Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In a case of great importance, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously in favor of two Scientology religious groups in Russia (Case of Kimlya v. Russia), finding that they have the right to be registered as religious organizations under Russian law. This decision determines that members of the Church of Scientology of Surgut and the Church of Scientology of Nizhnekamsk have the right to religious freedom and freedom of association pursuant to Articles 9 and 11 of the European Human Rights Convention. In 1997, the Russian government passed laws preventing religious organizations from forming legally unless they could prove they had been in existence in their respective state(s) for 15 years. Such a law obviously discriminates against religions not established in a state for 15 years and has now been ruled as unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. In reaching this decision, the Court “established that the applicants were unable to obtain recognition and effective enjoyment of their rights to freedom of religion and association in any organizational form. The first applicant could not obtain registration of the Scientology group as a non-religious legal entity because it was considered to be a religious community by the Russian authorities. The applications for registration as a religious organization submitted by the first and second applicants as founders of their respective groups ... were denied by reference to the insufficient period of the groups’ existence. Finally, the restricted status of a religious group for which they qualified ... conveyed no practical or effective benefits to them as such a group was deprived of legal personality, property rights and the legal capacity to protect the interests of its members and was also severely hampered in the fundamental aspects of its religious functions. Accordingly, the Court finds that there has been an interference with the applicants’ rights under Article 9 interpreted in the light of Article 11.”
Third Sector reports that the Charity Commission's decision to remove a trustee of a Tamil temple in south London has been overturned by the First-tier Tribunal (Charity). In only its second verdict, the tribunal panel, formerly known as the Charity Tribunal, rejected all seven of the commission's reasons for removing Nagendram Seevaratnam as a trustee of the Sivayogam temple in south London and decided unanimously he should be reinstated immediately. The seven reasons included claims that Seevaratnam had failed to take sufficient steps to dissociate himself and the charity from the Tamil Tigers. The tribunal said that rumors about links had not been in wide circulation and the Commission had failed to show it would be reasonable for anyone to believe them. The tribunal agreed with the commission that Seevaratnam, who declined to give oral evidence, had been a dominant trustee but said that did not constitute misconduct or mismanagement in its own right and arose because of his professional background, language skills and his status in the religious and cultural life of the charity. It accepted that Seevaratnam had shown misconduct and mismanagement in various ways, but disagreed with the commission that his removal was necessary to protect the assets of the charity. The tribunal said it was also “most concerned” to hear that evidence submitted to the commission by Seevaratnam demonstrating he had implemented adequate procedures for selecting and monitoring recipients of funding in Sri Lanka had not even been translated. A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator would respond fully to the findings once it had had time to consider the judgment in detail.