SOUTH KOREA: Hyeon-Jeong KIM: 50 days of confinement for forced de-conversion (1)

Presbyterian pastors inciting domestic violence and breaches of Korean laws

 

By Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (22.08.2019) – Hyeon-Jeong KIM, the victim of kidnapping and confinement for the purpose of religious de-conversion, was born in 1989. Her parents, Sung-Jo Kim and Eun-Su Kim, are Presbyterians and raised their children in the Presbyterian Church. Her father is a retired teacher and her mother is a housewife. They were living together in Daegu, the fourth largest city of Korea, at the time of the incidents. In 2015, at the age of 27 (1), Hyeon-Jeong Kim started attending the religious services of the Shincheonji Church (2).

 

 

Interview of Hyeon-Jeong Kim

 

 

Q: How did your parents know about your interest in the Shincheonji Church and how did they react?

A: They heard from one of my friends. They were quite opposed and put me under strict surveillance. They also contacted Presbyterian pastors to ask them what to do. Knowing that my father could be violent, I told him I would not go to that Church any more. I was a pharmacy student at the time and so I managed to continue attending their meetings secretly for the next three years.

Last year (2018), I got a job in a pharmacy, but my parents found out that I had not severed my relations with the Shincheonji Church. On 8 April, during dinner, my father had an angry outburst about my change of religion. I didn’t say anything because I did not want to further inflame the situation. During this incident my father tried to hit me with a glass container and my mother held me by the neck while my brother also tried to hit me. This family crisis lasted for two hours.

In the aftermath of that fateful day, my parents did some research on the internet about the Shincheonji Church. They only found negative papers posted by the Presbyterian Church and media influenced by the Presbyterian Church. After that, they took my phone away and my father followed me to and from work every day as if I were a child. I was 30 years old at the time. In the meantime, they had been told by Presbyterian pastors to show me films and articles denouncing the Shincheonji Church as a heretic Christian movement. After work, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house and was denied access to my cell phone. I had to watch and read Presbyterian propaganda against the Shincheonji Church every day. My brother, who was married and was not living with us, was also taking sides with my parents and was threatening me.

Q: Did you try to get assistance from outside?

A: There was a police station near the pharmacy with a Women and Youth department counseling center. I thought I could get some help from them. However, due to the close surveillance of my father, I could only go to the police at lunch time. I did so and told them everything, including the reasons behind the domestic violence I was experiencing. The police response was catastrophic. They called my father and told him to give me back my phone and to put an end to my surveillance. My action further fueled his anger towards me.

At the pharmacy, I told my boss and my colleagues that I feared I was at risk of being abducted and confined by my family because of my change of religion.

Q: And were you abducted?

A: Yes. A few weeks later, on 27 April. My phone had ‘disappeared’, but I knew they had taken it away. I was very angry and I threatened to call the police on my father. I told my mother I would leave for work earlier and have breakfast in a nearby shop. She thought I was planning to run away from home forever and ran after me. My father caught me and forced me into his car. As I was screaming, passers-by tried to help, but my father told them I was his daughter and he was saving me from a heretic religious movement. He informed our family that he was taking me to my aunt’s, Kyung-Hee KIM. It was approximately a 15-minute drive. This is how my kidnapping and confinement started.

Q: Had the abduction been planned as an option in the minds of your parents?
 
A: Without any doubt, but not only in their minds. At my aunt’s place, about 15 minutes away, we were joined by my mother and brother. I was deprived of all my possessions, tied up and transferred to a faraway place: Hae-woon-dae, Busan. It took two hours by car. I was pushed into a studio on the 7th floor of a building.

 

My family had made this plan based on recommendations from the Presbyterian pastors. This option had been partially prepared and partially improvised as no date had been fixed. The renting contract of the studio was signed at the last moment, a day before the abduction, by my mom and my aunt.

 

I was locked in a room with closed curtains for 50 days under the surveillance of both my parents and my aunt. They threatened that I would never be able to leave if I did not agree to enter a de-conversion program. Members of my brother’s family who visited us on weekends cursed at me and threatened me as well. One day, my father tried to strangle me because I was still refusing to give up my faith. My mom and my aunt stopped him just in time. Otherwise, I would have been killed in the same way as another woman a few months earlier: Ji-in Gu (25 years old).

 

After about a month of staying at the studio apartment, my aunt went back to Daegu and the rest of the family remained with me. I started suffering from claustrophobia.

Q: The Presbyterian deprogrammers do not appear anywhere during your captivity? How do you explain that?

 

A: During the 50 days that I spent in captivity, no de-conversion pastor showed up because they do not want to be accused of complicity in a case of abduction and confinement for the purpose of forced change of religion, which is illegal in South Korea. However, they were in regular contact with my family and gave them instructions about how to force me to return to the Presbyterian faith. Of course, I do not have any records of their telephone conversations, but whenever I clashed with my parents, one of them would leave the room to make a phone call. So, I am assuming that they were receiving instructions on how to act in such situations.

 

For more than seven weeks I resisted the psychological pressure and the threats of my family and their Presbyterian advisers. I was alone against all of them, without any help or support, but I won my battle for my faith. I continued refusing to sign any agreement stating that I was freely asking to be de-converted in the framework of a so-called “conversion counseling program”.

 

Since my parents saw no solution in sight, some people from the Suyongro Presbyterian Church in Busan were sent to the apartment. This gave me the opportunity to attempt to escape. I was unsuccessful but was able to leave the apartment long enough to call for help. When I tried to escape that day, my family and the three envoys from the Presbyterian Suyongro Church dragged me back into the apartment. These three envoys were directly participating in my sequestration. Their names are Cho Hana and Choo Jin Wook, both evangelists of the Presbyterian Suyongro Church, and an unknown woman.

Q: How did you manage to recover your freedom?

 

A: On 16 June, the 51st day of my confinement, a combination of circumstances gave me an opportunity to run away. I was cleaning the bathroom when someone rang the front doorbell. My father started to remove the water bottles that were stacked at the front door to let the three people mentioned above into the apartment. When my father opened the door, I rushed out, barefoot and calling for help. However, I was on the 7th floor and so my parents were able to catch me. I was brought back into the apartment and the three visitors came inside for my de-conversion program.

I continued to scream and refuse anything they tried to force me to do. One of the neighbours came to our door and asked what was happening. I said, “Please call the police!” and my father closed the door again. That neighbor did call the police.

When the police came, they took everybody to the police station. My mother, my father and myself were in the same car and two of the deprogrammers – Cho Hana and Choo Ji Wook – were in another police car. My brother was in Busan and came to the police station an hour later after my parents called him. All I wanted was to be separated from my family.

After several hours of discussion, the police brought me to a women’s emergency shelter in Busan despite the opposition of my family. Not long afterwards, my brother managed to find my safe place and so, for my own security, I had to move to another shelter in Daegu. The police followed my case and I thank them for that.

Q: What happened at the police station?

A: The police checked the identity of the persons to be heard and asked me why I was held in the apartment.

I said that during 50 days my family had tried to force me to leave the Shincheonji Church, because they believed it was a cult, and to go back to the Presbyterian Church. To this end, they wanted me to follow a religious reeducation program run by the Presbyterian Church and to sign an agreement saying it was my personal decision. But I kept refusing because it was not my choice and they kept me in confinement.

A policeman took me to another room and said that what my family did was a crime. Additionally, since the victim – myself – wanted to be separated from the perpetrators, they have to abide by the victim’s wishes and provide a safe place.

The members of the Presbyterian Church in Busan – Cho Hana and Choo Ji Wook – emphasized that they were just normal believers and started to slander the Shincheonji Church. They also cursed and slandered me, and took sides with my family, saying I should go to a ‘normal church’.

The police listened to the slanders and accusations and did not make any comment.

Q: Could you get your position back at the pharmacy after almost two months of absence?

 

A: On the day of my abduction, my boss from the pharmacy received a call from my maternal uncle. He said that they were with me at a restaurant in Kyunggi-do (Kyunggi province) and that we were in the midst of a family trip, and then he immediately hung up.

 

Because of what I had told my boss about my family problems and risk of abduction, he filed a missing person’s report with the police.

 

Fortunately, I could get my job back.

Q: How are your relations with your family now?

 

A: When I was at the women’s shelter in Daegu, my father sent me a letter saying that I could return home and he would respect my religious choice. The local police, who had been informed of my situation by my boss, escorted me home. Now, I am living with my family again. I said I would live with them as long as they respect my religious choice. I feel better, but the trauma has not disappeared. (End of the interview).

 

 

 

The three deprogrammers from the Presbyterian Suyongro Church who showed up at the place of detention of Hyeon-Jeong Kim were aware that she was sequestrated by family members. When she tried to escape, they decided not only to deny assistance to a person in danger, but also to become accomplices of the prolongation of her confinement. Abduction and confinement of Hyeon-Jeong Kim for the purpose of forced change of religion are illegal and criminal activities in South Korea. The family members were prosecuted but not those who helped them to reincarcerate Hyeon-Jeaong. (3)

 

– Cho Ha-Na is a member of the Sooyoungro Church. She is a de-conversion counselor and directly consults with family members who come to the church for the coercive conversion program.

– Choo Jin-Wook is a member of the Sooyoungro Church. He is a de-conversion counselor and directly consults with family members who come to the church for the coercive de-conversion program).

– Unknown woman is a member of the Sooyoungro Church.

 

 

    1. In South Korea, a baby is considered to be one year old on the very first day of his/her birth.
    2. Shincheonji Church of Jesus Temple of the Tabernacle of Testimony (Shincheonji in short) is one of the largest Korean Christian new religious movements. The Church was founded in 1984 in South Korea by Chairman Man Hee Lee and currently has more than 200,000 members in 29 countries.

    3. Shincheonji teaches that it is the promised church in the Bible, pledged to appear in the times of the fulfillment of Revelation prophecies. It also teaches that, in this special time when the prophecies are fulfilled, the messenger of Jesus, i.e. Chairman Man Hee Lee, starts a new religious world to spread the gospel of the fulfillment of Revelation and to heal the nations. Because of its original theology and rapid growth, the Church has encountered the hostility of traditional Christian denominations.

      1. The details and the analysis of the prosecution will be the main theme of the next report about this case.



Recent arsons targeting churches in Europe

By Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (21.08.2019) – Mainline media often report about destruction of places of worship in the framework of military conflicts or clashes between (ethno-)religious communities. Arsons targeting religious places in Europe do occur as well but are un- or underreported. Along with various other forms of acts of vandalism, they usually remain unnoticed, outside the radar and un-analyzed by researchers and scholars because they are only published in local media and not in English. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency should pay special attention to these incidents.

Here are a few cases that occurred this year in EU member states:


Finland

Suspected arson at Hyvinkää church: a storage facility at the Old Church was destroyed before firefighters were able to get the blaze under control

Yle Uutiset (19.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Zc3Dtn – Police suspect that a fire at the Old Church in the centre of Hyvinkää, a municipality located about 50 kilometres north of Helsinki, was started deliberately.

“Based on our preliminary investigation, there is reason to suspect that the fire was intentionally ignited,” said Crime Commissioner Leif Malmberg of the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department. “The case is currently being investigated as an act of arson.”

Malmberg added that as the investigation is currently ongoing, the police cannot yet provide any further details, but that no natural cause for the fire was found.

“This was based on a technical investigation which has given us reason to suspect that the fire was intentionally started. There are no suspects at this stage,” Malmberg said.

The police have asked for the public’s assistance in investigating the incident.

Passerby raised alarm

At approximately 2.30am on Friday, a passerby noticed a fire in a storage building behind the church and alerted authorities.

When the Central Uusimaa Rescue Service arrived, the 30-square-metre warehouse was fully aflame. The storage unit contained gardening tools and supplies, said on-duty firefighter Harry Häyrinen, and the warehouse and all of the supplies were completely destroyed by the fire.

A blaze was also noticed to have started in the window frame of a 19th century log building, but firefighters were able to extinguish it before it spread.

“The window was open, and there was hemp being used as insulation. Some smoke had got in, but it has now been ventilated,” Häyrinen explained.

The warehouse is about 15 metres away from the Old Church, and the log building is about 25 metres away.

Häyrinen therefore believes it is unlikely that the fire at the log building would come from sparks that had flown from the storage building.

There was no reported injuries caused by the fire.

Hyvinkää Old Church is a log building originally built as a prayer room in 1896, based on the designs of renowned Finnish architect Yrjö Sadeniemi. The prayer room was enlarged in 1923 by master builder Heikki Siikonen, and the building was consecrated in 1978.

According to the Hyvinkää parish website, the Old Church is a popular location for weddings.

Other sources:Daily FinlandHelsingin SanomatAamuposti

Read also:

Serial arson suspect detained in Kokkola

Helsinki arson suspect surrenders to police in western Finland (12.6.2018)

Officials suspect arson behind Mikkeli school blaze

Young man dies after falling off roof in Hyvinkää

 

 


France

HRWF has covered the issue of the protection of religious community buildings in France in some specific papers such as:

70,000 law enforcement forces for the protection of places of worship at Easter

France: About the Protection of Christian Places of Worship

Two suspicious fires in four days in Bourg-Achard Church

Observatory of Christianophobia (01.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2KHLJ9S – Between 26 and 30 June, two fires were discovered in the 13th century Saint-Lô Church in Bourg-Achard (Eure). According to the police in charge of the investigation, there is a high probability that these two fires were deliberately set.

On 26 June, the first fire was discovered by the sacristan, an employee of the diocese. As he went to close the church, he realized that a fire had consumed the altar tablecloth. Lit candles had been placed on the altar in what authorities called “satanic staging with inverted crosses and jewels arranged on the altar.” He managed to call for help quickly, which prevented the spread of fire.

 

On Sunday, June 30, four days later, the church was closed following the first fire. At the end of the afternoon, a passer-by saw smoke coming from the church steeple and alerted firefighters. Inside the church, the organ was in flames. By the time the fire was discovered, the organ had been completely destroyed.

 

Two fires in less than a week is at least “disturbing,” said Jean-Marie Thiébault, 2nd Deputy Mayor. “It’s not accidental, it’s clear.”

 

Neither he nor the Mayor have any memory of possible threats, or of an incident that would have foreshadowed reprisals against the church.

 

“We deplore what happened,” said the Mayor who announced the installation of security cameras inside the church, paid for by the municipality. “They should be installed in one or two days. It is done to protect the communal church and to continue to receive ceremonies at the request of the parishioners and the priest.”

 

Sources: Paris NormandieParis Normandie, infonormandie

 


Germany

Arson at St Magnus Church at Schussenried Abbey

 

Observatory of Christianophobia (29.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2ZiYZd4 – An unknown arsonist set fire to a cloth in the St. Magnus church of the Schussenried Abbey in Bad Schussenried on July 29th. The fire then extended to pictures and a wooden cross nearby. A witness noticed the fire and was able to extinguish it. Police are investigating.

The witness describes the arsonist as a 20 to 30-year-old man with short hair and a height of about 165-170 cm. He was wearing a green T-shirt and beige colored shorts.

 

For information contact police in Bad Schussenried (telephone: 07583/942020).

 

Source: Police press release

 


Suspected arson in Ankum church

Observatory of Christianophobia (01.06.2019) https://bit.ly/30jRVu7 – The fire department in Ankum was called to a smoldering fire in the St. Nikolaus Catholic Church around noon on 1 June 2019. When the team of 33 firefighters in six firetrucks arrived, the Swedish visitors who had initially discovered the two spots of smoldering fire in the church, had already extinguished them out with water.

 

According to police, the church wasn’t damaged by the fire and the fire department only had to inspect the site and quickly gave the all-clear. Police suspect arson and began their investigation with the help of the Swedish visitors describing two girls running out of the church just before they themselves entered and the church’s surveillance video tapes.

Sources: NOZ
 

Vandals burn statue of Jesus in Grossholbach Church

Observatory of Christianophobia (19.05.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Zj5pFf – Police reported that unknown perpetrators broke in a church window with stones and invaded the interior of the church of the Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit in Großholbach (Westerwald in Rhineland-Palatinate) during the night of May 18th to 19th. Several sacred objects, including statues of saints, were broken. The Jesus figure was removed from the crucifix and burned. The intruders also urinated in the aisle and on several pews.

Mayor Michael Kohlhaas, expressed the shock of the small community: “This hurts. These are values that are simply trampled on.”

 

Police are seeking witnesses.

 

Contact: Polizeiinspektion Montabaur, Telephone: 02602-9226-0

 

Sources:Kath.netpolice press release, and Rhein Zeitung

 
Fires set in Nordhausen church

Observatory Christianophobia (18.05.2019) – https://bit.ly/30keDlN – Police announced on May 19th that a tablecloth had been set on fire in the vestibule of St. Blasii’s Evangelical church in Nordhausen during the night of 18 May. Fortunately, it did not catch fire completely. There were also traces of fire on a cordon to the church balcony. The professional fire brigade used a thermal imaging camera to scan other areas for evidence of fires. Police are now looking for witnesses who may have seen something suspicious.

Source: Police press release

 
United Kingdom

 

PSNI seeking two over Londonderry church arson

BBC (25.05.2019) – https://bbc.in/2P7FiB8 – Police investigating an arson attack on a church in Londonderry have said they believe two males may have started the fire.

The fire happened at Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty shortly after 22:00 BST on Friday night.

The fire service said CCTV showed the fire had been started deliberately by several youths.

Parish priest Fr Paddy O’Kane was visiting a sick man whose son showed him a photograph of the fire.

He thought at first it was “trick photography”.

“I thought he was playing a joke,” he said.

“I went to the front of the man’s house and then I could see smoke rising. The community had gathered. I got a terrible shock.”

The parochial house of the church was evacuated and 20 firefighters tackled the blaze.

Fr O’Kane said he had not been allowed back into the building while forensics officers worked on the scene.

Fr O’Kane said he could not understand the motivation of the young men behind the arson attack, but he would pray for them at weekend masses.

“I never can understand vandalism or arson, I don’t understand what buzz it gives people,” he said.

“I can’t understand what goes on in a person’s mind that they want to cause damage to other people and how it can make them feel good.

“I feel more sorry for them. There is something badly wrong in their lives whenever they do this.”

Group Commander Andy Burns said it had put lives in danger and that a community event was being held in the parochial house when the blaze broke out.

He said the fire was started in a shed to the rear of the parochial house.

The house was damaged, with the heat destroying windows.

‘People can lose their lives’

The fire also spread to the church roof and tiles were removed by the fire service to prevent it spreading further, he said.

The CCTV footage had been passed to police for investigation, Group Cmdr Burns added.

“This was arson. This had the potential to spread to the adjoining parochial house, which was occupied, and people can lose their lives in this type of incident,” he said.

“We would ask our young people, please do not get involved in setting deliberate fires, setting fires like this is very dangerous.”

PSNI Det Con Fielding said: “At this stage we believe two males may have been involved in starting this fire and we are keen to identify them.

“We would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at around the time of the fire or anyone who may have information regarding this crime.”

Sinn Féin councillor Michael Cooper condemned the attack: “The mindset of actually going down and deliberately setting fire to a church or any community building defies logic.

“This has caused extreme anger and disbelief in the community who go to this chapel.”

SDLP councillor Shauna Cusack described it as a “reckless act”.

“I don’t know what they were trying to achieve – it put people at risk.

“It also put the fire service at risk too. I really can’t understand the mindset of people who would want to destroy a place of worship and somebody’s home.”




DENMARK: Man arrested for defacing more than 80 graves with “666” in church cemetery

Photo: L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie

Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (21.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2TLfKZ7 – A 46-year-old man was charged with spray-painting the number ‘666’ on 87 tombstones in a church cemetery in North Jutland, Denmark. Staff from the Hadsund Church noticed the damage on Sunday morning, July 21st. After an investigation, the man was arrested on July 24th after witnesses came forward. The man, who had been convicted of similar vandalism of a cemetery in 2016, denied responsibility for this incident.

“We are charging him with serious vandalism. I am pleased that we were able to quickly arrest a suspect in a case that we know has affected many citizens in the area around Hadsund, said Deputy Police Inspector Sune Myrup, North Jutland Police. Pastor Winnie Sella Huus said the act was “very violent” and “hurts right in the heart.”

Read here about the 2016 incident at the nearby Visborg Church where over 100 gravestones were vandalized with spray paint.

Sources: tv2nord.dktv2nord.dkBT.dkNordjyskeNordjyske

See picture and video at: https://www.tv2nord.dk/artikel/46-aarig-anholdt-haervaerk-paa-kirkegaard




UK: Parents launch court action over Christian school assemblies

Couple say their children are being indoctrinated and school did not provide good alternative

 By Harriet Sherwood

 

The Guardian (29.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2ZiR6RD – A couple who say their children are being religiously indoctrinated during Christian school assemblies are to launch a high court challenge.

 

Lee and Lizanne Harris will say in a judicial review claim in the autumn that Burford primary school in Oxfordshire made their children take part in Christian prayers and watch re-enactments of Bible stories including the crucifixion.

 

The couple withdrew their children from the assemblies but say the school refused to provide a meaningful alternative of equal educational worth. Instead, the Harris children were put in a room with an iPad and supervised by a teaching assistant, according to their parents.

 

At the time the Harris children enrolled, Burford primary school was a community school with no religious character. But in 2015 it became an academy and joined the Church of England’s Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST).

 

All state schools are required to provide an act of daily worship of a “broadly Christian character” under the 1944 Education Act. Parents are entitled to withdraw their children from collective worship.

 

The Harrises, whose case will be heard at the high court in November, will argue that the school must provide an inclusive assembly as a meaningful alternative for pupils withdrawn from Christian worship.

 

They will raise concerns that during school assemblies, stories of God and Christianity were presented to children as fact, and that school leavers were presented with a Bible as a “guide to life” at a ceremony in a church.

 

The couple also claim that it is inappropriate that officials from a nearby church, St John the Baptist, which is part of the evangelical wing of the Church of England, regularly led worship at school assemblies.

 

In a statement, they said: “We enrolled our children into a state community school – which is meant to have no religious character – but over time we noticed harmful aspects of evangelism spreading into assembly and other parts of the school which goes against our children’s rights to receive an education free from religious interference.

 

‘When our children go to school they shouldn’t have to participate in Christian prayers, or watch biblical scenes such as the crucifixion being acted out, nor should they have to hear from evangelical preachers who spout harmful and often divisive messages.”

 

They were going to court reluctantly, they added, “but [we] feel strongly that we need to try to make our children’s education as inclusive as possible.

 

“We also don’t think it’s acceptable that they be left to play with an iPad because we’ve withdrawn them. They should be able to participate in an inclusive assembly that is of equal educational worth and which is welcoming and respectful of all students no matter their background.”

 

The school’s website says daily assemblies provide space for children “to develop a reflective approach to life, and the ability to express their thoughts. Additionally, it is a time when children and staff come together to celebrate shared beliefs and values relating to the day to day life of school.”

 

Once a week, it says, assemblies are organised by the children’s coordinator at St John the Baptist church at which “Bible stories are read and brought to life through interactive drama using mime, costume, props, puppets and sound effects, with the children also getting involved”.

 

The website of the ODST, whose 33 church and community schools educate more than 6,100 children, says the trust is “motivated by our Christian values to serve our local communities, but we do not impose those values … We welcome those of all faiths and none, and we are proud of the ethnic diversity within our academies which reflects that of their local community.”

 

In a statement, the trust said: “Collective worship, which is a statutory requirement in all church and community schools, is aimed at encouraging pupils to develop a sense of mystery, awe and wonder about the world. This is all done through listening to stories from a wide range of different cultures and religions, giving time for children to think about themselves, and the contribution they all make to our society.”

 

It said it was “confident that Burford primary school, as a community school, has acted entirely appropriately, and has followed all statutory requirements”.

 

Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, which is supporting the couple’s legal challenge, said: “We are the only sovereign state in the world to require schools to hold daily Christian worship, yet 80% of our young people and 75% of people of parental age are not Christians. Our state schools are instead home to children of a broad diversity of cultures and backgrounds and they deserve and need inclusive activities that bring them together as one community.

 

“Requiring children to participate in religious worship and then marginalising them if in good conscience they cannot, ignores their right to freedom of religion or belief and is a negation of inclusion.”




UK: ‘Gay Cakes’: Ashers Bakingheads for Strasbourg

– Law and Religion UK (15.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2ZcbKlr – The BBC reports that the judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd & Ors (Northern Ireland) [2018] UKSC 49 is to be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Regular readers will recall that the Supreme Court held that there had been no associative discrimination because “In a nutshell, the objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons” [34] and that the McArthurs’ objection had not been to Mr Lee personally but to being required to promote the message on the cake: “The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message, not to the man” and Ashers had been quite prepared to serve Mr Lee in other ways [47]. We noted the judgment here.

According to the report on the BBC website, Mr Lee’s solicitors argue that the Supreme Court failed to give appropriate weight to his Convention rights and that “The Supreme Court ruling blurred the line, creates legal uncertainty for all of us in Northern Ireland, and the ECHR is the appropriate place to clarify this issue.” Further, there is no such a thing as a “Christian business”; and a claim that a commercial organisation can have principles of conscience that must be respected should not be given legal recognition.
The first issue, presumably, is whether or not the ECtHR will declare the complaint admissible.
Recommended reading
‘Gay Cakes’: UK Supreme Court finds in favour of Ashers Baking
http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2018/10/11/gay-cakes-uk-supreme-court-finds-in-favour-of-ashers-baking/



GERMANY: Anti-Semitism

Jews abused, spat on in Munich anti-Semitic attacks

– DW (07.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2TcJU7v– Jewish groups say anti-Semitic attacks are happening with increasing frequency in Bavaria. The latest incidents follow several recent high profile cases in other German cities.

Jewish people in Munich suffered two anti-Semitic attacks within days of each other, police and a Jewish group announced on Tuesday.

On Saturday, a rabbi and his two sons were spat on and verbally abused by a man and a woman on their return from the synagogue, according to the police. Police are investigating the two unknown suspects for hate speech and insult.

And on Monday evening, a member of the Jewish community found someone scrawling a Star of David (a Jewish symbol that was also used by Nazis to segregate Jews in the Holocaust) in the stairwell of their apartment building, according to Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community for Munich and Upper Bavaria.

“Safety in public spaces, which should be a matter of course for all citizens, is becoming a more distant prospect, especially for members of the Jewish community,” said Knobloch. At a time when hatred in parliament, in society and on the Internet has “increasingly become the background noise of our coexistence,” it is no longer surprising that anti-Semitism is becoming so widespread, she said.

According to the Bavarian Anti-Semitism Research and Information Centre (RIAS), 72 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported in the southern German state of Bavaria since April — 35 from state capital Munich alone. RIAS says such attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. “The number of unreported cases is high, because many cases do not become public,” director Annette Seidel-Arpaci said.

Interior minister speaks out

Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said he strongly condemned such anti-Semitic incidents. He was confident that the identity of the perpetrators would be established. He encouraged the members of the Jewish community not to be intimidated. “We want self-confident Jewish life in the public sphere! We want the Kippa to be worn on Bavaria’s streets as a matter of course.”

Bavaria’s Anti-Semitism Commissioner Ludwig Spaenle called it an “attack on the entire Munich city society.” The Protestant Munich regional bishop, Susanne Breit-Kessler, said on Twitter: “It is shameful that something like this is happening in our city.”

Similar incidents have been reported across Germany in recent weeks. In Berlin, two men speaking Arabic insulted and spat on a rabbi. In Potsdam, a man wearing a kippa was attacked in the same way by a Syrian. And in June, in Hamburg, the State Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky and a board member of the Jewish community were spat on.

 

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