27 November 1998
Religion and democracy
Committee on Culture and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Lluis Maria de Puig, Spain, Socialist Group
There is a religious aspect to many of the problems that European contemporary society faces such as intolerant fundamentalist movements and terrorist acts, racism and xenophobia, ethnic conflicts.
Politics and religion should be kept apart. However, democracy and religion need not be incompatible and can be valid partners. By tackling societal problems, the authorities can remove many of the causes of religious extremism. Education is the key way to combat ignorance, stereotypes and misunderstanding of religions.
The Assembly feels that governments should also do more to guarantee freedom of conscience and religious expression, to develop education about religions, to encourage dialogue with and between religions and to promote the cultural and social expression of religions.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Council of Europe, by its statute, is an organisation which is essentially humanistic. At the same time, as a guardian of human rights, it must ensure freedom of thought, conscience and religion as affirmed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It must also ensure that manifestations of religion comply with the limitations set out in the same article.
2. The Assembly has already taken an interest in the diversity of the cultures and religions in Europe. Their co-existence and interaction have considerably enriched the European heritage. In particular, the Assembly refers to Resolution 885 (1987) on the Jewish contribution to European culture, Resolution 916 (1989) on redundant religious buildings, Recommendation 1162 (1991) and Order No. 465 on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture and Recommendation 1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture.
3. The Assembly is also aware that, even in a democracy, there are still certain tensions between religious expression and political power. There is a religious aspect to many of the problems that contemporary society faces, such as intolerant fundamentalist movements and terrorist acts, racism and xenophobia and ethnic conflicts; consideration should also be given to inequality between sexes in religion. The Assembly has already addressed some of these issues in Recommendation 1202 (1993) on religious tolerance in democratic society and Recommendation 1222 (1993) on the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Extremism is not religion itself, but a distortion or perversion of it. None of the great age-old religions preaches violence. Extremism is a human invention that diverts religion from its humanist path to make it an instrument of power.
4. It is not up to politicians to decide on religious matters. As for religions they must not try to take the place of democracy or grasp political power and they must respect the principles of human rights.
5. Democracy and religion need not be incompatible. Quite the opposite. Democracy has proved to be the best framework for freedom of conscience, the exercise of faith and religious pluralism. For its part, religion, through its moral and ethical commitment, the values it upholds, its critical approach and its cultural expression, can be a valid partner of democratic society.
5. Democratic states, whether secular or linked to a religion, must allow all religions to develop in the same conditions, and enable them to find an appropriate place in society.
7. Problems arise when the authorities try to use religion for their own ends, or when religions try to control the authorities.
8. Many conflicts also arise from mutual ignorance, the resulting stereotypes and, ultimately, rejection. In a democratic system, politicians must consequently do all they can in order to prevent, for example, whole religions from being associated with the actions of fanatical religious minorities.
9. Extremism is also the symptom of a sick society. As it compromises public order, it must be punished under the rule of law, and as it is an expression of a social malaise, it can only be combated if the authorities tackle society’s real problems.
10. Education is the key way to combat ignorance and stereotypes. School and university curricula should be revised, as a matter of urgency, so as to promote better understanding of the various religions; religious instruction should not be given at the expense of lessons about religions as an essential part of the history, culture and philosophy of humankind.
11. Religious leaders could make a considerable contribution to efforts to combat prejudice, through their role as informal educators and their influence on believers.
12. The combating of prejudice also necessitates the development of ecumenism and dialogue between religions.
13. The Assembly consequently recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite the governments of the member states:
i. to guarantee freedom of conscience and religious expression for all citizens and, in particular, to:
a. safeguard religious pluralism by allowing all religions to develop in identical conditions;
b. facilitate, within the limits set out in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the observation of religious rites and customs, for example with regard to marriage, dress, holy days (with scope for adjusting leave) and military service;
c. denounce any attempt to foment conflict within and between religions for partisan ends;
d. ensure freedom and equal rights of education to all citizens regardless of their religious belief, customs and rites relating to clothing, such as wearing or not head scarves
e. ensure fair and equal access to the public media for all religions.
ii. to promote education about religions and, in particular, to:
a. step up the teaching about religions as a way of thinking towards which young people must develop a discerning approach, within the framework of education of ethics and democratic citizenship;
b. promote the teaching in schools of the comparative history of different religions, stressing their origins, the similarities in some of their values and the diversity of their customs, traditions, festivals, etc;
c. encourage the study of the history and philosophy of religions and research into those subjects at university, in parallel with theological studies; remove, where appropriate, the study of Jewish and Muslim philosophy and theology from oriental studies departments; introduce new subjects such as humanism and the history of the Mediterranean area;
d. co-operate with religious educational institutions in order to introduce or reinforce, in their curricula, aspects relating to human rights, history, philosophy and science;
iii. to promote better relations with and between religions and in particular:
a. engage in more systematic dialogue with religious and humanist leaders about the major problems facing society, which would make it possible to take account of the population’s cultural and religious views before political decisions are taken and to involve religious communities and organisations in the task of upholding democratic values and promoting innovative ideas;
b. encourage dialogue between religions by providing opportunities for expression, discussion and meetings between representatives of different religions;
c. promote regular dialogue between theologians, philosophers and historians, as well as with representatives of other branches of knowledge;
d. widen and strengthen partnership with religious communities and organisations, and especially with those which have deep cultural and ethical traditions among local populations in social, charitable, missionary, cultural and educational activities.
iv. to promote the cultural and social expression of religions and, in particular, to:
a. ensure equal conditions for the maintenance and conservation of religious buildings and of the assets of all religions, as an integral part of the national and European heritage;
b. ensure that redundant religious buildings are reused in conditions which are, as far as possible, compatible with the original intention of their construction;
c. safeguard cultural traditions and different religious festivals ;
d. encourage the social and charitable work undertaken by religious communities and organisations;
14. The Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. lay down, as part of its projects on education for democratic citizenship and history teaching, guidelines for the introduction of educational syllabuses relevant to points 13 ii. a, b and c of this recommendation;
ii. continue to provide a framework for pan-European meetings between representatives of different religions.
II. Explanatory memorandum by Mr de Puig
This report is a logical continuation of the Assembly's work relating to religious tolerance in democratic society (Recommendation 1202 (1993), rapporteur Mrs Fischer) and to the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance (Recommendation 1222 (1993), rapporteur Mr Espersen).
The Committee on Culture and Education has on several occasions emphasised that the continent of Europe is rich through the diversity of cultures and religions which have co-existed over the centuries, influencing and drawing on each other (Resolution 885 (1997) on the Jewish contribution to European culture, rapporteur Mr Martínez; Recommendation 1162 (1991) and Order No. 465 on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture, rapporteur Mr de Puig; and Recommendation 1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture, rapporteur Mr Zingeris).
In these reports the issues were tackled mainly from a political and cultural viewpoint.The specific role of religion in democratic society, however, remains a delicate problem. Clearly, it is not the parliamentarian's task to define this role or to take a stance on theological questions of any kind. That is a matter solely for religious organisations, and the strictest separation between state and religion must be observed. Nevertheless, religion is a major social phenomenon and is difficult to separate from culture. I believe that responsible politicians have a duty to address all aspects of society, including the religious aspect. However, they must also ensure that freedom of belief remains compatible with respect for all other human rights.
We felt it necessary, in particular, to analyse the relations between religious organisations and states, and to raise the questions of how to overcome intolerance in respect of membership and practice of religions and how to put a stop to religious fundamentalism, which is, in its turn, intolerant of human rights.
Nowadays, it cannot be said that there are wars of religion in Europe, but can one speak of total peace? Religious differences are dangerously present in several recent, and potential conflicts: in Ireland, Palestine, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and in certain aspects of modern society, such as the resurgence or racism and xenophobia and the existence of sects. Nor should we forget the attempt to use religion by the ideological apparatus of certain radical far-right movements (such as the Front National, in France), and the upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism in certain Arab countries.
In central and eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the advent of democracy opened the way to a religious revival and, depending on the country, to new, and sometimes tense, relations between religious organisations and states, as well as to conflicts between religions, to the proliferation of new sects and to different forms of fundamentalism. The Assembly will have an opportunity to debate some of these problems when considering the reports on the unlawful activities of sects and on the new Russian law on religion.
In both East and West, religion is again to the fore in discussions on political, philosophical and social issues. Some, such as Samuel Huntington in his well-known book, The Clash of Civilizations, go so far as to predict that future conflicts will no longer originate in economic conditions and ideologies, but in mentalities and in systems of ethnic and religious thought and of civilisation.
While the question of the clash between cultures cannot be ignored, it is clear that we are now facing a problem of intolerance, of lack of understanding and of distancing.
This report is therefore intended to seek ways of preserving freedom of religion while safeguarding democracy. On the one hand, the aim is to see what states and government authorities need to do fully to respect freedom of personal conscience and freedom to exercise one's religion. On the other, we must examine how the rules of democracy are to be complied with by religious organisations and by believers, but without overlooking how religions help to make society more humane and to spread ethical and moral values within society.
In order to reach conclusions which would enable recommendations to be addressed to member states' governments, we asked for the views of experts and representatives of various faiths. A colloquy was held in Antalya in September 1997, followed by a hearing held in Paris, on 8 December 19971.
Historical considerations were brought up during these meetings, such as the relationship between religion and authority, philosophy and theology, theocracy and democracy, dogmatism and liberalism and moral and religious ethics. Specific aspects were highlighted, such as the secular and denominational states, democracy within religious organisations, freedom of conscience in the light of the law, faith and the honouring of decisions taken by a majority.
Of course not all that could be said has been said, for it would be virtually impossible to cover such a wide issue from every angle. We nevertheless endeavoured not to leave out any crucial aspects and tried to look at the subject from different angles, so as to reach an overall view.
The contributions made by experts, officials from different religions and members of parliaments were extremely useful for the drafting of this report and are therefore appended. The whole document should be regarded as a wide-ranging joint consideration of the subject.
Democracy and religion: tensions and affinities
Political systems and religions have always co-existed in an atmosphere of tension. The same applies to relations between democracy and religion. Certainly there are inherent differences between the two. Democracy is pluralism, while religion is uniqueness. Democracy is power by the people, for the people; it is thus based on the diversity of "truths" and on possible compromises between them. Religion is based on the word of God, which is not a matter for people to vote on.
These differences do not mean that there is automatically a destructive antagonism. Father Valadier was right to say that it would be more accurate to refer to a fertile and necessary tension between two areas of human existence which find their truth through contrast and comparison with one another.
The problem arises when, in the name of religion, no respect is shown for democracy or human rights, or when the political system prohibits freedom of conscience or religious practice.
Danger also comes from the temporal authority's attempts to make use of religion to defend its own interests, as well as from religious organisations' attempts to control political authority.
There was no clear distinction between temporal and spiritual authority in Europe under the Roman Empire or during the Middle Ages. Not until the end of the eighteenth century did a separation between Church and State begin. There are other civilisations where this separation is still not in effect.
Europe has not often set a good example of respect for cultural or religious identities. There has been brutal intolerance and hegemony, which is unjustifiable even if it may be explicable in the historical context: states represented authority, and one way in which they affirmed their strength was by imposing a religion and a world view.
They exercised this power in the conviction that they were civilising others — all barbarians to a greater or lesser extent. Their claim to be giving people something better concealed an underestimation and manipulation of other people's lifestyles and thought. One model which can be quoted is the colonisation of America, but there are others such as Romanisation and the formation of national states, not to mention the empire-building period in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The dominant cultures were contemptuous of diversity, which they frequently combated, thereby making it necessary for those attacked to defend themselves, a necessity that still underlines all the problems of Europe's minorities.
The various visions of the world held by religions and societies are not however necessarily incompatible or conflicting. History has shown that, as well as confrontations — of which a never-ending list could be given — there have been moments of harmonious co-existence, always proving mutually beneficial. The Balkans are one example, where wars and ethnic clashes have not prevented co-existence, intermarriage and positive influences.
Democracy, with its impartiality and balance, and religious organisations, most of them moderate and respecting others, can understand each other perfectly well and enrich one another. The best framework safeguarding the free exercise of religion remains democracy, as a system of political, legal and social organisation which encompasses the common values of conviviality, tolerance and pluralism.
The democratic model offers religions the necessary framework in which to develop and guarantees pluralism. But this does not mean a "free-for-all" without any restrictions.
If we leave aside extremist and fanatical excesses, religion may make an extremely important ethical and moral contribution to democracy. Democratic society cannot exist without a fundamental consensus about the essential values of human existence. Religions have contributed many ideas to democratic thinking and standards, as well as human values relating to solidarity, human dignity and the behaviour of the individual in society. Civil law is full of aspects of moral and social conscience stemming from transcendental ideologies.
The fact that every attempt during the course of history to suppress religion (the French Revolution, the communist régimes) has resulted in failure may be the best proof that faith is both viable and necessary.
Ignorance, prejudice and manipulation
A. Reciprocal ignorance
Mutual ignorance is at the root of many tensions between religions and authority, giving rise to misunderstandings and, ultimately, to rejection. This is how aggressive and intolerant religious fundamentalism arises, as well as political fundamentalism, which is just as aggressive and intolerant. It is usually the case that believers of one religion know nothing about another. Those who represent authority are frequently ill-informed about religion and its various forms of expression. Even where both parties take a moderate line, a highly critical approach is still adopted, either to certain concepts and practices of religion or to the compatibility between the exercise of religion and the democratic system.
Nor are religious organisations' attitudes to each other always ecumenical. Genuine co-operation hardly exists between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and even between the various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim families. It took five centuries for the Catholic Church to request the forgiveness of the Jews for expelling them from Spain. The Vatican took fifty years to acknowledge that it could have done more to avoid the Holocaust. There is still a long way from belated repentance to genuine dialogue, joint plans and true solidarity among the religious organisations.
Other risks run by democracy if it ignores religion are those of simplification and generalisation. Every religion has belonging to it some who make use of it to acquire power and others who profess their faith in the name of certain spiritual values. People frequently make the mistake of confusing Muslims with fundamentalists (and similarly ordinary and extremist Jews or Catholics), failing to bear in mind that a moderate Islam exists which combats fundamentalism and accepts democracy as a social and political system. The Islam which accepts the secular nature of authority and wishes to develop within democratic society offers huge potential for co-operation, as does non-fundamentalist Judaism.
Is there any need to mention the point to which the Arab world suffered from the way in which Europeans distorted its image, applying disparaging and divisive stereotypes? Thus, the orientalism of the last century, which emphasised the exotic, old-fashioned and frivolous character of the Arabs, led to a Belgian variety show company in Paris inventing the belly dance, which was subsequently incorporated by the Arabs into their traditional folklore.
Intolerance in the contemporary world is also the result of a past which systematically manipulated everyone's history, culture and reality. As well as distorting the view of certain societies and civilisations, this led the people concerned to retain vivid memories of these abuses and to form a deplorable idea of the European political and intellectual world.
The western world, often equated with Christianity, is regarded as materialistic, hedonistic, corrupt and immoral in religious views claiming to be more spiritual and more faithful to the transcendental message. On top of these considerations come accusations of selfishness, insensitivity to the Third World and lack of solidarity. Although we do not accept these simplistic and radical expressions it cannot be denied that there is some truth in them.
It nevertheless has to be acknowledged that ignorance and the resulting stereotypes are not always rooted in a wish to manipulate, but more in the tendency among Europeans to view other peoples through their own eyes and to assess other civilisations in the light of their own values.
More serious is the fact that several stereotypes — dangerously — persist in modern society, and frequently hide the real problems from view. At the Antalya Colloquy, for instance, the Turkish participants explained the rise to power of the Islamic Refah Party (subsequently banned by the Constitutional Court) not as the result of growing religious fanaticism, but as the expression of a social malaise. It was a social protest against a government which failed to pay attention to certain problems of society. Refah couched conventional and "social" left-wing messages in religious terms, a tactic intended to invite a marginalised sector of society to enter the world of politics.
In this context, it is true, as one of the participants pointed out, that it should not be possible to combat the Islamic party through administrative and police measures, but only by resolving the true problems of society. The proof of this is the fact that Refah re-emerged with another name on the very day after the Constitutional Court ban.
B. Truth and interpretations of it
Distortions exist not only among religions or between religions and authority, but also within each religion. Although in principle religion expresses the word of God, this word is interpreted and disseminated by human beings, who are rarely immune to any personal interests or to the hazards of the period in which they are living. This is why several religious texts are on occasions very far removed from the original Word.
Islamic extremists who justify their activities in terms of the Koran are in fact basing themselves on texts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, stemming from one of the ramifications of Islam which advocates violence, in clear contradiction with the tolerance for which the Koran calls.
A tendentious reading of the parable of Adam and Eve has for centuries served to place woman in an inferior position by making her part of Adam’s body and not his equal, his inseparable partner.
It must be stressed, however, that modern science is now able to rectify some of the human errors which have led to misinterpretations of the holy scriptures, producing in turn all the excesses familiar to us. Even so, the public needs to be made aware of these discoveries. They should be included in school textbooks and, above all, they must be accepted by the clergy and incorporated into their sermons. This is why it is also important for there to be a dialogue between the church and science in the field of the history of religions.
As the mufti of Marseilles, Soheib Bencheich, recently said with reference to Islam, a believer should read the Koran “in the light of the knowledge of our time”.
Religions in the face of modernity
Over recent decades, religion has found itself up against new communications technologies which have developed beyond what had been imaginable. Several trends stem either directly or indirectly from this: for one thing, ever fewer young people are attending religious services, particularly in industrialised societies, while, for another, certain religions in those parts of the world and of society which have not benefited from technological progress have turned inwards and hardened their attitudes. It should be noted that a few sects have adapted far more speedily than traditional religions to this development, which they have turned to advantage, examples being the TV evangelists.
Yet progress and religion are not mutually exclusive, quite the contrary. Changes occur at such a speed in modern society that more and more people are disoriented and unable to adapt. At individual level, this disorientation leads to stress, illness, depression and drug dependency. At community level, it gives rise to the marginalisation and exclusion which lead to fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.
In both cases, even the most advanced democracies have not yet managed to set up political and social systems which enable their citizens to face up to these changes while preserving the values upon which democratic society is based.
Consequently, religion in its ethical and aesthetic dimension and in its task of offering moral and spiritual comfort, is necessary to modern humans, even if a religious vision alone is not enough. At the collective level, religion could also be a valid partner of the democratic system. This is only possible, however, if it does so by adapting to, and not opposing, modernity. And frequently this is not the case. Think of the role of women in certain Islamic and Judaic societies or of the Vatican position on divorce, on abortion and, in particular, in this era of AIDS, on contraceptives.
The great majority of major religions find it difficult to adapt their language and rituals to the pace of contemporary life. This means that they bear a large share of the responsibility for the flourishing of sects, which are often more skilled at addressing young people (but also at manipulating them!).
On the other hand, religions have not managed to avoid certain acts of fanaticism and violence by people who claim to be faithful to their religion, such as anti-abortion raids by Catholics, terrorism perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalist movements and the massacres committed in Israel by Jewish extremists.
Fundamentalism and intolerance
The problem of fundamentalism and religious radicalism which has gained ground in politics over recent years is not an easy one to solve. As already mentioned, some people who have no hope and no future resort to religion to find a direction and a reason for their lives. When the problem takes on the dimension it has now, it is obvious that we face a major conflict in society. The religious fundamentalists wish to impose theocracy, while the political radicals wish to expel immigrants. All display the same intolerance.
The term "extremism", which implies the pushing to the extreme of religious beliefs, is not a correct one, for extremists, through their actions or their words, place themselves outside the religions they claim to be defending, in a position much closer to that of sects. How otherwise could an explanation be found for the mutual killings of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland in the name of a single God?
Extremism is not, as its supporters claim, the most authentic path, but a perversion of it. All the religious leaders whom we heard expressly emphasised this.
It is appropriate to quote Mr Boubakeur, Rector of the Paris Mosque, who said that Islam was not extremism. He explained that, when one of the objectives of extremism became to seize power, it was abandoning spirituality and the message of the prophets. The Prophet of Islam himself had had to contend with violence and intolerance and with extremism in his own fellow countrymen. The excesses of extremism had nothing to do with the Islamic message. Nobody had ever been asked to kill people in the name of religion. On the contrary, Islam said that if anyone killed a single human being it was as if he had killed the entire human race. If anyone saved a human life, it was as if he had saved the entire human race.
Chief Rabbi Sitruk also condemned Jewish extremism, saying that Itzhak Rabin's assassin had killed twice. He had murdered both a man and his God. It was unthinkable that God should say to a man, "Raise thy hand to kill". The Torah allowed only self-defence. There was not a single rabbi who had said that Rabin's killer was in the right. He was a disgrace to the Jewish people.
It is time to accept the obvious, namely that in the great world religions, extremists are only a minority. But this minority takes on disproportionate dimensions in people's minds because of the gravity of the acts it commits (that is its aim). Unfortunately we all too easily give in to the temptation of generalising, thereby condemning religions as a whole. Not only does this not solve the problems, but the tensions with the rest of the faithful population, the majority of whom respect religious and civic values, are also exacerbated.
Where acts of extremism are concerned, those to whom we gave a hearing unanimously agreed that any violation of public order should be severely punished, whether it was perpetrated by hooligans leaving a sports ground or people fomenting religious violence. They also, however, emphasised the need for early action, for there was a danger not only of violent expressions of extremism, but also of a temptation to try to make converts.
Chief Rabbi Sitruk also stressed that more should be said by the moderate religious leaders who were the true representatives of religion. Unfortunately the mass media more frequently concerned themselves with people who made spectacular and violent declarations.
The vision of religious radicalism can mislead us about the compatibility of religion and democracy, a trap which must be avoided. Church and State are not incompatible within the democratic system. Although there are tragic examples, history also shows us that it is possible to keep separate spiritual and temporal authority which is one of the requirements of democracy.
It is not a question of placing all religious organisations on an equal footing, whatever their position in society. That would be absurd. Democracy has found the right solution to this kind of conflict in the shape of the majority and proportionality rules. So it is the religious organisations which must, through their own action, determine their position in society: government authorities must simply acknowledge this position and give them assistance corresponding to their importance.
Religion and religious communities are part of society. It is therefore in the state's interest to ensure its citizens' progress and their cultural and intellectual well-being, which it has a direct responsibility to do. If it is the aim of politics, the state and democracy to make citizens happy (or as happy as possible), they must be offered every facility to fulfil themselves spiritually and culturally.
Democratic society should do more than merely respect religions; it should make it as easy as possible for people to exercise their faith. Religion is part of human culture and traditions. The state, with its laws, institutions and customs, should make sure that any transcendental awareness may flourish, something which is central to society and to the human mentality.
Only democracy is capable of guaranteeing the exercise of religion, at the same time respecting both every individual and the religious community. Believers must, for their part, be aware that no religious dogma of any kind should ever contradict the values of humanism which are the basis of the legal and social structure of democracy.
The state must also promote the cultural expression of religions and guarantee the right of religious organisations' to social, charitable, missionary, cultural and educational activities. It should facilitate worship and the marking of religious festivals, as far as possible adapting believers' duties as members of society (working days, elections, referenda) in the light of the main religions' calendars.
The state is duty bound to give believers and their moderate religious leaders freedom to adopt positions in respect of public and political events, on the basis of their ethical and religious codes. It should offer cultural facilities for theologians, intellectuals and philosophers to meet so as to enable discussions between the different religions and the modernisation of religious organisations.
The authorities should do more to seek a moral commitment from the religious organisations on the major issues discussed in society. More regular discussions between democratic and religious institutions could lead to genuine co-operation in the effort to find solutions to the major problems of contemporary society's.
Education remains the only effective means of combating ignorance and intolerance. The comparative history of religions should be added, as a matter of urgency, to all school and university curricula. Further more, the history of the Mediterranean region should also be taught. In universities, the study of Jewish and Muslim philosophy and theology should not be confined, as it usually is, to the departments of oriental studies. The Council of Europe could make recommendations to member states in this field within the framework of its "Education for democratic citizenship" project.
Democracy should also help the religious organisations in their philosophical development and their views of society, in such matters as the role of women.
It is not the role of religions to shape the world order. They can, however, through their moral message, their critical attitude to authority, their educational activity within society and their example of humanitarian commitment, contribute to society's progress and to the perfecting of democracy. Religion cannot take the place of democracy and must not try to grasp power. As a consequence political parties should not have religions denominations. Theocracy is not a higher stage of democracy, but its negation. On the other hand, religions may become major and active agents for the defence of human rights and of the community's ethical and moral values. It is precisely this social and ethical role which religious organisations must be allowed to play.
Democracy cannot however accept violations of human dignity and of human rights in the name of a faith. Religious organisations, which are made up of citizens, should submit to democratic laws. Any infringement against public order or against democracy must be penalised. Religious practice is limited by democratic law, that is by human rights.
Reporting committee: Committee on Culture and Education
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.
Reference to committee: Order No. 465 (1991)
Draft recommendation: unanimously adopted by the committee on 5 November 1998
Members of the committee: Lord Russell-Johnston, (Chairman), Mr Probst, Mr Zingeris, de Puig (Vice-Chairmen), MM Arnason, Arzilli, Bartumeu Cassany, Bauer, Baumel, Mrs Björnemalm, Mrs Camilleri, MM Chornovil, Corrao, Cubreacov, de Decker (Alternate: Staes), Diaz de Mera, Dumitrescu, Mrs Fehr, Mrs Fleeetwood, Mrs Fyfe, Mrs Garajova, MM Glotov, Gül, Hadjidemetriou, Hegyi, Mrs Isohookana-Asunmaa, MM Ivanov, Jakic, Jarab (Alternate: Mrs Stepova), Mrs Katseli, MM Kiely, Kofod-Svendsen, Kollwelter, Kriedner, Lachat, Mrs Laternser, MM Lazarescu, Legendre, Lemoine, Libicki, Liiv, Mrs Maximus, Mrs Nemcova, MM O’Hara, Pereira Marques, Polydoras, Mrs Poptodorova, MM, Radic, Ragno (Alternate: Martelli), Risari, Rockenbauer, Roseta, Mrs Rugate, Mrs Saele, Mrs Schicker, Mrs Stefani, MM Sudarenkov, Symonenko, Tanik, Mrs Terborg, MM Urbanczyk, Valk, Vangelov, Verbeek.
NB: The names of those who took part in the vote are in italics
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Ms Kostenko
1 Cf. Appendix