Cake bakers fined for adhering to their beliefs about same-sex marriage, dawn of a new kind of discrimination?

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USA: Whatever Happened to Religious Freedom?

By Roger Pilon

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Oregon/Washington D. C. , 13.07.2015 (WSJ) – With nationwide same-sex marriage now in its pocket, the gay-rights movement is turning quickly to the next item on its agenda: outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is where many libertarians who strongly supported same-sex marriage step back for a more measured approach. It is one thing to prevent government officials from discriminating against same-sex couples—that is what equal protection is all about—quite another to force private individuals and organizations into associations they find offensive.

The law here is unsettled, especially as the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion is pitted against various statutory rights to be free from discrimination. The Supreme Court muddied those waters in its same-sex marriage decision last month. Writing for the majority in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy merely mentioned in passing that religious adherents would continue to be free to “advocate” and “teach” their beliefs. Conspicuously absent, as dissenting justices noted, was any mention of the “exercise” of those beliefs.

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Report for the OSCE Second Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) on FoRB, Fostering Mutual Respect and Understanding

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AUSTRIA: Policies on Religion at Variance with OSCE Standards and the European Convention on Human Rights

By FOREF Europe

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FOREF expresses its concern about policies of the Austrian federal state that violate Human Dimension commitments undertaken by the participating States in the Helsinki Final Act and in the Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Maastricht documents, as well as Article 18 of the ICCPR, particularly as regards equal treatment of religious communities and neutrality.

Austria has embraced policies and practices that demonize “sects” and “cults,” while cooperating with the established churches, and finances private anti-cult organizations, which spread biased and distorted information stigmatizing new religious movements and their members. Most recently the government has promoted legislation imposing grossly unequal treatment on the Austrian Muslim community.

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Report for the OSCE Second Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) on FoRB, Fostering Mutual Respect and Understanding

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HUNGARY: Government Ignores Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

By FOREF Europe

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We wish to express our deep concern about policies of the government of Hungary that violate Human Dimension commitments undertaken by the participating States in the Helsinki Final Act and in the Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Maastricht documents as well as OSCE standards, and ignore the judgment of the ECHR.  

In April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary’s law on the status of churches (Act CCVI of 2011) violated the right to religious freedom, because it stripped numerous religious communities of their legal status as churches (Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Others v. Hungary). After the Grand Chamber rejected a Hungarian appeal, the judgment became final in September 2014. Instead of abiding by the Court’s decision, however, the Government of Hungary has failed to implement measures necessary to remedy its breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

First, the Government of Hungary has not negotiated in good faith with the religious communities whose rights were violated. The Court’s decision stipulated that the Hungarian government must compensate the injured religious communities for damages, and it allotted six months to the government to negotiate with the churches the amount of that compensation. However, the Government of Hungary did not initiate negotiations until one week before the negotiation deadline. Not surprisingly, one week proved insufficient to arrive at an agreement with most of the religious communities, and they have been forced to return to the ECtHR for legal remedy.

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CHINA: Internet as a tool for repression and thought-control

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EU Should Stand Firm Against Chinese Censorship

By Aaron Rhodes

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BRUSSELS/BEIJING, 01.07.2015 (Epoch Times) – While many once believed access to the Internet would usher in universal human rights and democracy, in the hands of China and other tyrannical governments it has become an extraordinary instrument of repression and thought-control.

While countless millions (indeed, 40 percent of the world’s population) have come to rely on the Internet as a primary source of information, censorship and the spread of disinformation via the Internet have given dictatorships huge powers to deceive and manipulate citizens, and to deprive them of access to information crucial to their ability to understand global and local realities. On the world stage, Internet manipulation by the People’s Republic of China stands out.

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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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