Concerns Continue Over Proposed European Religious Rights Restrictions
January 9, 2001 Silver Spring, Maryland, USA .... [ANN Staff]

Concerns continue over various European proposals to restrict religious freedom, more so since such attempts are being taken seriously by the United States administration.

In a January 2 letter from Madeleine Albright, United States Secretary of State, to Joseph Grieboski of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Washington, D.C., the U.S. administration comments on pending French legislation and notes that "the proposed legislation is part of a disturbing trend in western Europe, where some states have adopted, or are considering, discriminatory legislation or policies that tend to stigmatize legitimate expression of religious faiths by wrongfully associating them with dangerous 'sects' or 'cults.' Such laws and policies pose a danger to freedom of religion."

In her letter, Albright also points out that countries have developed lists of supposed "sects," but that most are constructive and helpful members of the community.

"The vast majority of the religious groups on government lists are legitimate religious denominations. Most are responsible members of civil society who make positive contributions to the communities where they live and worship. We are concerned that legislation or policies that stigmatize these religious groups contravene international-and European-norms of religious freedom."

Such concerns have long been at the center of opposition to proposed laws and government agencies on "harmful sects" that have already been set up in France, Belgium and Austria, and are proposed in Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

"We oppose any legislation that seeks to discriminate in the area of religion," says Jonathan Gallagher, associate director for public affairs and religious liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide. "Great dangers exist of marginalizing and stigmatizing religious minorities using such laws, and we want to call attention once again to the problems that can be caused by governmental control and regulation of faith communities. We believe sufficient laws against criminal activities already exist in all the European countries mentioned, and discriminatory religious laws are unnecessary as well as open to dangerous abuse."

The Adventist Church has consistently campaigned for religious freedom for all and has actively promoted such beliefs for more than a century.

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