Regarding Discrimination on Scientology and Others in the Russian Federation

Scientology Presentation to Working Session 6 at the OSCE – ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of 2017 Warsaw, Poland • Oral presentation at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Meeting of 2017, Working Session 6. From the Church of Scientology Human Rights and Public Affairs Office, Mr. Ivan Arjona delivered a statement: “Regarding Discrimination on Scientology and Others in the Russian Federation,” presented in full below.

Read more at World Religion News: “Regarding Discrimination on Scientology and Others in the Russian Federation”.

Ambassador Michael Kozak of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor On the 2016 International Religious Freedom Annual Report

Special Briefing

Ambassador Michael Kozak, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Via Teleconference
August 15, 2017

 

MS NAUERT: Well, welcome to our call today with Ambassador Mike Kozak of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Ambassador Kozak will talk about the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, which Secretary Tillerson released about an hour ago here at the State Department. This call is on-the-record, although it’s embargoed until the end of the call.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Kozak. Thank you, sir.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you, Heather. I thought I might just briefly introduce what the report is, how it’s prepared, the purposes it serves, and then be ready to take your question. As Secretary Tillerson mentioned in his remarks, the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 requires the Secretary of State to prepare and transmit to Congress an annual report on international religious freedom describing the status of religious freedom in foreign countries and U.S. actions and policies in support of religious freedom worldwide.

Department of State officers in our embassies and consulates around the world, working with the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, obtain input from governments, media, NGOs, and others to come up with the content that goes into the report. The purpose of the report is to give Congress and the Executive Branch data to inform judgments about foreign assistance, allocation of diplomatic resources, and other issues, including adjudication of asylum and refugee requests. It is not designed to pass judgment or to rank other countries, but rather to create a fact-based review for use in U.S. Government decision making.

The instructions for preparing the report are the same for all countries. We do not single out countries or religious groups for special treatment. The record should be based on a country’s actions, not on anybody’s preconceived notions. The report does not automatically affect policy, but it does provide the factual input to policy decisions that get made during the year.

I would also note that as – that this is the first religious freedom report to be issued under this administration – as the Secretary pointed out in his remarks, the administration is making a strong commitment to advancing religious freedom for all. The President, the Vice President, and the Secretary have all emphasized religious freedom as a priority of the administration. As the Secretary mentioned, Governor Brownback is the highest-ranking person to be nominated for the ambassador-at-large position since its creation in 1998. The U.S. has multiple ways to advance these rights across the world, and congressional actions add to them and last year strengthened those mechanisms. We will continue to lead the international community and partner with allies on ways to advance this issue.

Just a few highlights, and a bit in the good news program. First, that ISIS is being defeated. And since the defeat of ISIS in great chunks of Iraq, it means that religious minorities can return to their liberated towns and villages, and the next challenge is to see that they have security and that their homes are rebuilt. There is also good news in terms of positive U.S. engagement. For example, due to steady engagement, and despite the severe religious freedom problems that the Secretary mentioned, Sudan this year released some people who were imprisoned for their religious beliefs.

Vietnam also, as a consequence of heavy U.S. engagement, improved its religion law. At the same time, in both countries the situations remain of great concern, and so we will stay engaged. But this is the kind of activity that we’re looking for, incremental progress in improving religious freedom.

We’ve also had some positive overtures from the Uzbek Government, such as the president there’s offer to amnesty to some religious prisoners. And if implemented, this would address a key religious freedom concern in Uzbekistan. We’ve also, as the Secretary mentioned, asked the Sudanese Government to engage on religious freedom concerns and to work on an action plan for improving religious freedom in that country.

One note is that there is a growing consensus on the need to act. The genocidal acts of ISIS awakened the international community to the threats facing religious minorities. And in response, the U.S., with our Canadian partners, created a network of more than 20 countries focused on advancing religious freedom. It’s called the International Contract[1] Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

There is also increasing religious tolerance in some parts of the world. In Marrakech, Islamic scholars got together and issued a declaration promoting equal citizenship for religious minorities. In Tunisia, there was a remarkable display of government support for the annual pilgrimage to the Djerba island synagogue. And in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and Oman allowed the construction of churches to host large expatriate communities, as well as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras.

So with that, I will be happy to take your questions about the report. Please do stick to the report itself, which covers calendar year 2016. If you have questions about other issues or other periods of time, our regular spokespeople will be able to take those questions on another occasion. But with that, I’d be happy to take your questions and comments concerning the report.

MS NAUERT: All right. Thank you, Ambassador. First question, please.

OPERATOR: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, again, if you do wish to ask a question, please press * followed by the 1. You’ll hear a tone indicating that you’ve been placed in queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the pound key. Once again, for questions please press *1 at this time.

Our first question comes from Matthew Lee with the Associated Press. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi there. Thank you for taking my question. I’m just – I imagine other people are going to have similar questions, so I’ll make this one really brief. I’m wondering how the report can – and the Secretary can – square the line, the protection of these groups, referring to the ISIS victims, and others who are targets of violent extremists remains a human rights priority for the Trump administration – how do you square that with the refugee decision? The appendix on refugee admissions to this report mentions that refugee admissions are a vital tool in helping to deal with religious persecution.

Read FULL ARTICLE HERE

My Thoughts on the Scientology Religious Order—the Sea Organization on its 50th Anniversary

The religious order of the Scientology religion—the Sea Organization—celebrates its Golden Anniversary.
It was August 12, 1967, in the Spanish Canary Islands. Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard had resigned from the position of Executive Director of the Church a year before, was pursuing a research project into the spiritual nature of mankind, assisted by a handful of veteran Scientologists. On this date, he published a directive stating that this group, the Sea Organization, is now “a permanent establishment within the official Scientology network.” Today, a corps of some 7,000 men and women, the Sea Org is the religious order of the Scientology religion. Its members administer and protect the purity of the religion. Historical Background of Religious Orders Gautama Buddha (ca. 563–483 BCE) created the  Read more at World Religion News: “My Thoughts on the Scientology Religious Order—the Sea Organization on its 50th 

Freedom of Religion Defined in Landmark New Website from the Church of Scientology

The Church of Scientology has launched a comprehensive repository of information on religious freedom for students of religion, public officials and anyone seeking to further their understanding of this cherished right.

A new website has been established to provide a comprehensive resource for the bona fides of Scientology by religious scholars, recognitions of Scientology in countries around the world and the Church’s commitment to freedom of religion for every human being—accessible to all at scientologyreligion.org.

A comprehensive repository of information on religious freedom at www.scientologyreligion.org

The website provides an in-depth understanding of Scientology and landmark decisions in countries the world over that define religion and thus protect the very principles of religious freedom for all. For those who value freedom of religion as an essential human right, this site serves as a comprehensive research resource.

As scientologyreligion.org begins, “Millions of people around the world sincerely believe in the religious tenets and practices of Scientology. For every one of these individuals, Scientology is their religion and fulfills their deepest spiritual needs—the most important test of any true religion of the world, used by the United States Supreme Court and High Courts in many other countries as the standard and test of a religion.

“Nevertheless—if one relies on secondary sources—courts, scholars and governmental agencies around the world have repeatedly determined that Scientology is bona fide in all respects. This website provides an overview of these international recognitions and expertises.”

Among the features of the website:

  • A new publication titled What is Freedom of Religion? Religious freedom and tolerance have always been an important principle at the heart of Scientology. Despite religious freedom issues appearing prominently in global headlines, many do not understand what these rights encompass or what the term really means. Religious freedom is not a privilege provided by a government, but an individual’s birth right.What is Freedom of Religion? takes up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Bill of Rights and addresses key issues that have come under assault in this new millennium, such as freedom to manifest religion or belief; the right to formation, registration or recognition of legal religious entities; and rising social hostility against religion in the media.It proposes an incisive and highly relevant Charter on Journalistic Ethics in Relation to Respect for Religion or Belief.

  • Landmark legal decisions that stand as victories not only for the Scientology religion but for religious freedom everywhere. While these cases vindicate the rights of Scientologists to practice their religion, they also serve as benchmarks, setting aside archaic and restrictive definitions of religion and guaranteeing the rights of all faiths to practice freely. The website includes full details of these decisions as well as the Church’s religious recognitions in dozens of countries around the world.

  • Copies of expert studies by the world’s foremost scholars of comparative religion, history of religion, religious studies, and sociology, incontrovertibly validating Scientology as a world religion. These expertises provide a thorough understanding of how Scientology compares with other religions. They give an academic overview of the religion and the rich traditions from which Scientology springs.

  • The Creed and Codes, Axioms and Aims of the Church of Scientology. Written by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s during the formative years of the religion, they set the guidelines for the practice and expansion of Scientology and still serve those ends today.

  • The public benefit of the humanitarian initiatives and social betterment programs the Church of Scientology and its parishioners carry out and support. These bring effective solutions to bear on the global devastation and human misery wrought by drug abuse, human rights violations, illiteracy and moral decay. This section also covers the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, created in the mid 1970s by L. Ron Hubbard and sponsored by the Church of Scientology International as a religious social service.

  • Videos of distinguished scholars, rabbis, ministers of diverse faiths, officials, and social betterment professionals speaking about the bona fides of the religion and the public benefit delivered through Scientology humanitarian and social betterment activities.

  • International human rights standards regarding freedom of religion detailed in international human rights treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and numerous guidelines set by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. All pertinent articles are quoted and the full text of the documents are linked to for ease of reference.

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The Church of Scientology has championed religious freedom and human rights since its inception, all toward accomplishing the Aims of Scientology as put forth by L. Ron Hubbard in 1965:
“A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights.”

The protection of Religious Freedom improved now by the Council of Europe

At the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Rapporteur Mr. Valeriu Ghiletchi proposed the members of the Assembly coming from the 47 countries a Resolution and a Recommendation for “The protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities”.

After having conducted very intense debates at the very Committee of Equality and No discrimination of the Council of Europe, both the resolution and also the recommendation have been finally approved by the Assembly, and as it couldn’t be otherwise after his work and his last speech, Mr. Ghiletchi was applauded for his tenacity and courage by all present in the Assembly at the end of the votation.

 

Mr. Ghiletchi was assigned as Rapporteur by the ¨Committee on Equality and No discrimination of the PACE after a motion for resolution (N ° 13333) in which it explains that:

“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”.

 

After that he prepared his report during two years and finally came up with this Resolution and Recommendation to encourage the 47 member states of the Council of Europe to protect these fundamental rights.

The Resolution 2163, which has now been approved last  27 of April 2017 at the Second Session of the Plenary Assembly, invites the member states to protect the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities adopting practical measures, legislative or of any other kind, 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.

 

At the Recommendation 2101, which was laso approved by the Assembly, the PACE asks the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (which is formed by Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 47 member states) to:

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.

 

The European Inter-religious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF), of which Iván Arjona is part of since 2014, cooperated with the Rapporteur Mr. Ghiletchi durin the time in which he was preparing the report and resolution, providing him with factual data about the subject of violations of parents and children rights by member states, obtained from many of the 47 countries that are part of the Council of Europe.

Additionally, members of EIFRF, as well as the Spanish Fundación Mejora also work other entities and members of different majority and minority religions, informing about the importance and necesita of this Resolution and Recommendation to the members of the parliaments of the different delegations such as the ones of Spain, Ukraine, San Marino, Italy, United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and many others, in order to obtain the necessary support for this resolution that protects all citizens from potential interferences of the member states in the effective exercise of the religious freedom protected not only by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights but also the very European Convention on Human Rights.

 

“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 Eric Roux, President of the EIFRF.

Today was again a good day for Religious Freedom.

You can read the resolution and recommendation in full as adopted today by the PACE by clicking here..

Special Rapporteur Reports to UN Human Rights Council on Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council during its March 2017 regular session

The rise of hatred, hostility, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief was the subject of the first presentation by United Nations Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Rapporteur spoke during the 34th regular session of the Human Rights Council that ended its annual March four-week session March 26. Mr. Shaheed expressed his concern to the delegates about “continuing reports of mass atrocities and violence that threaten the very existence of religious minority communities, including some groups that have existed for over two millennia.”

Mr. Shaheed was appointed in November 2016 with the mandate to identify existing and emerging obstacles to freedom of religion or belief and to present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles, His report emphasized that freedom of religion is an individual right, and he outlined the operational approach to human rights implementation that includes “focus on laws, courts and other conventional aspects of compliance, as well as efforts by the State, through policy, programmes and activities, to translate commitments to human rights into practice.”

He stated that he also wishes to ”build on existing synergies within the United Nations framework by working with partners across the wider United Nations human rights system to mainstream the promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief in its work, and to increase the salience of the core principles related to this right.”

“State and non-State actors, alike,” Mr. Shaheed noted, “continue to impose restrictions (or limitations) and engage in targeted harassment, intimidation of, or discrimination against religious minorities, unrecognized religious communities and dissidents, who are often confronted with threats to their freedom, safety and security.”

Read the full report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

For more information, see What is Freedom of Religion?