European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom


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Opposition to the Council of Europe’s Upcoming Vote to Establish “Sect Observatories” and “Sect Awareness Sessions” Swells (via World Religion News)

Next week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will vote on a Report and Resolution that proposes to adopt the controversial and internationally criticized policies of the French government towards minority religions so that these…

Rédigé par World Religions News le Friday, April 4th 2014 | Comments (0)

Today, the THE GUILD OF EXPERTS ON RELIGION AND LAW, based in Moscow, sent a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In their letter, these Russian law experts raise strong concerns about the report "the protection of minors against excesses of sects"drafted by French rapporteur Rudy Salles. They say: "The exportation of this ideological biased system from France to other countries of the Council of Europe would be a very unconsidered move for the Assembly.
For these reasons, and many others that we can’t obviously raise all in this letter without writing a book, we would like to ask the Assembly to not engage in such a risky path, a path which will encourage discrimination, persecutions of religious minorities throughout the member States of the Council of Europe." Here is the text of the letter (and below the letter itself):

Rudy Salle's report at PACE: THE GUILD OF EXPERTS ON RELIGION AND LAW in Russia raises strong concerns for religious freedom
Mrs Anne Brasseur
President of the Parliamentary 
Assembly of the Council of Europe
Avenue de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex 
Moscow, the 24th of March 2014
Dear Mrs Brasseur,
Having read the draft report by Mr Rudy Salles, from the French delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly, “The protection of minors against excesses of sects”, we would like to express our concern regarding the content of the report, as well as the resolution and recommendations it contains.
First of all, the report affirms peremptorily some “truths” that are not based on facts, and that are contradicted even in the report itself. For example, in para 5, it is stated: “The Assembly notes that the phenomenon of excesses of sects affecting minors is ever more present in Europe.” However, in the report itself, all the data show that there is no evidence of such a phenomenon. The reports even affirms that there is a “lack of comprehensive data on the subject, especially in central and east European countries, and the lack of practical and effective action against the phenomenon in most Council of Europe member states”. Such a report, recommending for strong measures against so-called “sects”, should be based on strong facts, and on the contrary, it is based only on an ideology not supported by any fact.
The term “sect” is a pejorative term which is used in the entire world to stigmatize religious minorities, and justify some of the worst persecutions by governments, mainstream State religions or else, of these minorities. In Russia, for example, it is used to fight and persecute many non-orthodox Christian groups, as well as Muslims, Hindus, new religious movements, some Jewish communities, etc. 
The use of this term by governmental bodies is since a long time considered as violating Human Rights, as it has been expressed by the ODHIR at the OSCE , by the UN special Rapporteur on Freedom of religion or Belief , but also by the Council of Europe itself .
Children must be protected and there is no doubt that the Convention on the Rights of the Child should apply in any community, religious or not, traditional or non traditional. However, the report is done in a way that goes against this very convention. Targeting the children and parents of so-called sects will lead undoubtedly to violations of the articles 2.1, 2.2, 14.1, 14.2, 14.3 and moreover article 30 of this convention.
This is also encouraging violations of the rights of parents to educate their children in conformity with their own convictions, as discrimination arise when some religious groups are targeted as “non traditional”, “sects”, cults”, etc. And children must be protected from discrimination, and violation of their rights including article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This report, poorly made, contradicts also the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. When some courts have tried to prosecute new religious movements on the basis of the peremptory statement that they were “sects” and that for that reason Children were at stake. In Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, the Court recalled that Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention on Human Rights requires the State to respect the rights of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their own religious convictions and concluded:
“Both parents, even in a situation where they adhere to differing doctrines or beliefs, have the same right to raise their children in accordance with their religious or non-religious convictions and any disagreements between them in relation to the necessity and extent of the children’s participation in religious practices and education are private disputes that are to be resolved according to the procedure established in domestic family law.” [para 125]
The resolution also proposes “Extensive awareness-raising measures for welfare services, judges (in family law cases, especially when parents separate), civil servants, the police and ombudsmen’s”. These “awareness raising measures” on so called “sects” have existed in Germany and the UN Human Rights Committee, in its 1996 Concluding Observations regarding Germany, have recommended that Germany discontinue "sensitizing sessions for judges against the practices of certain designated sects”. These “awareness raising sessions” also exist in France, where they constitute one sided indoctrination sessions that have resulted in strong discrimination against religious minorities or new religious movements. These sessions are absolutely contrary to the Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)12 
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities: 22. In their decision making judges should be independent and impartial and able to act without any restriction, improper influence, pressure, threat or interference, direct or indirect, from any authority, including authorities internal to the judiciary. (…)
57. An independent authority should ensure, in full compliance with educational autonomy, that initial and in-service training programmes meet the requirements of openness, competence and impartiality inherent in judicial office.
The whole report is openly based on data provided by FECRIS and the French Miviludes. FECRIS is known for associating with the “mighty” and discriminate against religious minorities they label as “sects”. They cannot be considered as neutral, fair or reliable for such a report which touches such an important issue. FECRIS is almost entirely funded by the French government, so it is not a surprise that they are linked to the French Miviludes, an internationally criticized body which is suppose to fight against “sects”. The exportation of this ideological biased system from France to other countries of the Council of Europe would be a very unconsidered move for the Assembly.
For these reasons, and many others that we can’t obviously raise all in this letter without writing a book, we would like to ask the Assembly to not engage in such a risky path, a path which will encourage discrimination, persecutions of religious minorities throughout the member States of the Council of Europe. Every religion is a minority somewhere. Every religion is a “sect” somewhere in the views of some others. The Council of Europe is here to protect the Right to Freedom of religion or Belief of every person, including the ones who are members of religious minorities. This report should be, at the very least, sent back to Committee for further review until it is done properly and that the resolution and recommendation it proposes respects Human Rights international standards.
Warm regards,
Roman Lunkin,
President of Guild of Experts on Religion and Law (Moscow, Russia)

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, April 2nd 2014 | Comments (0)

The famous Christian newspaper Nederlands Dagblad (Netherlands Daily) published yesterday an article about the numerous protest letters sent to members and President of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe on the issue of the Rudy Salles' report and the threat for religious freedom it represents. Here is an english translation of the article.

Nederlands Dagblad newspaper article on Religious Freedom at stake at PACE
Protest against European anti-sect plan increases

(source nl)

STRASBOURG - More than sixty humanitarian and religious organizations in Europe are protesting heavily against a plan to set up a watchdog against cults. The plan of the French politician Rudy Salles is a profound violation of the freedom of religion.
Sixty-four organizations and spiritual leaders from Europe and the United States are "deeply concerned" about the proposal of Salles which will be submitted next week in the Council of Europe. In a joint statement they asked President Anne Brasseur of the Council of Europe to send the proposal back to the Committee on Legislation and Human Rights.
Salles advocates the establishment of an 'observation centre that serves to protect minors against sectarian influences'. In the draft report Salles suggests that the extent of "sectarian excesses" increases and more and more young people are at risk. To prove that trend Salles has gotten a questionnaire filled out and did two visits, to Germany and Sweden.
The joint organizations think that Salles' proposal to monitor religious splinter groups is a threat to  fundamental human rights, like the freedom of religions and the right of parents to raise their children to their own judgement. In addition the establishment of an observation centre against sects affects the neutral position of governments towards churches.
Thin slice
Also the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), the Forum for Religious Freedom in Europe (Foref) and other agencies turn themselves with strong words against the proposal. "The evidence Salles comes up with is thin slice. The report should be rejected ," says Christel Ngambi, spokesman for the EEA. The Alliance is a partnership of fifteen million evangelical Christians in 34 European countries.
"Europe has adequate laws and safeguards against illegal practices of sects, "says Ngambi." Salles wants the Council of Europe to radically change direction. His proposal is at odds with decisions and declarations of the council in the past 22 years." In addition, the 47 EU member states have sufficient laws to guarantee the rights of children in religious minorities.
President Peter Zöhrer of Foref adds that Salles has not complied with the required impartiality of rapporteurs. For many years, Salles has been closely associated with the French lobby against sects and a convinced supporter of organizations fighting faiths." Salles is neutral nor impartial," says Zöhrer, "and didn't care for the code of conduct for rapporteurs of the Council of Europe ."
Also the Italian constitutional law professor Pietro Nocita has joined the chorus of opponents. He believes that the establishment of a watchdog against cults is not in line with European principles and fundamental rights. "The European countries have already established legal sanctions against abuses." He also denounces the superficial definition of "abuse" in the proposal of Salles: "He speaks about a negative influence on young people, that wording is vague and general."
Written by Gerhard Wilts

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, April 2nd 2014 | Comments (0)

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