A call for new religious freedom legislation in Italy

At the Chamber of Deputies, politicians, academics, and religious leaders conclude that outdated laws must be replaced

June 14, 2012, Rome, Italy ...  A group of experts in Italy has said that, although religious freedom in Italy is protected by international covenants and conventions, new legislation to protect religious minorities is necessary to replace the fascist law of 1929-1930. This conclusion was reached during a Study Day held at Italy's Chamber of Deputies, May 15, in Rome. The study was organized by the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (CFIB), the Board of Evangelical Churches for Relations with the State (ESRAB), and the Department of Religious Freedom of the Italian Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (UICCA).

The conference was opened with a message of greeting from the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini. This was followed by an intervention of the Vice President of the Senate, Vannino Chiti, who said "we need a new law simply because ours is now a multi-religious society, and the implementation of a right to religious liberty is fundamental to social cohesion and democracy itself."

The Study Day was held in three sessions. The first, in the morning, was devoted to statements by representatives of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Interior and university professors of international renown. This included Francesco Margiotta Broglio and Silvio Ferrari, both members of honor of the International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty (AIDLR). They all stressed that religious denominations in Italy are not "equally free," as shown in article 8 of the Constitution.

In the afternoon there was a session on religious denominations, coordinated by Dora Bognandi, director of religious liberty issues for the Adventist Church in Italy. Speakers included representatives of the Adventists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Roman Catholics.

Politicians, representing different parties, said they all agreed that a new law on religious freedom was not only necessary, but that it would serve all Italians. Particular attention was paid to the situation in Lombardy, where a regional law on religious buildings introduced in 2006 effectively limits the right to open places of worship for religions other than the Catholic Church. In this sense, it was confirmed, even by lawyers who intervened, that the right to have a place of worship is an integral part of the fundamental right to religious freedom.

The Adventist Church, in accordance with Article 8 of Italy's Constitution, has signed an agreement with the State and converted into law 516/88 which, among other things, guarantees the the right to keep Saturday as Sabbath in all sectors, public and private. Regardless of this, Adventists believe they have a responsibility to continue to struggle for religious freedom for all faith groups and religious minorities. [Dora Bognandi/IRLA]