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Infringement by the State into the evaluation of the legitimity of religious beliefs

March 2009

 


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Translation of the reply dated March 5, 2009 to a written question by Senator Masson

TITLE : Infringement by the State into the evaluation of the legitimity of religious beliefs

1716 – August 30, 2007 – Mr Jean-Louis Masson draws the attention of Mrs Minister of Interior, Overseas and Territorial collectivities to the fact that following the legislative elections, all written questions which had been asked under the previous legislature and were still unanswered were declared null and void. He asks therefore again the question which had been asked to her predecessor on May 14, 2007 and to which the latter did not reply. More precisely, he draws her attention to the fact that a decision taken by the European Court of Human Rights on April 5, 2007 regards a litigation opposing the Church of Scientology of Moscow vs. Russia. The Court established that it did not belong to the states to evaluate the legitimity of religious beliefs. Since France ratified the Euopean convention on Human rights, he would like [the Minister] to state if she does not think that it would be appropriate to make sure that bodies or commissions created by the government to limit what some call “sectarian abuse” are obliged not to infringe in an evaluation of the legitimity of such or such religious beliefs.

Answer – In accordance with its conception of laicity, expressed in article 10 of the Declaration of human rights of 1789, the French republic cannot interfere with beliefs to which people can freely adhere. It ensures both the protection of freedom of conscience and the safeguarding of public order, especially in protecting people against sectarian abuses constituent of criminal offenses. Having respect for these equally worthwhile requirements, the State never gave any legal definition to the notions of cult and religion. Only the unbiased determination of facts undermining public order, goods or people, must be used to fight against sectarian abuse. This concept is in accordance with the decision decision taken by the European Court of Human Rights on April 5, 2007, in the litigation opposing the Church of Scientology of Moscow to the Russian government. The Court of Strasbourg recalled in their decision thet the duty of neutrality and impartiality of the State as defined by its legal decisions is incompatible with any power on its part to evaluate the legitimity of religious beliefs. In their action, bodies created by the State to fight against sectarian abuse refrain indeed from any appreciation of the worth of the beliefs they have to know about, and focus on the questions regarding the compliance with legal and particularly criminal laws.


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