Rhodes blasts the Rudy Salles report “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” in the Council of Europe hearing (8 April 2014, Strasbourg):
Dr. Aaron RHODES President of FOREF Europe
Dr. Aaron RHODES
President of FOREF Europe
Dr. Aaron Rhodes
Co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project; President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe; former Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
I appreciate this opportunity to speak in the framework of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
As I understand it, the main role of the Parliamentary Assembly is to undertake investigations and make recommendations to the member states of the Council of Europe.
I am here to appeal to the members of the Parliamentary Assembly to soundly reject the resolution entitled “The protection of minors against excesses of sects.”
As a human rights advocate, I am certain that this resolution would not offer children any meaningful protection not already available to them under the laws of member states.
But if it were to pass, the resolution would itself constitute a threat to children, as well as adults, who are members of minority religions.
It would stigmatize them and increase the chances of them being exposed to prejudice, discriminated against, and even subjected to violence.
The proposal raises the obvious question: Why focus just on so-called “sects”? What about the threats to children by main-line religious organizations?
The resolution would be a strike against religious toleration and thus against democracy and human rights, which mean nothing if religious groups are not treated equally.
The resolution would be a stain on the Council of Europe. It is in no way consistent with the intent of the founders of the Council of Europe. Indeed, it is confusing that such a document, one that would weaken human rights protections and possibly inspire human rights violations, is even under consideration.
An impressive list of independent human rights organizations, and those that monitor religious freedom issues in particular, are calling for the rejection of this measure.
They are doing so because they understand that the work of defending human rights is often that of defending the rights of members of minority groups—linguistic, ethnic, racial, political, sexual, or religious minorities, whose rights and security are often threatened because of discrimination and prejudice.
Indeed, the whole philosophical edifice of human rights emerged with recognition of the moral obligation to respect people’s dignity, not because they are members of one’s own kin or shared one’s religion or nationality, or ethnicity or race, but because they are simply human beings. It is also a central tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Pluralism gave us our appreciation for the dignity of humanity as such, and for the universality of human rights.
We believe this Resolution violates the principle of State’s duty to neutrality in matters of religion or belief, treating some with greater suspicion than others, and stigmatizing their members.