European Court of Human Rights Again Upholds Religious Freedom, Handing Down Victory for the Church of Scientology

Church of Scientology, Los Angeles

by STAND League — In a unanimous December 14, 2021 decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)[1] again ruled that the Russian government has violated the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression of Scientologists as guaranteed in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The three-judge Committee, composed of members from Russia, Estonia and Switzerland, awarded damages totaling €12,500 to Moscow Scientologists and the Church of Scientology International. This decision comes on the heels of a separate September decision from the ECHR finding in favor of Moscow Scientologist Vladimir Leonidovich Kuropyatnik, concluding Kuropyatnik had been illegally deprived of his liberty by the Russian government, in contravention of international human rights standards, simply because he is a Scientologist.

The Church of Scientology has to date won every case it has brought before the ECHR to protect the rights of its members to freely practice their religion in the Russian territory.

The Court unanimously found there was “no evidence” to support the Russian government’s suppression of Scientology religious scriptures and that proceedings in Russian courts have been biased, “stripping [Scientologists] of procedural protection” afforded them by the Convention. The Court also noted that the Church of Scientology Moscow was registered as a religious organization in Russia for more than two decades and that Russian authorities had never questioned the religiosity of Scientology throughout domestic court proceedings leading up to the case being brought before the ECHR.

Article 9 of the ECHR Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

STAND applauds the ECHR for its steadfast protection of religious freedom and fundamental human rights.


[1] ⬆︎ The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) consists of 17 judges of the ECtHR and is convened in exceptional cases. Its verdicts cannot be appealed. Cases that raise serious questions of interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights, a serious issue of general importance, or which may depart from previous case law can be heard in the Grand Chamber. A panel of five judges decides whether the Grand Chamber accepts the referral.