Human Rights

General counsel of Jehovah’s Witnesses testified to mistreatment of members. “We call upon governments to recognize our God-given right to religious freedom that currently Western Europe only extends to majority faiths.”

Link to Political Extremism

Testimony about Belgium centered on discrimination that has escalated since a 1997 parliamentary report blacklisted 189 religious denominations and groups, mirroring the French parliamentary report and blacklist. U.S. Representative Matt Salmon told the committee that according to the 2000 report of the International Helsinki Federation, religious minorities in Belgium have been “subjected to various forms of harassment and other human rights violations such as slander, anonymous threats, loss of jobs, bomb threats, and denial of room rental for religious ceremonies.”

With respect to Austria, as well as the other countries discussed in the hearing, concerns are increasing over the link between increased political extremism and religious intolerance.

“I think in Austria there is certainly a link,” said Dr. Robert Hunt, Pastor of the English-speaking United Methodist Church of Austria, who testified before the committee from Vienna by means of digital video equipment. He referred to the recent political campaign, and “a climate that tries to characterize a kind of Germanic-Catholic personality as being truly Austrian — all others being not really quite Austrian.” Pastor Hunt said he believed that “political extremism and nationalism is certainly related” to the rise of discrimination against minority religions.

Philip Brumley, general counsel for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, testified how the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria moved through the political and legal court systems for a decade towards obtaining the same religious status as other religions. Just as they were getting to the point of obtaining this religious status, the National Legislature of Austria convened and passed a law which imposes a 10-year waiting period for any organization seeking full religious recognition. “It was clearly passed with us in view,” said Brumley.


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