Fabrizio D'Agostini - Florence 7 april 2017


Video and text of the speech by lawyer Fabrizio D'Agostini, Councillor of FOB, held on 7 april 2017 at the presentation of the Acts of the 1st Conference by FOB, Laicity and Freedom of Belief in Italy.

If one were to examine, one after the other, the interventions, the reports and the testimonies of the 1st Congress of F.O.B. held at Montecitorio in December 2015, now contained in the acts here presented, in order to find in the diversities of each intervention a common denominator, namely the reason of the defense of freedom of religion and belief in Europe and the criticism, even harsh, to the infringement of such freedom, I think this common tension could be detected in at least three values: the defense of the "fundamentals" of Western liberal or social democracy; the "faith in the dignity and worth of the human person" and the search for peace among citizens not only in Europe.

Peace really as citizens, cives of a polis extended to the entire world.

Of course, under the common tension, one could probably locate other even more important and decisive values, since the defense of the right of freedom of religion and belief exceeds - with due respect of Carl Schmitt and of the "political categories" - the mere dynamic of groups.

Of those groups that identify themselves with the tragic logic behind each persecution and pogrom, that is the “friend-enemy” type of logic, choosing instead the dynamic of mankind, i.e. "the others", the “all the others" type of logic.

Therefore democracy, dignity and peace as citizens.

It is indeed from these three very values that the secular State arises and is in turn founded.

Secular and right to freedom of religion are therefore a kind of hendiadys, seen that it is in the secular State that freedom of religion was historically founded and is still founded today.

Therefore, the link between legal system and civil rights of freedom, present in all the modern Western States constitutions is a constitutive and historical link.

Constitutive because civil rights are the foundation of democracy.

Historical, because the link is at the top of a long, long history often, even today, bloodstained.

Due to this, to this bond, both in the merits and historical, it is extraordinary that the first Conference of F.O.B., of which today we present the acts, was held at Montecitorio, seat of the Chamber of Deputies and in the Hall of the Globe, as if to emphasize the Italian State's choice to be present with all its power and authority in the defense of the right to freedom of religion and belief of all its citizens.

Furthermore, the relationship between the State as a legal system and the civil rights, found the most noble foundation in Hegel's thought and work that, from the very early works, from the Bernese fragments (1795-1796) to the Nuremberg high school classes (1810 § 4), up to the philosophy of law (1821, § 270), claimed the right of freedom of thought, the right of freedom of religion, constantly asserting that such right is inalienable, because humans are rational beings, namely autonomous beings, able to freely decide to which principle they should submit themselves.

And, for Hegel, it is the duty of State itself to be the best guarantor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought.

I believe the work of Hegel founded, to a large extent, the current Western "frame of mind", both in the United States – where Hegelianism was spread by German immigrants before the pragmatism and which, in the dialectic relationship, it seemed able to reconcile the Northern and Southern States in the higher federal unity – and in continental Europe.

"Frame of mind" containing the roots of the modern constitutional State, to such a degree as to consider the civil rights and, first and foremost, the right of freedom of religion, so intimately connected to the nature and substance of the constitutional state of law, to be viewed as "preconditions" of the state and of the liberal or social democracy.

Of course, the modern state and the modern democracies in addition to the so called rights of freedom are also characterized by political rights and social rights (Bobbio), but the Constitution of that State and of that form of government stems from those "preconditions" without which it cannot come into existence.

Therefore, the set of the first conference of FOB at Montecitorio has been beautiful and – allow me to say – Hegelian.

As above said, the history of the right of freedom of religion is precedent, but its acceleration takes place in the "fear" of World War II and immediately afterwards.

And here it is correct to talk about the scared humanity.

In the speech of the Four Pillars, or Four Freedoms, the American President Roosevelt, in January 1941, addressing the Congress of the United States, proposed as a second pillar on which the future international society should be based, "the freedom of every person to pray God the way one likes best, anywhere in the world" (freedom of speech, freedom from need and from fear).

A few months later, in August of the same year, with the United States now at war, President Roosevelt met Winston Churchill off Newfoundland and signed the "Atlantic Charter". That Trans-Atlantic agreement was the original Act of the future United Nations.

On the 26th of June 1945 in San Francisco, for the first time in the history of mankind, 50 states from all over the world signed the Charter of the United Nations. Such Charter, with the greatest possible emphasis, declared in its preamble the purposes that the UN still have; that is: peace, faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equality of races and between the nations are the commitment to establish the conditions of international justice, to promote progress and social welfare, to practice tolerance.

On the 1st of January 1948 the Italian Constitution came in effect.

On the 10th of December 1948, with 48 votes in favor and eight abstentions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed that, at art. 18, establishes the right of freedom of religion for "everyone" (article 18 expressly invoked in the statutory purpose of F.O.B.).

Within a few years, a series of new constitutions was signed, as if the whole Western world was looking for a "new beginning", for a redemption from the horrors of a war that had made the issue of its own survival a capital issue.

In 1946, the new French Constitution founded the frail IV Republic recalling the rights of freedom of the 1798 "declaration of the rights of man and citizen”.

In 1949, the "German Basic Law", deeply modifying the Weimar Constitution and introducing for the first time the civil rights as actual rights of the citizens rather than as a mere a program addressed to the legislator (remarkably, amongst the civil rights of freedom was introduced the right of "resistance"), was promulgated.

Spain will establish the civil rights in its Constitution only in 1978, after the death of Generalissimo Franco.

The European Union and then the European Community will see the light indeed from this "new beginning", if not particularly on the base of this common choice.

The history of civil rights becomes the history of the European peoples and countries.

The Community with the single European Act of 1987, bases on the protection and dissemination of civil rights the reasons for its existence, once and for all.

From that "new" beginning 100 years have not yet elapsed, therefore the civil rights and the right of freedom of religion, mark a young season of humanity, particularly of the West.

We consider them "preconditions" of the modern democratic or social state, we now look at them as historical certainties, securities belonging to our lives and to our experience without which we would lose our identity and wouldn't any longer be what we are. ...

On the contrary, one is to be aware that they are newborn rights and that they are frail and must be protected and defended, and that equally frail and newborn in them is our identity

Therefore, in the "age of rights", Bobbio, in the disquieting evolution of the Western States and of humanity at large, admonished to ruthlessly defend the civil rights.

The defense of civil rights, along with the emergence of progressive political and social rights, characterized the second half of the XX century.

The beginning of the new century has rather loaded with problems the defense of civil rights.

In the face of what Huntington called a "clash of civilizations" and of the Diaspora of an entire continent, those rights and our identity in such rights today reveal their frailty.

The single example of the issue of the veil in France suffices to emphasize how real that frailty is.

The veil of the women, adopted as a symbol of Islamic piety, at first, based on the right of freedom of religion was recognized as legitimate in schools and in public and today, a French law issued a few years ago, forbids its use in public for security reasons.

Right of freedom of religion and right of security. The prohibition contained in the recent French law was deemed legitimate, with some caveats, by the European Court for the protection of human rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg (on the basis of the "margin of appreciation" accorded to France).

It is in the awareness of such problems that F.O.B. saw the light, and such problems are reflected in acts of the conference, but that conference and these acts reaffirm simultaneously the strenuous defence of civil rights, "assumptions" of liberal and social democracy and reaffirm the “faith in the dignity and worth of the human person".

At the same time, that Conference and these acts also contain the choice of a future: that of peace amongst not just European citizens.
Citizens, cives of a polis extended to the whole world.

Fabrizio D'Agostini