Panelists look into threats to freedom of religion or belief and their resolution

ROME, Italy, Jun 19, 2024 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — University professors, government officials, parliamentarians and religious representatives gathered at the Church of Scientology in Rome last month for an international conference on freedom of religion or belief in Italy, throughout Europe and the world.

Entitled Freedom of Belief and Religious Recognition: Current State and Perspectives, the conference was organized in collaboration with the Observatory of Religious Entities, Ecclesiastical Patrimony, and Nonprofit Organizations of the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli of Naples, Italy.

Some European Union member states have drawn criticism for neglecting freedom of religion or belief within their borders. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that this neglect includes “restrictions on religious clothing, ritual slaughter, and so-called ‘sects,’ along with laws that target Muslims [and] impact Jews….” It documents that “individuals from religious minority groups, particularly Jews and Muslims, reportedly are increasingly choosing to emigrate.”

It was against this backdrop that the conference took place.

“Freedom of religion and respect for the beliefs of others are fundamental principles of the Church of Scientology as affirmed in the Creed of the Church of Scientology by Founder L. Ron Hubbard,” said Lina Pirotta, representative of the Church of Scientology in Italy, in her welcome address to conference participants.

The conference consisted of two international round tables and a series of panel discussions hosted by experts in the field of religion who explored different aspects of religious freedom and the importance of protecting this right with emphasis on the nations of the European Union.

The first panel brought together Senator Lorena Rios Cuéllar, former director of religious affairs for the Colombian government; Professor José Daniel Pelayo Olmedo, deputy director general for coordination and promotion of religious freedom of the Spanish government; and Dr. Gary Vachicouras, from the Institute for Postgraduate Studies in Orthodox Theology in Geneva. Panelists described the current situation regarding freedom of religion in Colombia, Spain and Greece.

A secular state, Colombia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion individually and collectively. In Spain, there are 26,000 religious groups registered in the Register of Religious Bodies. Dr. Vachicouras emphasized that by making the principle of freedom of belief a priority or standard, many conflicts and problems arising from plurality can be resolved.

The second panel included U.S. attorney and constitutional expert Austin Hepworth; Prof. Juan Ferreiro Galguera, professor of church law at the University of Oviedo, Spain; and Prof. Vincent Berger, former jurisconsult at the European Court of Human Rights.

Austin Hepworth described how the principle of religious freedom is applied in the United States, including a mention of the 1948 U.S.-Italy Friendship Treaty, which established a relationship between the two countries based on the shared values of democracy, freedom, and respect for religious and human rights.

Prof. Ferreiro Galguera emphasized the difference between a secular state such as Spain, which respects and cooperates with religious communities, and secularist states such as France, which interfere with these rights. He emphasized that a state’s tolerance of a religious denomination is not a substitute for the full religious recognition of that faith.

Professor Berger described remedies for limitations of religious freedom and problems of intolerance offered by the European Court of Human Rights when traditional channels fail.

The conference also included a discussion and analysis of religious freedom in Italy. Speakers included Maria D’Arienzo, professor of ecclesiastical, canonical, and confessional law at the University Federico II of Naples; Gianfranco Macrì, professor of intercultural law at the University of Salerno; and Francesco Sorvillo, associate professor of at the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli.

Their consensus was that Italy’s current constitutional views on religious freedom are dated. Adopted in 1929, when Italy was still a kingdom, the law predates Italy’s republican democracy and the pluralism in Italy today.

The second section of this panel featured Dr. Marco Respinti, editor-in-chief of and the Journal of CESNUR; Dr. Nader Akkad, religious affairs advisor of the Grand Mosque of Rome; and Mother Anastasia, legal advisor of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese.

Mother Anastasia spoke of the hardships resulting from 13 years of efforts to obtain recognition in Italy for the Romanian Orthodox Church. Dr. Respinti described the impact of media on religion and how media outlets perceive religiosity. Dr. Akkad emphasized the importance of dialogue among members of different faiths.

The overriding consensus that emerged from the conference was the need for greater attention to religious freedom and measures to protect this freedom for individuals and organizations in Europe and throughout the world.



News Source: Church of Scientology International

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