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The protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities

Doc. 14260: collection of written amendments | Doc. 14260 | 26/04/2017 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly notes that the population of the member States of the Council of Europe is more ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse than ever before. The landscape of religious communities in Europe is complex and evolving, with traditional beliefs spreading beyond their historical territory and new denominations emerging. Such an environment has the potential to render families belonging to religious minorities ostracised for their views and values in contexts where there is a dominant majority that holds conflicting views.
2In this context, the Assembly recalls its staunch commitment to supporting peaceful coexistence between people of different religious and ethnic affiliations, and striving for a tolerant, respectful and democratic community for all, as outlined in the adoption of several Assembly texts, including: Resolution 1904 (2012) on the right to freedom of choice in education in Europe; Resolution 1928 (2013) on safeguarding human rights in relation to religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence; Resolution 2036 (2015) on tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians and Resolution 2076 (2015) on freedom of religion and living together in a democratic society.
3The Assembly underlines its commitment to protecting the fundamental rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”), in particular the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under Article 9, and the right of parents to provide their children with an education in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions under Article 2 of Protocol No.1 to the Convention (ETS No. 9). The Assembly reiterates the fundamental right of children to education in a critical and pluralistic manner in accordance with the Convention, its protocols and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
4The Assembly considers that particular difficulties can arise with regard to respecting the beliefs and convictions of minority religious communities in the context of the registration of religious organisations, State-provided education and social services. The Assembly considers that it is not the role of member States to regulate or validate the beliefs and world views of its population, but to accommodate different perspectives and convictions, and allow individuals to thrive together within the boundaries of public order, health and morals. It considers that the genuine recognition of, and respect for, diversity and the dynamics of cultural traditions and identities and religious convictions are essential in order to achieve social cohesion.
5The Assembly therefore calls on all member States of the Council of Europe to protect the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities by taking practical steps, legislative or otherwise, to:
5.1affirm the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all individuals, including the right not to adhere to any religion, and protect the right of all not to be compelled to perform actions that go against their deeply held moral or religious beliefs, while ensuring that access to services lawfully provided is maintained and the right of others to be free from discrimination is protected;
5.2promote reasonable accommodation of the deeply held moral or religious beliefs of all individuals in cases of serious conflict to enable citizens to freely manifest their religion or belief in private or in public, within the limits defined by legislation and provided that this is not detrimental to the rights of others;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.2, replace the words "within the limits defined by legislation and provided that this is not detrimental to the rights of others" with the following words: "while ensuring that the rights and freedoms of others are not significantly impaired".

5.3repeal any law or rule which establishes a discriminatory distinction between religious minorities and majority beliefs;

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 5.3, insert the following words: ", traditional and non-traditional religions or religious movements that might be considered as sects".

Explanatory note

This is to align the text with previous resolutions of the Assembly and instruments from international human rights bodies. Many cases of discrimination on the basis of religion stem from the fact that a particular faith is considered non traditional or a "sect" in a particular country.

5.4ensure easy-to-implement options for children or parents to obtain exemptions from compulsory State religious education programmes that are in conflict with their deeply held moral or religious beliefs; such options may include non-confessional teaching of religion, providing information on a plurality of religions, and ethics programmes.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.4, after the words "compulsory State religious education programmes", insert the following words: ", or other education programmes,"

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 5.4, insert the following paragraph:

"ensure that no belief system, whether religious or atheistic, is forced on children by the State, either through overt or covert means, through the education system; ensure that diversity, tolerance, respect for the beliefs of others, including non theistic and atheistic beliefs, and equality are promoted in schools; and enact legislation to protect children and parents' rights to freedom of religion or belief, in accordance with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human rights."

Explanatory note

This is to ensure the teaching of one particular belief system and education are adequately separated, unless specifically chosen by the parents as part of their religious beliefs though all education should show respect for others.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 5.4, insert the following paragraph: "The Assembly also calls on the Venice Commission to prepare and publish guidelines on how Member States should protect and implement the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities."

Explanatory note

Due to the somewhat equivocal interpretation of certain rights, this additional paragraph is to provide advice to governments that will assist them in the application of these specific human rights.

EDraft Recommendation

1The Parliamentary Assembly, referring to its Resolution... (2017) on the protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities, recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
1.1transmit the said resolution to the governments of member States;
1.2draw up guidelines on how member States should make effective reasonable accommodation of deeply held moral or religious beliefs of individuals, while ensuring respect for the rights of others.

In the draft recommendation, at the beginning of paragraph 1.2, insert the following words: "establish a working group of religious experts to identify instances and circumstances of discrimination in order to help".

Explanatory note

This amendment is to provide information in order to gain a broader understanding and thus provide appropriate guidelines for member States.