EINPRESSWIRE // OSCE Viena – The protection of freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental pillar of democratic societies, and the issue of tolerance and non-discrimination is a major one that the OSCE – ODIHR approaches with civil society and participating states during their Human Dimension Implementation meetings and other events.
Last 26th and 27th of June, the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting organized by OSCE ODIHR took place in Vienna. The North Macedonian Chair-In-Person was followed by most of the representatives of the participating states of the OSCE, and hundreds of grassroots NGOs to exchange and dialogue about the challenges and proposals for solutions.
The two-day meeting delved into the crucial role played by civil society organizations in promoting and safeguarding tolerance while combating discrimination. It also assessed the effectiveness and challenges through sometimes heated discussions on how to provide them with the necessary support and space to carry out their valuable work.
Participants concentrated on three interconnected themes. The initial session shed light on the strategies employed by civil society to foster respect for diversity among young people and tackle intolerance and hatred in the online realm through public educational initiatives. Scientology representative Ivan Arjona was the organizer of one of the eight side events that took place. He explained how the Human Rights online course sponsored by Scientology, and the “How to Solve Conflicts” course (this last one based on the discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard) can be beneficial to Scientologists and non-Scientologists. He elaborated on the tools that can be used to overcome more easily any attempt of discrimination and also help others to do the same in daily life.
Before the side event, during the session entitled “Civil Society Educational Efforts in Promoting Tolerance and Non-Discrimination”, Arjona, like a dozen of others, was given the floor.
He explained to the representatives of the 57 participating states and the hundreds of NGOs that some German public schools “had fostered and sponsored discrimination to minors, teaching propaganda about which religion not to learn about, and dehumanizing in some cases members of the Church of Scientology.” He further explained that “German authorities, despite over 50 court decisions telling the political powers and the judiciary to treat Scientology and Scientologists within the protection of the right to freedom of belief enshrined in the constitution, turn a deaf ear.
Too many continue to request local administrations or companies that receive public funding, to exclude Scientologists from public and private employments such as city gardeners or architects, to name just two.”
He demanded the authorities to stop this “decade’s long discrimination that forces individuals to spend their salaries or savings on having to defend their rights in court, in addition to the dehumanization that they have to endure when such discrimination happens”.
The German government representative unexpectedly asked to use her right to reply and confirmed in front of all delegations that:
“individual persons, who live by the teachings and standards of Scientology or of other religions, depending on the circumstances of the particular case, can claim the protection of Article 4 [Freedom of religion or worldview of the German Basic Law].”
The German official continued and encouraged Scientologist to seek religious freedom protection in court saying “Provided that members of the Scientology […] in Germany in individual cases consider to have been harmed in their basic rights by state agencies, have for that purpose all available remedies under the rule of law at their disposal. In the Federal Republic of Germany it is guaranteed that violations of basic rights can each be scrutinized in individual cases and that legal protection is available” she concluded.
The Scientology representative expressed his happiness for the positive change of language, which “is an important step forward to be cultivated”, and stressed that in fact, “Scientologists and their Church have been doing that for more than 40 years.” This has brought them to win over 50 court cases in Germany alone.
Arjona raises an important question: “With all these cases won by Scientology, and considering we are now well into the 21st century, an era of diversity, tolerance, and human rights, isn’t it time for German politics to take one additional simple step and put an end to the written and unwritten policies that perpetuate intolerance and discrimination against human beings?”
And to conclude, Arjona explains that experts in religious freedom worldwide share concerns regarding the sponsorship of hate speech and discrimination by German authorities against Scientologists. The numerous victories in over 50 court decisions shed light on the unjust treatment faced by Scientologists and expose the existence of structural bias that either fosters or, at the very least, condones these violations. A recent ruling of April 2022 by the Federal Supreme Administrative Court on a so-called ‘sect filter’ case serves as a significant milestone in the struggle for religious liberty. It emphasizes the importance of upholding constitutional guarantees and equal treatment under the law. This ruling should serve as a reminder to recognize and respect the rights of all religious minorities, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and tolerant society, “as it is happening in countries such as Spain, Holland, Portugal, United Kingdom, USA, Canada, South Africa and others where Scientology has been fully recognized as a bonafide religion,” ends Arjona.