The Scientology Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society, which has been working in an advisory capacity with the United Nations since 2019, awarded the prizes for religious freedom to Prof. Dr. Alejandro Torres, Prof. Dr. Rafael Valencia and Prof. Dr. Catalina Pons-Estel, in an online ceremony attended by Prof. Dr. Mercedes Murillo, Director of Religious Freedom of the Spanish Ministry of Presidency, attended.
The ceremony, opened by Ivan Arjona-Pelado, President of the Church of Scientology’s European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights, and Isabel Ayuso, General Secretary of the Mejora Foundation, began with two videos on the right to freedom of thought, of religion and conscience.
Mercedes Murillo, Director of Religious Freedom in the Presidency’s Ministry, spoke to the awardees and participants at the online ceremony: “This year, the Church of Scientology Foundation is giving away its Religious Freedom Awards, a pioneering initiative. and so it is appropriate for another year to recognize and appreciate this opportunity to bring together worried people around the world. “
Murillo went on to say, “We are meeting this afternoon to present some well-deserved awards to three recognized specialists in the field, whom I would like to congratulate.” The Master of Ceremonies then presented the winners, who personally thanked the Fundación Mejora of the Church of Scientology for the award and the initiative to encourage people to promote and defend freedom of conscience.
Ayuso, the general secretary of the foundation, said in her presentation that “they are the heroes of our time” … “they have changed the battlefield for the classroom, the swords for the pen … for a real fight for freedom” .
The first winner of the celebration was Prof. Dr. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, Full Professor of Law at the Public University of Navarre, with a series of publications on religious freedom. His publications focus on the study of the financing and taxation systems of religious denominations, models of church-state relations in Spain, Austria, Portugal and France, the status of minorities and multiculturalism in the USA, Canada and Austria. In his acceptance speech he left messages such as “the study of freedom of conscience is still relevant because we shouldn’t have fewer rights, because we are less”… “in a society like ours, where there is still a lot of violence on religious grounds I understand that studying tolerance is important. “…“ The protection of diversity is the key in a state like ours, in which all possible interpretations of the universe have a place, as long as they respect the ethical minimum that we all participate in a democratic society ”.
Arjona presented the following award to Prof. Dr. Rafael Valencia Canadlija, currently Professor of Canon Law at the University of Seville. In addition to practically opening up religious diversity in Spain to thousands of law students, he will shortly publish a book on religious freedom in football, a groundbreaking prism in this field. Prof. Valencia said at the ceremony that “there is no award today for a professor of religious freedom who gives greater hope and joy in recognition of protecting religious freedom” … “We must keep fighting, so we must keep working on defense freedom of religion … for those situations that violate this great right that preoccupies us and, above all, we must continue to seek and make proposals for better protection of the good, that is our work and that should be our mission ”.
2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Spanish law on religious freedom. As a result, an award could not be given to Prof. Dr. Catalina Pons-Estel Tugores by the University of the Balearic Islands who not only has taught this subject since 1997 but has also completed a series of lectures for review and commentary on current Spanish law with the vision of both small and large religious entities as well by professionals in the field, both scholars and government officials, who she has made available to the public in addition to classrooms.
In her acceptance speech, Prof. Pons-Estel stated that “religious freedom is a very topical issue, a subject that is very lively and close to all citizens”… “although we have all taken the importance of the fundamental right of freedom of religion for granted in these times When everything seems to be in crisis, it never hurts to remember the importance of those rights that have cost us so much to achieve and guarantee. “