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EuropeProfessor Mar Leal, from University of Seville, stated that religious freedom must...

Professor Mar Leal, from University of Seville, stated that religious freedom must be protected and not given for granted

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KingNewsWire // Brussels, Brussels, Belgium, 12th Jun 2024 – Leading voices for the promotion and defense of religious freedom across Spain and Europe gathered at the University of Seville on May 27, 2024 for the presentation of a new book titled “10 Years of Promoting and Defending Religious Freedom.” The hefty 560 page book, funded by the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation and released by Dykinson and FoRB Publications includes writings from around 30 experts, in the fields of law, anthropology and public administration, and who won in the last 10 years, the prestigious “Religious Freedom Awards“.

The event was organized by the Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society (founded by the Church of Scientology) and held at the Law Faculty of the University of Seville. Among the speakers were:

  • Mar Leal, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law of the State at the University of Seville
  • Zoila Combalía, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law of the State at the University of Zaragoza
  • Rafael Valencia Candalija, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law of the State at the University of Seville
  • Ricardo García García, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law of the State at the Autonomous University of Madrid
  • Isabel Ayuso Puente, lawyer specialized on criminal law, and Secretary General of the Foundation for Life and Society Improvement
  • Iván Arjona-Pelado, President of the Foundation for the Improvement of Life Culture and Society, as representative of Scientology to the EU and the United Nations.

The speakers emphasized the significance of protecting religious freedom as a core element of democratic societies. While it is protected by laws they cautioned that religious freedom is often overlooked and violated globally and must not be given for granted.

Professor Mar Leal, who hosted the presentation at the Law Faculty of the University of Seville, emphasized that if any right is indispensable in a democracy, it is religious freedom. “If there is a right that is truly not recognized, protected or safeguarded, it is equally religious freedom,” she stated. Leal commended the book as a valuable contribution to defending this essential liberty.

Isabel Ayuso Puente, an attorney specialized on criminal law, and Secretary General of the Fundacion Mejora, shared her decades of experience witnessing crimes against religious freedom that have gone unjudged. From attacks on reputation to outright discrimination, Ayuso lamented the great harm caused to religious individuals, families and communities. While acknowledging that not all such offenses fit neatly into existing criminal statutes, she advocated for more robust legal protections.

Professor Zoila Combalía, who has served on the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief, highlighted the increasingly pluralistic nature of Spanish and European societies in terms of religious demographics. She argued that respecting religious freedom is crucial for peaceful coexistence amid such diversity. Combalía also warned against policies aimed at rendering religion invisible in the public sphere, stating “A compressed religion, locked away, is much more likely to result in polarization and confrontation.”

From the sporting arena, Professor Rafael Valencia Candalija reviewed how major sports federations have progressively amended their rules and equipment policies to accommodate religious attire and symbols for athletes like Muslim hijabs. He criticized the French sports minister’s recent proposal to prohibit such religious expressions by French athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics as a regressive step.

Participating remotely, Professor Ricardo García García focused his remarks on the collective dimension of religious freedom for faith communities and institutions. He examined case law providing guidance on when public expressions potentially damage the honor and reputation of a religious entity.

The event concluded with Foundation President Iván Arjona-Pelado highlighting the book’s diverse perspectives while underscoring their convergence on upholding religious liberty. Arjona celebrated the work as an educational resource soon to be distributed to 200 university libraries nationwide.

In a poignant gesture, Arjona-Pelado read part of the dedication page of the book, based on a prayer for Total Freedom of L Ron Hubbard, addressing it to “those whose freedom has been threatened by slavery or martyrdom” and to all victims of brutal treatment inflicted for their beliefs. Their resounding message: In 21st century society, freedom of thought, conscience and religious exercise should be universally guaranteed for all, everywhere and at all times.

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