UC Members welcome Decision of Office of Religious Affairs

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Austria: Unification Church recognized as Confessional Community

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VIENNA, 20.06.2015 (FOREF) – The Austrian branch of the Unification Church (UC) has officially been registered by the Office of Religious Affairs (Kultusamt) on June 15, 2015. About 40 years after the administrative interdiction of the community in Austria its members welcome the step by the federal government to grant the legal status of a „confessional community“.

With its newly acquired legal personality the UC has been granted “state recognition without privileges”. The church is currently the eighth confessional community that is officially registered in Austria. The constitutional lawyer Prof. Bruenner, who has accompanied the procedure of the petition, appreciates the recognition of the UC by the government. “This is a sign of a pluralistic state under the rule of law. One of the most essential rights in a functioning democracy, namely the right to the freedom of religion, has hereby been granted“, Prof. Bruenner explained.

The alleged “threat of public security and order” through the teachings and practices of the UC – as it has often been purported by so-called cult experts – has been exposed by sociologists and scholars of religion as myth already in the early 1980s. Such prejudiced attributions have now been rebutted also on the part of the Austrian Federal Government.

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Submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of its Review of France June 2015

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Human Rights Watch Concerns and Recommendations on France

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Paris, 18.06.2015 (HRW) – Human Rights Watch welcomes the upcoming review of France by the Human Rights Committee. This briefing provides an overview of our main concerns with regard to France’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We hope it will inform the Committee’s review of France.

Abuses by law enforcement officials against migrants and asylum-seekers (article 7, paragraph 8 in the list of issues)

In November and December 2014, Human Rights Watch documented abuses by French police against migrants and asylum-seekers in the port city of Calais, in breach of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under article 7.The abuses described to Human Rights Watch included beatings and attacks with pepper spray as migrants and asylum seekers walked in the streets or hid in trucks in the hope of traveling to the United Kingdom. In response to these findings, French government officials either denied that such abuse took place, or claimed they did not have enough evidence to conduct investigations.

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Annual Report 2014

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European Parliament Intergroup presents its first Freedom of Religion or Belief World Report

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STRASBOURG, 03.06.22015 (EPI-FoRB & RT) – The European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance (EP Intergroup on FoRB & RT) presented its first Annual Report on the ‘State of Freedom of Religion or Belief’ at an event hosted by the Intergroup in collaboration with United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Speakers included the Chairs of the EP Intergroup on FoRB & RT and USCIRF as well as the Director of Human Rights at the European External Action Service (EEAS).

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Germany: Almost two years after violent privation of children, local court has not started to collect evidence

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Twelve Tribes:
No fair Proceeding,
OLG Munich criticizes Delay

Report by FOREF

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Eva and Besorah, two youth of the early christian community “Twelve Tribes”, protested during the traditional Stabenfest parade in the Bavarian Noerdlingen. They criticize the controversial action of the German authorities against the community.

MUNICH, 22.05.2015 (FOREF) – Altogether 40 children of the Christian religious community Twelve Tribes were separated from their parents in September 2013 and put into state custody (see FOREF- report from 01.01.2015). This action was justified by a temporary order of the local court of Noerdlingen, and carried out by a police raid. The Higher Regional Court (OLG) Munich recently criticized the family court about the unusual length of the procedures. Until now only 22 children were allowed to return to their parents. Most of them were old enough to run away from their isolation.

Eva, a youth member of the Twelve Tribes, was one of the 40 children and youth, that were separated from their parents during the police raid and brought to juvenile shelters (Jugendheim). Sabine Riede, a so called cult expert from the FERCIS affiliated Cult Info NRW, urged for this order, since she suspected systematic child abuse in the community. No evidence for abuse in the Twelve Tribes has been brought yet.

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Special Report to the Prime Minister of France mentions FOREF’s Role in torpedoing Rudy Salles’ Report

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French Anti-Cult Organisation MIVILUDES Recognizes FOREF’s Achievements in Promoting Universal Human Rights

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PARIS/STRASBOURG, 15.05.2015 (FOREF) –  A bit more than a year ago, on the 10th of April 2014 the motion of the rapporteur Mr. Rudy Salles titled “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” was debated at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Mr. Salles’ original resolution was flatly rejected by the Council. Contrary to his aims, the Council’s final resolution stressed the freedom of belief for both traditional and non-traditional forms of religion to be an equal right for all. Moreover, the Assembly is unequivocally committed to a policy against discrimination of minors on grounds of religion or belief, especially in schools and other educational institutions. MIVILUDES, a French GONGO and main financier of FECRIS, has publicly recognized FOREF’s achievements in pointing out crucial shortcomings in Mr. Salles’ draft in its latest report.  

Mr. Salles is a member of the French National Assembly and long-time associate of Mr. Georges Fenech, former head of the MIVILUDES, an organization within the French executive commissioned to monitor religious minorities (“cults” and “sects”). In March 2014 FOREF has filed an official complaint against the resolution of Mr. Salles, who clearly violated the code of conduct for rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly: rapporteurs are required to respect the principle of neutrality, impartiality and objectivity. It was evident that Mr. Salles’ personal interests were informed by MIVILUDES which aims to achieve “European harmonization” for the collective fight against “sects” or “cults” via portraying an alleged threat of “minors.” Thus, FOREF advised to conduct a careful investigation into MIVILUDES’ agenda and to withdraw Mr. Salles’ mandate on the theme of minority religions.

In MIVILUDES’ recent report* that was addressed to the Prime Minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls, FOREF’s contribution to work out the controversial aspects of Mr. Salles’ draft resolution has been clearly acknowledged: 

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Technocratic Bureaucracy and Judicial Activism contradicting the Original Idea of Human Rights

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The Fruits of Human Rights Hubris

Comment by Aaron Rhodes

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LONDON, 15.05.2015 (FOREF) – Reactions to Prime Minister Cameron’s plan to loosen the United Kingdom’s relationship to the European Court of Human Rights have been predictably hysterical and infused with partisanship.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called the plan “appalling,” adding that “the idea that we take away human rights, I think, is just an awful suggestion, so the Scottish Government will oppose that and work hard to make sure that in Scotland people still get vital human-rights protection.” Others have warned that the proposal would send out a terrible signal about the United Kingdom’s commitment to human rights, putting it in the same league as Belarus and Kazakhstan. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, called the plan “the gravest threat to freedom in Britain since the Second World War.”

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Austria’s Islamic Reforms

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Austria’s Islamic Reforms

Opinion by Soeren Kern

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VIENNA/NEW YORK, 07.04.2015 (New York Times) – In February, the Austrian Parliament amended the country’s century-old “Islam Law.” The new legislation, though controversial, is a significant achievement. In promoting a moderate, homegrown Islam compatible with democratic values, Austria has taken a positive step to combat extremism while protecting religious liberties.

The original Islam law, passed in 1912, sought to integrate thousands of Muslims who officially came under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. Predominantly Roman Catholic, Austria-Hungary extended Muslims the same rights of worship as other official religions, and granted state protection to Islamic customs, doctrines and institutions. But the empire’s breakup following World War I left just a few hundred Muslims in Austria, and the Islam Law became irrelevant.

The current landscape is vastly different. A 2014 University of Vienna report put the number of Muslims in Austria at over 550,000, or about 7 percent of the national population as of 2012.

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