European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom

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On behalf of EMISCO, European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, its Secretary General Bashy Quraishy has written to the President of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mrs Anne Brasseur, to alert her on the danger of the report written by Mr Rudy Salles "The protection of minors against excesses of sects", that will be voted by the Assembly on the 10th of April 2014. According to EMISCO, "this report as well as the draft resolution and recommendation it contains, are violating basic fundamental rights standards that the Council is supposed to uphold and promote". Here is the content of the letter:


European Muslim Initiative alerts on Rudy Salle's report against religious minorities at PACE
Dear Sir/Madam,
 
EMISCO is a gathering of scholars, community workers and NGOs from various Muslim communities in Europe to participate in, contribute to and foster a better atmosphere of cooperation for the common good of all citizens and residents in the Europe. We are strongly committed to the upholding of human rights and shared values.
 
It is in this context, we would like to draw your attention on the report “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” that has been adopted by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE on Monday March 3 in Paris, and is expected to be voted upon by the Assembly in the April plenary session.
 
This report, at a first glance, seems to be designed to protect children, and for us at EMISCO, the welfare of all children, including ethnic and religious minorities – their opportunities for a good education and loving up bringing is essential for the continuation of a harmonious society.
 
However, we would like to express our concern about the way this report is formulated, and we are not totally in agreement to its real purpose.
 
The Council of Europe has always been a strong body to protect human rights, yet it appears that this report as well as the draft resolution and recommendation it contains, are violating basic fundamental rights standards that the Council is supposed to uphold and promote.
 
First of all, the use of the word “sect”, a very pejorative word, is used in some western and eastern European countries to stigmatize minority religions or groups and create a narrative of “good” and “bad” religions. We should not divide people according to their religions. We think there are good people and there are nasty ones in all societies and religions. There is no religion, which has a patent on goodness and nobility, and on the other side, no one and no religious group should be treated differently or demonized just because its beliefs are new or different. It should not be stigmatized in any manner such as being labelled as a “sect”.
 
The French agency MIVILUDES has been strongly criticized since years for the climate of intolerance that it instils in the French society toward religious minorities. This should not be allowed to spread in the rest of Europe.
 
Nevertheless, it is MIVILUDES, and its extension FECRIS (FECRIS is an “NGO” funded entirely by the French government), that the Rapporteur Rudy Salles has chosen as his main sources of information for writing his report. Of course they cannot be considered as impartial spectators when dealing with the phenomenon of religious minorities.
 
The rapporteur did not conduct an impartial research and in fact ignores all the previous and current works on this topic that are easily available. It seems that they have been ignored on purpose, as every piece of work that have been done by real experts on human rights issues and experts on religious issues stress the fact that no distinction should be made by States between “good” and “bad” religions, “sects” and “traditional religions”, etc., as these distinctions are based on opinions and always lead to dangerous discrimination. The first people to suffer from such discrimination and stigmatization are the children themselves, when they or their parents belong to a “non-­‐ traditional” faith labelled as “sect”.
 
We would also like to point out that the European Union has recently issued “guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief”, which recalls that freedom of Religion or Belief “are universal and are to be respected on a non-­ discriminatory basis”. These guidelines contain: “10. In line with these provisions, the EU has recalled "freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, applies equally to all persons. It is a fundamental freedom that includes all religions or beliefs, including those that have not been traditionally practised in a particular country, the beliefs of persons belonging to religious minorities, as well as non-­theistic and atheistic beliefs.”
 
In the past, the parliamentary assembly had adopted the views of Mr Nastase’s Report regarding the word “sect”. The report pointed out the danger of using this word and finally recommended:
 
“ In reality, the only means of avoiding this trap is to eschew any kind of classification of the beliefs concerned as non-­religious beliefs or as religions. This brings us to the third and final possible course, which in our view is the only acceptable one. It allows us to avoid the pitfalls outlined above by adopting a more descriptive approach to the world of sects and by concentrating not on the classification of beliefs but on the acts committed in the name or under cover of these beliefs. Hence we can refer to groups of a “religious, spiritual or esoteric” nature. Thus the various facets of beliefs are accommodated in a general formula which is not negative per se.”
 
At least, by applying this recommendation as it had been done in 1999, the Assembly would avoid the discrimination that will otherwise stem from the Rudy Salles’ report as it is now. Nevertheless the measures that are proposed in the resolution still would be contrary to fundamental human rights policies.
 
These are the reasons why we are expressing our strong concern about this report and we encourage the members of the Assembly either to send that report back to Commission to be reworded in order to comply with human rights standards, or to reject the resolution, or, at the very least, to amend it so it becomes acceptable as regards to the commitments of the member states of the Council of Europe.
 
Kind regards, 
 
Bashy Quraishy
Secretary General 

Download the original letter to Mrs Brasseur from EMISCO:


emisco_to_coe.pdf EMISCO to COE.pdf  (222.36 KB)

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, March 29th 2014 | Comments (0)

Here is the official statement of the Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain

CONCERNS ON THE RESOLUTION “THE PROTECTION OF MINORS AGAINST EXCESSES OF SECTS” WHICH WILL BE VOTED ON AT THE BEGINNING OF APRIL 2014 AT THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE.


Spanish evangelical federation stands up against Rudy Salles' report at PACE
The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain through this letter expresses its concern about the upcoming vote that will take place at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) regarding the Report adopted by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights based on a motion presented by the Rapporteur Mr. Rudy Salles entitled: “The Protection of Minors Against Excesses of Sects”.

Our Federation is against and will always condemn any illegal behavior or abuse of a minor or person of legal age, be it perpetrated by a religious group or person or anyone else. However, we fear the possibility that Resolutions like this one that will be voted on in the near future could be used to legitimize abusive and discriminatory interventions by the States in the sphere of religious freedom and freedom of conscience of the citizens. Some Human Rights organizations have reported on the increasing religious intolerance in Europe in the last 10 years. They have also alerted the public that we need to be especially careful regarding regulations and initiatives of some States which incriminate sects and which have become repressive measures for the manifestation of ideas and behaviors that deviate from commonly accepted ones, with the risk of punishing every sort of proselytism or dissemination of the beliefs, negating or restricting the minorities from their autonomy of their personality and from their freedom of belief and conscience.

Hereinafter, we point out in a summarized way, some of the most worrying aspects about the motion intended for approval at the Parliamentarian Assembly:

1.    There are doubts about the neutrality, impartiality and objectivity of the Rapporteur of the motion, Mr. Rudy Salles. There are complaints about it, which should be valued and examined, because they warn that the aim and objective of the Rapporteur could be not the protection of minors, but to establish in Europe the same control system of sects that exists in France, a system that has been very controversial and that moreover comes from a very specific reality, the French one, and which has nothing to do with the reality that exists in other European countries. Therefore, it is about a system that it is not easily transportable to the European sphere. We consider that it is needed to examine this matter to avoid that the protection of minors (something on which everybody agrees) is not in reality a mere excuse to, in practice, adopt measures that may unjustifiably restrain and limit religious freedom.

2.    The proposed motion uses the word “sect” in a pejorative way, equaling this concept to “destructive sect”. The utilization of this concept is extremely delicate.
In the first place, it is needed to highlight that there is no consensus about the concept of sect and there is no scientific or objective definition of it. In fact, the concept of sect has been frequently used by majorities to fight and combat minorities, and for this reason the position of the European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights, has been to not give a definition of this concept.

In second place, and even more serious, is the fact that the motion equates sects with “new religious movements” and “minority religions”. The United Nations has clearly declared that religious discrimination based on stigmatization of minority religions as sects is unacceptable. Even the Council of Europe has stated on different occasions that the word “sect” has taken an extremely pejorative connotation, because it stigmatizes in the eyes of the public the groups that are referred to with this word. The labeling of minority religions as sects can result in serious consequences due to stigmatizing them and putting them under the suspicions of criminal behaviors. This could become a step backward in all the work that has been done to date on the subject of religious freedom and the social integration of minorities and in all the efforts that have been done to normalize and visibilize existing religious pluralism in Europe.

3.    The existence of people who, under the protection of religious freedom, infringe the law in a very serious way is an indisputable reality, and we understand solutions to these situations must be sought. Notwithstanding this, we consider that there are enough criminal regulations (which could be improved) to punish criminal behavior that affects minors. In Spain for example, there is the possibility that a specific group could be declared an illegal association; our Criminal Code covers crimes against physical and moral integrity, etc. We do not consider that it is neither needed nor advisable to adopt sect control and repression measures, especially when there is no consensus about this concept and when these are being compared, as already said, to new religious movements and religious minorities.
 
In virtue of the above,

WE REQUEST that after examining the resolution proposed by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe, analyzing the objectives sought with the proposed measures and the consequences that those could have against freedom of religion, the no discrimination for religious reasons and the normalization of the diversity and the religious pluralism of Europe, to vote against the motion “The Protection of children against the excesses of sects” at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
 
In Madrid, March 24th 2014

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, March 29th 2014 | Comments (0)

Considerazioni sulla proposta di Rudy Salles in PACE
Nella ideologia degli Stati europei e nella visione politica degli stessi è punto di principio non negoziabile la garanzia del diritto di ogni individuo di considerare lo Stato di appartenenza quale casa comune dei credenti di tutte le fedi e dei non credenti.

Non è consentita discriminazione alcuna del cittadino per la sua fede o la sua non fede.

Ogni Stato deve impedire a chiunque di perseguitare o discriminare taluno per ragioni di fede religiosa.

A tale diritto non negoziabile fa da corollario necessario il fatto che lo Stato debba proteggere, accanto alla libertà di coscienza, anche la libertà di culto e di espressione; lo Stato debba permettere a tutti di:

a) scegliere un’opzione religiosa;

b) non scegliere un’opzione spirituale o religiosa;

c) cambiare il credo religioso;

d) rinunciare al credo religioso.

Soltanto in tale quadro generale possono la legislazione singola degli Stati o le direttive europee operare senza incorrere nella violazione dei diritti dell’uomo che impongono la sussistenza di categorie di diritti non negoziabili.

Il termine “setta religiosa” ha assunto un significato negativo e gli appartenenti al gruppo sono guardati con sospetto.

Già nella religione cristiana i primi aderenti furono qualificati setta e lungamente e atrocemente perseguitati.

Nella realtà, la cosiddetta setta ha sempre rappresentato una minoranza che si distingue dal pensiero della maggioranza su una determinata concezione, nel caso che ci riguarda religiosa.

Nella concezione dello Stato non può non considerarsi che lo stesso, che si basa su un contratto sociale sottostante, per sua natura sia soggetto a continue evoluzioni e mutamenti.

Muovendo dal principio del contratto sociale in divenire, è indubitabile che i singoli Stati e la Comunità Europea, tendano a comporre le singole fedi in un accettabile compromesso di coesistenza.

La difesa della verità di fede professata da una singola religione è parte integrante e ineludibile di democratica e paritetica convivenza.

La espressione verso l’esterno della propria fede è intangibile diritto che deriva dalla libertà di pensiero.

Compito di uno Stato non è quello di accertare da quale parte stia la verità: quella professata dal gruppo A o quella professata dal gruppo B?

Appartiene al potere politico il dovere di contemperare le varie posizioni con lo scegliere dei regolamenti condivisi e non lesivi dei principi garantiti dalla dichiarazione dei diritti dell’uomo.

Spesso per allarmismi, pur scientificamente inconsistenti, si profilano timori quali il “lavaggio del cervello” o si qualificano taluni gruppi religiosi come psico-setta.

Tali impostazioni sono prive di qualsiasi sostegno scientifico e si esternano attraverso tentativi di soppressione nei confronti di taluni individui, soppressioni che assumono atteggiamenti violenti o di parvenza legale.

Peccato non è sinonimo di reato e le leggi non possono assumere la natura di verità assoluta, consistendo la loro natura nell’emissione di regole di convivenza.

Nessuno può imporre una fede, tutti devono rispettare i convincimenti religiosi degli altri.

Il Consiglio d’Europa, per come anche richiamato da Rudy Salles, ebbe ad emettere delle raccomandazioni nell’anno 1992 e nell’anno 1999.

Da tali raccomandazioni si evince che il Consiglio d’Europa ha ritenuto non necessaria una legislazione specifica sui fenomeni settari in quanto in contrasto con l’art. 9 della Convenzione europea dei diritti dell’uomo e delle libertà fondamentali.

Allorquando nel 1999 ebbe ad interessarsi nuovamente dell’argomento ribadì il contenuto della raccomandazione n.1/78 del 1992.

Gli argomenti e le proposte del Sig. Rudy Salles, attraverso la menzione di tutela dei minori, contrastano con la impostazione tenuta sull’argomento dal Consiglio d’Europa e tendono a ledere diritti non negoziabili dell’individuo.

Specificamente:

a) non è necessario raccogliere informazioni su casi di abusi da parte delle sette.

La natura degli abusi, che dovrebbe consistere in influenza negativa sui minori, è indeterminata e generica.

Gli abusi che hanno natura di reato sono già puniti da leggi esistenti nei singoli Stati.

b) Le informazioni sui movimenti di carattere religioso contrastano con gli elementari principi della libertà di ciascun individuo, libertà garantita a livello nazionale e a livello comunitario.

c) Si può concordare sull’educazione scolastica riguardante la storia delle religioni.

d) Eguale considerazione positiva può esprimersi sul rispetto della scuola dell’obbligo.

e) Non è aderente ai principi comunitari la creazione di uno Stato di polizia che riguardi il fenomeno delle cosiddette sette; la verifica degli abusi è già esistente e sanzionata dalle leggi dei singoli Stati.

f) L’accenno alla debolezza psicologico-fisica dell’individuo che consente abusi riguarda condotta difficilmente accertabile; condotta che dà adito ad abusi di giudizio e che da tutti gli Stati viene esclusa per la sua indeterminatezza intrinseca.

L’ammissione come parte civile di associazione urta contro il principio di coesistenza di idee diverse.

La richiesta di danni da parte di associazioni, parti civili, è inammissibile perché dagli eventuali processi per reati commessi dalle cosiddette sette non deriva alle associazioni danno immediato e diretto.

g) Del tutto inutili sono le spese finanziarie per la costituzione di enti in quanto in ciascuno Stato vi è già un organo preposto a ricercare e condannare qualsiasi abuso.

h) Ogni religione ha un impatto sull’individuo che la pratica.

La creazione di gruppi di studio su gruppi considerati settari è inutile ed in contrasto con i principi dello Stato democratico e laico.

Rédigé par Pietro Nocita le Saturday, March 29th 2014 | Comments (2)

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