strasbourgToday in the Parlementary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rapporteur Valeriu Ghiletchi proposed a resolution and a recommendation for “The Protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities” to the members of the Assembly coming from 47 countries.

After intense debates, both the resolution and the recommandation have been approved by the Assembly, and Rapporteur Valeriu Ghiletchi has been applauded for his tenacity and courage by the whole assembly at the end of the votes.

Mr Ghiletchi had been appointed as rapporteur by the Committee on Equality and Non Discrimination of the PACE following a motion for a resolution (N° 13333) which stated:

The Assembly finds that new religious movements and religious minorities are especially at risk regarding the infringement of these rights by some member States.

Derogatory labeling of religious minorities as ‘sects’, ‘sectarian’, ‘cults’ or any other term generates bias and stigmatization and lead to undue restrictions to a parent’s right to raise and educate their children in conformity with their own beliefs.

The Assembly therefore resolves to study and identify cases where member States do not respect the rights of parents to educate children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions, especially with regard to minorities.

Then he worked out his report for two years and finally came with these resolution and recommendation in order to encourage the 47 States of the Council of Europe to protect these fundamental rights.

The resolution 2163 calls on Member States to protect the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities by taking practical steps, legislative or otherwise, to :

• affirm the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all individuals, including the right not to adhere to any religion, and protect the right of all not to be compelled to perform actions that go against their deeply held moral or religious beliefs, while ensuring that access to services lawfully provided is maintained and the right of others to be free from discrimination is protected;

• promote reasonable accommodation of the deeply held moral or religious beliefs of all individuals in cases of serious conflict to enable citizens to freely manifest their religion or belief in private or in public, within the limits defined by legislation and provided that this is not detrimental to the rights of others;

• repeal any law or rule which establishes a discriminatory distinction between religious minorities and majority beliefs;

• ensure easy-to-implement options for children or parents to obtain exemptions from compulsory State religious education programmes that are in conflict with their deeply held moral or religious beliefs; such options may include non-confessional teaching of religion, providing information on a plurality of religions, and ethics programmes.

The recommendation 2101 also approved by the Assembly, recommended that the Committee of Ministers (composed by the ministers of foreign affairs of the 47 member States):

draw up guidelines on how member States should make effective reasonable accommodation of deeply held moral or religious beliefs of individuals, while ensuring respect for the rights of others.

EIFRF collaborated with rapporteur Ghiletchi during the time he was doing his report by providing him factual data on the topic, gathered in many of the 47 countries of the Council. “We have strongly supported this report, and are very happy to see that it has now been supported by the whole Assembly for the good of all children that belong to minority beliefs. We have worked with other civil society organizations and together we did the best we could to help the Assembly in that very important task of protecting fundamental rights”, said Roux, Chairman of EIFRF.

Today was again a good day for religious freedom.

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