Prof. Pietro Nocita - Considerations on Rudy Salles’ proposal at PACE

Pietro Nocita

In the ideological and political view of the European States, there is principle which cannot be negotiated: the guarantee for each individual to consider his State of belonging as a common home both for believers of all faiths and for non-believers alike.

Discrimination of any citizen, based on his/her faith or his non-faith, is not allowed.

Each State must prevent anybody from persecuting or discriminating any person based on his religious faith.

There is a necessary corollary that goes along with this non-negotiable right, and this is the fact that the State must protect, besides the freedom of conscience, also the freedom of worship and expression; the State must allow everyone to:

a) choose a religious option;

b) not to choose a spiritual or religious option;

c) change his/her religious belief;

d) renounce to his/her religious belief.

Only operating with this general framework in mind, the States’ domestic legislations or the European directives shall work without incurring in violations of human rights, which demand the existence of categories of rights that are non-negotiable.

The term “religious cult” has assumed a negative meaning and the members of that group are regarded with suspect.

Already in the Christian religion, the first followers were qualified as “cult” and persecuted with atrocity for a very long time.

In the real world, the so called cult has always represented a minority that differs from the mainstream thought in relation to a certain view, and in our case, of a religious one.

One cannot not to consider that the concept of State itself is based on an underlying social contract, and that – due to its nature – is subject to continuous evolutions and changes.

Moving from the principle of an ever changing social contract, it is out of question that the individual States and the European Community tend to compose the single faiths in an acceptable compromise of coexistence.

The defense of the truths of faith professed by a single religion is an integral and inescapable part of a democratic and equal coexistence.

The outward expression of one’s faith is an intangible right which derives from the freedom of thought.

The duty of a State is not that to determine on which side the truth stands: that professed by group A or that professed by group B?

The duty of reconciling the different positions – by choosing agreed upon regulations that do not harm the principles guaranteed by the Declaration of Human Rights – stands with the political power.

Often, because of a created alarmism that lacks any scientific consistency, concerns arise such as that of “brainwashing”, or certain religious groups end up being labeled as psycho-cults.

Such formulations are lacking any scientific support and they manifest themselves through attempts of suppression against certain individuals, suppressions assuming violent connotations or legal semblance.

Sin is not a synonym of crime, and the laws cannot assume the nature of absolute truth, being them aimed to issue rules of coexistence.

No one can impose a faith, everyone must respect the religious beliefs of others.

The Council of Europe, as invoked by Rudy Salles, had to issue recommendations in 1992 and 1999.

From such recommendations one can deduct that the Council of Europe considered that a specific legislation on the sectarian phenomenon was not necessary, because in contrast both with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and with the fundamental liberties.

When in 1999 the Council again had to take up this topic, they reiterated what already stated in their recommendation n. 1/78 of 1002.

The arguments and proposal of Mr. Rudy Salles, through the mention of the protection of minors, contrast with the position that the Council of Europe has taken on this issue, and tend to damage the non-negotiable rights of the individual.


a) There’s no need for a collection of information on cases of abuses connected to cults.
The nature of the abuses, which supposedly consists of a negative influence exerted on minors, is undetermined and generic.
Abuses having the characteristics of a crime are already punished by existing laws in the individual States.

b) The gathering of information on movements of religious nature contrasts with the elementary principles of freedom granted to each individual, a freedom guaranteed both at national and communitarian level.

c) We can agree on the scholastic education related to the history of religions.

d) Equal positive consideration can be expressed on the need of respecting the compulsory school.

e) The creation of a State of Police concerning the phenomenon of the so called cults is not in compliance with the communitarian principles; the means to ascertain abuses already exist and abuses are punished by the laws of the individual States.

f) The mention to the psychological-physical weakness of the individual opining the door to abuses, makes reference to a conduct that is very difficult to ascertain; conduct that gives cause to judicial abuses and that is excluded by all States due to its inherent vagueness.The admission as civil party of an association strikes against the principle of coexistence of different ideas. The request for damages on the part of associations, civil parties, is inadmissible, because from any legal case acted upon – related to crimes committed by the so called cults – the associations do not suffer an immediate and direct damage.

g) Totally  useless are the financial costs for the establishment of entities, because in each State there is already an organization entrusted with the research and condemnation of any abuse.

h) Each religion has an impact on the individual practicing it.

The creation of groups of study on movement considered sectarian ones, is useless and in contrast with the principle of the democratic and secular State.

Pietro Nocita