Italian Inquisition, where he published a number of his books regarding an infinite universe and other topics banned by the Catholic Church. After leaving the safety of England, Bruno was eventually burned as a heretic in Rome for refusing to recant his ideas. For this reason he is considered by some to be a martyr for free thought.
然而，思想自由可以通过审查制度、逮捕、焚书和政治宣传加以限制, and this tends to discourage freedom of thought. Examples of effective campaigns against freedom of expression are the Soviet suppression of genetics research in favor of a theory known as Lysenkoism, the book-burning campaigns of Nazi Germany, the radical anti-intellectualism enforced in Cambodia under Pol Pot, the strict limits on freedom of expression imposed by the Communist governments of the Peoples Republic of China and Cuba or by right-wing authoritarian dictatorships such as those of Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Francisco Franco in Spain.
Freedom of expression can also be stifled without institutional interference when majority views become so widely accepted that the entire culture represses dissenting views. For this reason, some condemn political correctness as a form of limiting freedom of thought. Although political correctness aims to give minority views equal representation, the majority view itself can be politically correct; for example, college student Max Karson was arrested following the Virginia Tech shootings for politically incorrect comments that authorities saw as "sympathetic to the killer". Karson's arrest raised important questions regarding freedom of thought and whether or not it applies in times of tragedy.
- Palko v. State of Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 .
- General Comment No. 22: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18) : . 30/07/93. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, General Comment No. 22. (General Comments). United Nations Human Rights Website - Treaty Bodies Database. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1993-07-30 [2007-10-21].
- Eugene J. Cooper, "Man's Basic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience in the Bible : Reflections on 1 Corinthians 8-10", Irish Theological Quarterly Dec 1975
- Luigi Luzzatti, "The First Decree on Freedom of Conscience" p. 47 in God in Freedom. [15 September 2014].
- Luzzatti, p. 91.
- Brimacombe, Peter. All the Queen's Men: The World of Elizabeth I. Palgrave Macmillan. 2000: 125. ISBN 0-312-23251-9.
- Arturo Labriola, Giordano Bruno: Martyrs of free thought no. 1