Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Council of Europe report protects the freedom of parents to raise their children according to their religious beliefs

On the 27th of April, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted, by 44 votes to 19, a report on the protection of the "The protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities". The rapporteur for this report  was ECPM Member Valeriu Ghiletchi (MP, Moldova). The report calls on Council of Europe (CoE) Member States to protect religious freedoms in each country and to respect the right of parents to raise their children according to their religious beliefs.

The adopted resolution supports the concept of reasonable accommodation. It calls on Member States to "promote 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".

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment made in a system to accommodate or make an individual exception based on a proven need. The United Nations use this term in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities supporting the view that refusal to make accommodation results in discrimination. Although as a concept, reasonable accommodation was first mentioned in relations to the rights of people in disabilities, it is now used to describe similar arrangements based on religion, culture etc. In North America, the concept of reasonable accommodation has been successfully applied to religion or belief. 

Recognizing the growing religious diversity in Europe, the text of the resolution invites CoE Member States to "affirm 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". It also underlines the right of parents to provide their child with an education in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions according to Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

The adopted Recommendation to PACE's Council of Ministers (which is the decision making body of the CoE) calls on the Council draw 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.

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