On January 28 an online seminar entitled "Religious Freedom, Laws of 1929 and Treaties: an impossible reform?" was held. It was organized by the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) in order to address an issue of great interest in the debate of Italian scholars who are interested in religious freedom, hoping for an important reform at national level that could ensure greater equality of religious and spiritual groups.
The Seminar, broadcasted via Zoom and reproposed in full (in Italian) at the bottom of this page, was masterfully moderated by journalist Marco Respinti, editor-in-chief of the magazine Bitter Winter, and chaired by FOB president Alessandro Amicarelli, saw the participation of well-known scholars in various relevant fields, such as law, sociology and anthropology.
President Amicarelli underlined how the Laws of 1929, daughters of the Fascist regime, had the historic role of concluding the long-standing Roman Question, which began with the occupation of what remained of the Papal State following the expansion of the newborn Kingdom of Italy beyond the Tiber. The Laws of 1929 remained practically untouched until 1984, when a small and partial reform was carried out, however, only of the concordat part of the Laws themselves, a reform that in truth would change very little in substance in the following years, despite the expectations of many in lay circles and within the communities of non-Catholic faiths (to use a terminology dear to the Italian legislator). It should be noted that, almost a century after the adoption of the same Laws, wanted directly by Mussolini in order to repair relations with the Holy See, the Italian Parliament has been unable to adopt a comprehensive reform worthy of a democratic country, perhaps not yet fully freed from the Fascist regime whose legal system has never been completely eradicated after the transition to democracy.
The speeches, which followed one another in an orderly and perfectly concatenated lineup, analyzed the issue of state obligations and relations between the state and religious and spiritual denominations from different perspectives and complementary points of view.
Germana Carobene, jurist and associate professor at the Federico II University of Naples, spoke on the theme "Intercultural Laity and Religious Minorities", deepening, with passion and tenacity, a topic of a certain interest for Italian society, even though it is too much relegated to the field of academic studies and research and not enough to practical application, if we consider that Italy, despite being a secular country on paper, in reality is not so insofar as it does not ensure respect for religious and spiritual diversity in an intercultural key, unlike other realities in which diversity is ensured despite the respect for the most typical traditions of the place.
FOB secretary Silvio Calzolari, an orientalist and professor of historical-religious disciplines in Florence, spoke on the theme "Does Religious Freedom Need Legal Recognition?", stressing on several occasions how hostility towards diversity has strongly influenced the adoption of new agreements with religious denominations and minority spiritual groups, giving very interesting concrete examples, also in relation to groups that are not properly religious, such as the Grande Oriente d'Italia (GOI), one of the best known Masonic fraternities in Italy.
Nicola Colaianni, former Cassation magistrate and professor of ecclesiastical law at the University of Bari "Aldo Moro", then addressed the issue of "The relationship between common law and treaties", partly disagreeing with Silvio Calzolari's statement regarding the alleged hostility towards groups other than the Catholic religion, on the other hand, he believes that the fact that there have been many Agreements with different minority groups, and in the case of Buddhism for example, there have even been two distinct courses of action that led to the approval of two different Treaties, one with the Buddhist Union and one with the Soka Gakkai, is a clear sign of respect for diversity in the adoption of the Agreements.
Marco Croce, researcher and professor at the University of Florence, examined in depth the theme of "Bills on religious freedom", reviewing, with a meticulous and compelling reconstruction, the different and adverse events that have characterized the various attempts to reach a reform of the sector, a reform that in truth has never risked being completed due to the inability of the legislator to truly identify the aims, objectives and scope of a reform of this kind.
It was then the turn of Prof. Pietro Nocita, distinguished lawyer and former Professor of Criminal Procedure at the University La Sapienza of Rome, as well as past-president and founder of FOB, who addressed the issue, dear to him, of "The current regulatory status on the Treaties" which, as recalled by him, he had thoroughly discussed in his speech during International Conference “Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, an Arduous Journey” held in Florence in 2018 under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and which, as recalled by Prof. Nocita, saw FOB receiving from the President of the Republic Mattarella, the prestigious Medal of the President, delivered personally to Prof. Nocita, with which he expressed his closeness to FOB the work done to protect freedom of belief.
Afterwards, Vincenzo Pace, professor of sociology of religions at the University of Padua and director of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR), intervened with an in-depth discussion on "Treaties without treaty: reflections on the process of recognition of Islam and on the limits of the current pact regime in Italy", addressing an issue very dear to FOB and certainly to prof. Pace, that is, both the question of the Treaty with Islam, which seems never to reach a positive conclusion, both because of aversion in part of Italian society, despite the clear constitutional dictate in this regard, and also because of internal conflicts within the organizations of the Islamic world, which constitutes a variegated constellation of groups often very different from each other.
The Seminar of Studies was concluded by a speech of Massimo Introvigne, world renowned sociologist of religions, director of CESNUR and of the magazine Bitter Winter, which has focused on the issue of incorrect differentiation, both from the legal and sociological point of view, between good religions and cults, necessarily bad, recalling also the existence of a real Islam and a perceived Islam, thus pointing out how a certain degree of ignorance certainly conditions the development of a program of Agreement for Islam in Italy, with responsibility undoubtedly on the part of the Islamophobes, but also involuntarily on the part of some Muslim communities that sometimes seem to be more committed to quarreling among themselves than to focusing on a common interest, as has happened instead in several other countries.
Introvigne concluded by highlighting the fact that the distinction between good and bad, Italian peculiarity, has even led to the creation of a police force, created with a simple letter from the then Chief of Police, the SAS, Anti-Cult Squad, an organ of dubious constitutionality, often denounced even at international level, which has as reference consultant a Catholic priest exorcist, in this certainly not assuring tertiarity, and for this same reason raising doubts about its function in a secular and democratic society, considering also that it has shown not to have successfully concluded any case, and indeed has proved to be a harmful entity for some communities against which it has been hurled with ad hoc media campaigns.
FOB will continue to organize other seminars of study and deepening of topics of interest by giving visibility on this site.
Below is the complete video of the seminar in Italian.