The three winners of the Religious Freedom Award included two specialists in Ecclesiastical State Law (Constitutional Law on Religious Freedom) and one of the most active prosecutors in all of Spain, if not in Europe, when it comes to fighting against hate crimes.
The awards took place in the crowded chapel of the Spanish Church of Scientology – the Church, which also acts the headquarters of the Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society (Foundation MEJORA), and commemorates Scientology’s 39th anniversary in Spain – acts as a symbol of the Church’s strong roots in the country. Furthermore, the Foundation
MEJORA was recently granted a special consultative status as an NGO with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
The event was attended by the Director of the Fundación Pluralismo y Convivencia, or Pluralism and Coexistence in English, the Spanish Ministry of Justice, representative of the Diversity Management Unit of the Municipal Police of Madrid, and more than 17 Spanish and Latino NGOs, plus a number of other churches as well as a representative of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Spain.
Just before the awards ceremony, the nearly 100 attendees of the event were informed of the work being carried out by the Diversity Management Unit of the Madrid Police to promote coexistence amongst diversity, as well as prosecuting, within their scope of responsibility, hate crimes that especially target religious minorities.
This year’s awards, which were delivered by Iván Arjona-Pelado, the President of the Church in Spain and of the European Office of Public Affairs and Human Rights, were given to:
- Miguel Angel Aguilar Sánchez, Coordinating Prosecutor of the Hate crimes and discrimination service of the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office
- Marcos González Sánchez, Founder of the Methodological Institute of Ecclesiastical State Law and Professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid.
- Adoración Castro Jover, Full Professor of Ecclesiastical State Law, at the University of the Basque Country
Prosecutor Miguel Angel Aguilar, possibly one of the most recognised people in all of Spain for his work and knowledge of hate crimes and discrimination, said in his acceptance speech for the award that he was concerned with religious freedom, particularly in regards to “hate speech through social media…there are messages that are aimed at promoting hatred, discrimination, hostility, even sometimes violence… and religions are often the subject of such attacks.” Aguilar finished by giving “thanks to the Church of Scientology for all the work they do in defence of religious freedom for all religions.”
Dr. Marcos González, receiving his award said that “It is with pride that I accept this award as it has already been given to great professors.” He also pointed out that “in Spain more and more churches are seen in the cities, and this headquarters (of the Church of Scientology of Spain) is an example as it is next to the Parliament…diversity is very important because it helps progress.”
González also stressed that “the cooperation that the Spanish Constitution speaks of should be for all denominations and there should be some advantages for those that have no ‘cooperation Agreement’, which are the vast majority…this award is an incentive to continue working hard.”
Castro emphasised the “paradox that an award must be given for the defence of religious freedom in a democracy,” adding, “We must continue to fight for the (religious) minorities who still do not find the space they deserve in Spain.” later saying, “We see in this meeting that there really are very valuable people, very committed people who are not skimping I their work and thus make it possible to achieve that ultimate goal that we all work towards – each of us having the same freedom to manifest our beliefs and non-beliefs and being able to exercise them.”