Speech given the 16 October 2013 in Brussels at the Seminar “Freedom of opinion, religion and belief — Persecution of, and discrimination against, minority-groups” Organized by EIFRF with the partnership of
• The Gerard Noodt Foundation for FoRB
• United Sikhs International
• Pro Europa Christiana
• Soteria International
• CAPLC Europe
• FOREF Europe
Mistreatments of religious minorities: the French Model
by Eric Roux (Steering Committee of EIFRF)
Some other speakers will speak of the good practices that exist in Europe regarding the treatment of religious minorities but I will have the difficult task of describing a country with a system which is known for its discriminatory and bad practices. Unfortunately, I know this country pretty well, as it is mine: France.
For your understanding of the French system regarding religious minorities, or even religions at large, I will explain how this system works, and what are its particularities.
So let’s start by the governmental aspect of it. In France, there is a governmental agency called MIVILUDES, a French acronym which means in English “Interministerial Mission of vigilance and fight against sectarian deviances”. It falls directly under the governance of the French Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, the word “sect” or “cult” has no legal definition in France, which allows this kind of agency to use it against every movement, religion, or even individual that they want to get the rid off. This use of the word “sect” allows them to target any group, by making a distinction between “good” and “bad” religions, distinctions which are made by the State, even if without any legal ground, in an absolute violation of any International or European Human Rights standards, but also in violation of the French constitution, which forbids to the State to interfere in the sphere of religions or to discriminate between religions.
A sectarian deviance is defined in the 2008 annual Report of the MIVILUDES as mental subjugation whereby: “One or more people start to believe in certain ideas which differ from the ideas generally accepted by society.”
Other French government officials have made public pronouncements regarding their “fight” against what they consider to be “deviating” beliefs. For example, at a conference given by MIVILUDES at the Lyon City Hall in November 2009, the French Secretary of State for Justice, Jean-Marie Bockel, stated:
“The sectarian phenomenon can be analysed as pathology of belief against a background of individuation and deregulation of belief.”
Such statements, which have been published in national media, have been posted on the official website of the French Ministry of Justice where they stand to date.
Protection of religions – big and small – is state’s duty
by Bashy Quraishy
Secretary General – EMISCO -European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion – Strasbourg Member – Advisory Board – Migration Research Centre – Hacettepe University – Ankara. Turkey Chair-Advisory Council-ENAR – Brussels
I want to thank the organizers of this important meeting for inviting me to speak on the an issue, which is very close to my heart, namely the right of every human being to have a religion, practice it and not be discriminated, harassed or vilified.
I am saying that not as a person belonging to Islam, the second largest faith in the world or as a deeply religious person, which I am not but as a co-citizen in this continent of Europe, which claims to be the centre of democracy, equality and the rule of law.
In short, societal accept and respect of an individual, group or a movement to have a religion, faith, belief system or traditions, to practice it in peace and to propagate it without restrictions and interference.
I am also honored to be among such wonderful and dedicated souls who want to make a difference by bringing people together to discuss in detail the trend in Europe to increase restrictions on freedom of religion and clandestine efforts by some countries through their NGO proxies – by providing them money, support and placing them in very important public institutions like COE, UN, OSCE and other respected organizations.
Many people, with whom I work on daily basis, often warn me to be careful in my contacts with cults or small religions. They are dedicated human beings. Their hearts beat for justice and equality. They fight against racism, want to eliminate discrimination and intolerance.
But when it comes to religions which are small in their eyes or who are under constant attack in the western media, the same decent people, all of a sudden become prejudiced and intolerant. It is heart breaking. I simply do not understand their logic.
I do not divide people according to their religions. I 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. Not even my own religion – Islam and definitely not Christianity. If every thing the western media says about my religion is true, then I must be the most primitive, intolerant, uneducated and fanatical terrorist of all times.
I think that the holders of this so-called western civilization are afraid to admit that there are other alternatives to their way of living and solving society’s problems.
In the month of June 2001, something very unusual happened in French history. French President Jacques Chirac signed a bill, which practically prevents small religions and faiths to exercise their right to propagate and recruit new followers.
The main argument for the law was that it will scare the new age religions and sects to brain wash innocent and weak souls. These sects are in the eyes of the French State, dangerous and oppressive therefore it is clearly the duty of the State to act to protect its citizens.
French Secularism and Europe
by Patricia Duval
Attorney at Law – France Specialist in European and international Human Rights law Master in Public Law and European Union Law, La Sorbonne, Paris
Secularism of the French institutions has been achieved through a long process starting with the French Revolution of 1789 and continuing through the enactment of the 1905 law consecrating the separation of Church and State. This transitional and confrontational period eventually resulted in the 1905 law, which has ensured secularity and neutrality of the French institutions and equality of all religions before the law.
This law, which has guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of cult, has been the end of an evolution designed at extracting the Catholic Church from the State institutions. During this evolution, the Republicans, who harbored anti-clerical sentiments based on the Church’s cooperative relationship with the former Monarchy and its abuses, as well as its omnipotence in the French institutions, opposed supporters of the Catholic Church, especially the legitimist Catholics, partisans of the legitimate king.
This opposition materialized in particular in the conflict concerning education, and the Catholic Church’s omnipresence in the education system.
Finally, in the 1880s, Minister of Public Education Jules Ferry had laws enacted ensuring free, mandatory and secular education.
However, this was followed by a period of extreme repression of Catholic communities when the President of Council (equivalent to Prime Minister) was Emile Combes, a former Doctor in Theology and apostate, who was a radical anti-clerical.
In 1904, a law was enacted to prohibit teaching to all congregations, authorized or not, even those which had existed for over a century. A total of around 15,000 charities of congregations – schools, community clinics or charity homes – had been closed down since 1901, and around 30,000 clerics forced to exile. The Chartreuse Order of cloistered monks (The Carthusians), founded in 1084, was evacuated by the army. In May 1904, diplomatic relationships with the Vatican were broken off.
Combes was applauded for his extreme measures by the Republican partisans of what they called “Total Secularism” (“Laïcité intégrale”) and who nicknamed him “Little Father Combes” (“Petit père Combes”).
In December 1905, the bill of separation of Churches and State, initially proposed by Combes in a version that was very severe for all denominations, even minorities, but modified under the influence of the more moderate Member of Parliament, President of the Commission in charge of reviewing the draft bill, Aristide Briand, was enacted.
The Right To Religious Freedom In The European Human Rights Protection System
And Some Good Practices to be Followed by States
By Alessandro Amicarelli PhD
Alessandro Amicarelli is a lawyer in private practice and belongs to the BAR of Italy and the Law Society of England. He specializes in human rights having a PhD from the Sapienza University of Rome. His specific field of interest is that of minorities and religious minorities rights. Between 2005 and 2012 has lectured in human rights at the University of Urbino. Being also a graduate in Middle East Studies he follows with particular interest the developments of the Muslim communities in the East as well as in Europe.
The number of complaints filed before the European Court of Human Rights concerning religious freedom has dramatically increased since the first judgment issued in 1993. In this presentation we will have a look at the basics of the right to religious freedom as well as at the most recent cases dealt with by the European Court and at some good practices that should be implemented by states in respect of minority religions rights and informed on the principles of equality and non-discrimination too.
PAR. 1 Religious Freedom in the European Convention on Human Rights
The right to religious freedom is protected in conjunction with the right to freedom of thought and conscience by article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Paragraph one enunciates the content of the right to freedom of religion and its extension. Paragraph two sets out the possible limitations to such right(s) and the criteria that must be fulfilled for these limitations to be acceptable.
This article protects the inner creeds and personal beliefs of people.
Such beliefs and creeds relate to so-called forum internum, meaning the internal representation that everyone has of the most important things they believe in. Such sphere is inviolable and no limitation is allowed to States. Another aspect of religious freedom is so-called forum externum. This is a multifaceted concept and relates to the manifestation of inner convictions, it concerns the right to manifest people’s creeds, religions, beliefs and so on.
Not only beliefs strictly related to mainstream religions are protected by art. 9 ECHR.
The former European Commission on Human Rights stated that “pacifism as a philosophy […] falls within the ambit of the right to freedom of thought and conscience. This attitude of pacifism may be seen as a belief (“conviction”) protected by art. 9(1)”. (Arrowsmith v. UK 1978).
Such a wide approach does not imply that all beliefs fall under the protection accorded by the Convention: e.g. the Court has stated that discriminatory and offensive beliefs “which are incompatible with the values proclaimed and guaranteed by the Convention, notably tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination” cannot benefit of the protection acknowledged by the ECHR (Norwood vs. UK 2004).
Furthermore to be protected by art. 9 of ECHR such beliefs have to consist in “views that attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance” (Campbell & Cosans vs. UK 1982). Beliefs are more than opinions or ideas protected by art. 10 ECHR (Arrowsmith vs. UK, 1978).
As a general rule, States are allowed to “interfere” with people’s rights placing limitations and restrictions to one or more rights, included the right to religious freedom, when this becomes necessary or opportune.
It is the European Court that evaluates if the restriction was justifiable on the basis of the European Convention by following a test aimed at analysing if the limitation was prescribed by law, had a legitimate aim and was necessary in a democratic society.
Spain before religious minorities: learning from our mistakes
By Juan Ferreiro Galguera
Full professor of Ecclesiastical Law at University of Coruna
Former D/Director General for Promotion and Protection
of Religious Freedom at the Spain Ministry of Justice.
In this speech I am going to talk about three things. First, I will refer to the constitutional principles that should be respected in any kind of State-Church relations. Second, how these principles have been implemented by administrative acts regarding religious minorities. And third, I will show two examples of good practices concerning legal recognizing of religious minorities which we had learned from two previous mistakes.
Art. 16.1 of Spanish Constitution recognizes the fundamental right of religious freedom for individuals and groups and remarks that the only limits of Religious Freedom are those necessary for the maintenance of public order protected by law.
Law 7/1980 of Religious Freedom have implemented this concept of limits, enshrining two kinds:
1) Respect for the fundamental rights of others and
2) Public Order, a legal concept which has 3 dimensions: public security, public health and public morality
According to the Constitution, all the relationships between the public powers and religious groups should be developed in a metaphorical area formed by two coordinates:
– the principle of non confessional State (in Spanish, laicidad o aconfesionalidad)
– the principle of cooperation.
In other words, all relations between public authorities and denominations should take into account those two tenants.
1. The principle of non confessional state, which comes from a constitutional declaration (“No religion shall have State Character” –art. 16.2 of Spanish Constitution-), is based on two pillars:
Enhancing Freedom of Religion or Belief in the EU
By Hans Noot
President of the Gerard Noodt Foundation Member of the board of the ICRLS
Problems in the EU?
Participating in platforms that deal with Human rights in the EU, I often wondered if fighting for Freedom of Religion or Belief, for which my organization stands, is really the most worthy of all causes. After all, I hear of problems amongst the Roma Gypsies, Cyber security, problems with the ability for governments to pay pensioners their hard earned wages, liberation of the LBGT’s and their quest for recognition of legal marriage, rampant and increasing child abuse, a seemingly thriving sex industry and slave trade, secularization and a change of moral standards as shown in the latest collapse and chaos in the financial sector.
One wonders if the EU really has issues regarding Freedom of Religion or Belief. Some even claim that we should focus on Syria, Africa or Asia. This quest has made me travel throughout the Middle East, participating in peace initiatives there, and to Tajikistan where we tried to persuade Civil Society of a so-called secular nation with 95% Muslims that torture is an unacceptable violation of human rights and there should be separation between not only State and Religion, but also between the Judiciary and Politics. It has caused me to do research regarding Freedom of Religion in Japan and Korea, and I have travelled extensively throughout Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. And the answer is: “YES, even we in the EU have concerns with Freedom of Religion or Belief that need to be dealt with. Let me give you a cross-view of some of the issues that I have observed.
· Many young religious immigrants are fleeing Greece back to their homeland because they face implicit and explicit persecution from some individuals and groups who consider them outside the acceptable main stream of Greek Religious or Cultural norms. And it is not just Golden Dawn that drives them out; it is lack of social acceptance towards non-Greeks that drives Golden Dawn, enhanced by the fright of Greeks to lose their precious few jobs to non-Greek Nationals. Currently, religious proselyting for non-Greek Orthodox people in Greece has become a dangerous sport.
· Poles, Czechs and Slovenians are condemned and kicked out of the family when they are converted to a faith other than that of the local religious tradition. I have personally seen several Young Single Adults being put on the streets because they joined another faith. Interesting enough, the parents are often not believers of their own faith themselves, but feel obliged to defend the traditions of their forefathers.
· Many Northern Germans, Scandinavians and Finns find it difficult to find or keep a job if they do not belong to the Lutheran tradition. In Belgium and other states the same is true if one is not of the Catholic persuasion.
· In many countries people are afraid of Muslims and Jews. Anti-Semitism and Islam phobia is rampant throughout the EU.
· Gay movements have been ousted by many Religious organizations and are trying to find ways to lobby for greater equality.
· Humanists in Great Britain complain when they hear of Religions growing and progressing in various locations throughout the EU. In actuality, Humanists should be working together with individuals and groups who believe in religious freedom.
· The headscarf issues in France are not just about head scarfs and Hijabs, but an expression of fear of change to traditional French societal norms because of influences from immigration. This same fear of change to traditional society exists in many countries in Europe.
So far, most of the remedies currently advocated in the EU promote legal solutions based on constitutional laws. Each nation subscribes to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, which includes Freedom of Religion or Belief. Each EU nation has laws in place, and many cases go higher up to Strasbourg, where they seem to be more than 110.000 cases behind.