Activities

Recent Studies on Scientology and “Labeling”, Part 2

by Alessandro Amicarelli — In a previous article, I examined Germana Carobene’s recent article on how Scientology is labeled as a “cult” (setta in Italian, secte in French) to deny it the status of a religion. Carobene is a professor of law, and she examines “legal narratives.” Rosita Šorytė has a different background, in politics, having served as a diplomat for 25 years. In an article on the labeling of Scientology published in the July-August 2021 issue of The Journal of CESNUR, she admits that she knew Scientology only from the media until she started working on religious liberty some years ago. She served as a diplomat in France and in the United States, where several media, although with differences between one country and the other, called Scientology a “cult.” They rarely defined what a “cult” was, but conveyed the impression it was something “bad.”

Recent Studies on Scientology and “Labeling”

by Alessandro Amicarelli — Why are some religions and religious movements labeled as “cults” or “extremist”? And what are the legal and political consequences of using such labels? Two recently published studies about how these labels have been applied to the Church of Scientology offer new insights on the matter. One, by a law professor, examines the legal side of labelling; the second, by a former diplomat, its political side. In this first article, I offer some comments on the study by law professor Germana Carobene, published in the Italian journal Stato, Chiese e pluralismo confessionale. In a second article, I will examine a somewhat parallel study by Rosita Šorytė published in The Journal of CESNUR.

The Church of Scientology. Religious narrative and legal configuration

Sociological and philosophical investigations, which are prodromal to a juridical reflection, show a difficulty in the conceptual framing of the term 'religion', both by those who claim a knowledge, a behavior - secular, agnostic or atheist - and by those who, questioning the beliefs, symbols, systems of representation of reality, produced by a certain society, want to safeguard the objects of investigation, leading them back to a claim of unquestionable scientificity. This term can, however, be used in its polyvalence, provided that it is not used to discriminate in a positive/negative sense the values and forms in which it is variously presented, since at its basis there must be the need to understand and protect the inmost area of individual freedom.

Dialogue and Respect to Solve the Tai Ji Men Case

by Alessandro Amicarelli — The webinar “Dialogue, Diversity, and Freedom: Reacting to the Tai Ji Men Case” was organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on May 24, 2021. This webinar was part of the events organized by NGOs for the 2021 United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which was commemorated on May 21. It was part of the monthly webinars on the Tai Ji Men case that Bitter Winter supports.

Stop the state funding of anti-religious activities of FECRIS groups

CAP Liberté de Conscience, FOB partner, has submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee in preparation for the review of France by the Human Rights Committee (132nd session in June-July 2021) recommending to stop State funding of anti-cult associations. The report may be consulted below or on the OHCHR.org website. The main beneficiary of this funding is the French association FECRIS. Or rather the French associations federated to it which, in turn, pass on these funds to their leading association: in fact, FECRIS has federated associations in 34 European and non-European countries.

The World's Youngest Political Prisoner: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

April 25th is a historical date, but it could also be considered a "historical oxymoron": the Italian people celebrate the anniversary of the liberation, while the Tibetan people celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the youngest political prisoner in the world, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, 11th Panchem Lama of Tibet. Recognized as the reincarnation of Tibet's second highest religious authority, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was officially instated by the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995. A few days later he "disappeared" along with his entire family and has not been heard from since. This deplorable disappearance swells the number of "desaparecidos" at the hands of the intolerant Chinese Communist regime. FOB joins the general outrage that this event arouses in those who firmly believe in human rights and in the value of freedom in all its forms, and strongly calls for the release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and all the Tibetan people.

NGO Open Letter to the Holy See on the Visit of Pope Francis to Iraq

As members of Iraqi civil society and international NGOs, we welcome the apostolic visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq in March 2021. At this critical moment in the country’s history, the visit represents an important opportunity to promote peace and tolerance by bringing together ethno-religious communities and inspiring collective action to prevent further atrocities of the kind that has caused so much suffering for generations.

Alabama Sued for Excluding Imams from Execution Chambers

by Alessandro Amicarelli — Those sentenced to death may be assisted in their last moments by a Christian chaplain only, even if they belong to another religion. Muslims protest. Last week, Imam Yusef Maisonet sued five members of the State of Alabama’s Department of Correction, including a Christian chaplain, over a policy that excludes Muslim religious figures from being present in the execution chamber when Islamic prisoners are executed.

Associations of “Victims” of Spiritual Groups: Some May Be False

by Alessandro Amicarelli — In these days, there are associations for “victims” of everything, from bullying in school to defective electronic products. As an attorney, I am sensitive to the fact that in the U.S. there are even associations of “victims” of lawyers. Several of these associations exist in the field of spirituality and religion. For example, groups such as Catholics Anonymous or Recovering Catholics gather “victims” of Catholicism—not of sexual abuse or with other specific grievances, just ex-members claiming that being part of the Roman Catholic Church was a victimizing experience.

COVID-19: 14 NGOs urge China, Iran and Russia to release all religious prisoners

HRWF (10.12.2020) – Fourteen human rights NGOs call upon the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19. These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.

Article 38: New French Anti-Extremism Draft Law Discriminates Against Foreign-Based Religions

A provision allegedly introduced to cut foreign funding to Islamic radical groups may in fact severely limit the activities of hundreds of different religious movements.

by Alessandro Amicarelli — Bitter Winter has covered the new French draft law on extremism, explaining why, as it previously happened in Russia, measures intended to contain Islamic radicalism and terrorism create dangers for freedom of religion or belief in general. One provision of the draft law that was overlooked by many, and which is no less dangerous than others, is Article 38.

FOB at the Third Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom

This year the awaited appointment with the Third Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was held online due to the well-known situation of Covid-19. We publish the speeches that the president of FOB, lawyer Alessandro Amicarelli, gave on 18 and 19 November 2020, as well as a brief summary of the speeches by professor Massimo Introvigne of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) and the president of our associated CAPLC (European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience) released on November 18.

COVID-19 Pandemic and persecution of religious and spiritual minorities

By Alessandro Amicarelli — Covid-19 has stopped the world, but it did not stop the persecution of minority groups in several countries. Our organisation, the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) which works with the All Faiths Network, had more work to do denouncing abuses and reporting the perpetrators to protect the victims, whilst keeping on advocating the protection of freedom of religion and belief for everyone.

Tax Justice and Religious Freedom: The Tai Ji Men Case and Beyond

Tax justice and religious freedom increasingly interact. The European Court of Human Rights is just one jurisdiction that ruled that the tax system cannot be used to discriminate against religious minorities. One of the longest lasting tax cases raising issues of religious liberty involved the Taiwan-based spiritual movement Tai Ji Men.

Interfaith Week 2020

On 13 November 2020, the All Faiths Network held its yearly Interfaith Week event to celebrate religions in their diverse manifestations as well as demonstrate how religions can work together. This year brought us new challenges with a UK-wide lockdown and many months of disrupted society, so we went on-line to hold a memorable and uplifting 2-hour event. AFN members were determined to rise above all these issues and show that religious communities contribute so much to breaking through the negative surrounding us to bring about a better world.