Final Judgment of European Court of Human Rights Defends Religious Freedom
March 8, 2010
The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of religious associations of the Church of Scientology in Surgut and Nizhnekamsk is final. On October 1, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights delivered the judgment in the cases NN 76836/01 and 32782/03 in favor of the Churches of Scientology of Surgut and Nizhnekamsk.
The final judgment of the European Court found a violation of the rights of the applicants by the Russian Federation and in particular, violation of the provisions of Article 9 of the Convention (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) in the light of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association).
The Court found that “the restricted status afforded to religious groups under the Religions Act did not allow members of such a group to enjoy effectively their right to freedom of religion, rendering such a right illusory and theoretical rather than practical and effective, as required by the Convention.
“The applications for registration as a religious organization submitted by the first and second applicants as founders of their respective groups … were denied by reference to the insufficient period of the groups’ existence. Finally, the restricted status of a religious group for which they qualified and in which the third applicant existed conveyed no practical or effective benefits to them as such a group was deprived of legal personality, property rights and the legal capacity to protect the interests of its members and was also severely hampered in the fundamental aspects of its religious functions.
“In the instant case the Russian Government did not identify any pressing social need which the impugned restriction served or any relevant and sufficient reasons which could justify the lengthy waiting period that a religious organization had to endure prior to obtaining legal personality.”
President of the Church of Scientology of Nizhnekamsk, Mr. Emir Ramazanov, stated, “the judgment of the European Court not only raises the standards of the protection of freedom of conscience and freedom of association to a new level in Russia and in Europe, but also confirms that the European standards guarantee the protection even when injustice comes from national laws.”
The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. Scientologists believe that Man is an immortal spiritual being and basically good, and that the spiritual potential of Man can be restored (i.e., Man can be salvaged) within one lifetime. The first Church was opened in the United States in 1954. Now Scientology has over 8,500 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups and millions of members in 165 countries. In Russia there are over 40 Churches and Missions of Scientology, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.