Press reports on the authorisation decision of the European Court of Human Rights (application no. 40825/98) of 5 July 2005:
The European Court of Human Rights is currently examining whether the freedom of religion of thousands of Austrian citizens has been obstructed by being deprived of legal recognition for decades. This affects large faith communities and world religions, such as Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hindus. Their members are disadvantaged by the law in many ways simply because they belong to non-recognised churches.
In its decision of 5 July 2005, the European Court announced that it would examine the violation of the right to freedom of religion by the multiple forms of discrimination against Austrian Jehovah’s Witnesses and it simultaneously invited both sides to reach an amicable settlement based on international standards for human rights.
(DER STANDARD, 22 July 2005)
According to the announcement, discrimination against recognised religious communities when compared to churches and religious societies is found in civil law, labour and social law, military and civilian service law, judicial seizure law, media law, the school system and tax law. […] For example, the screening of “anti-sect videos” in schools often leads to children of Jehovah’s Witnesses being verbally and even physically attacked. The community, which claims to have 23,000 members and around 13,000 associates in Austria, is fighting back against this discrimination. Jehovah’s Witnesses point out that in other European countries, such as Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, they have complete legal equality with other churches.
(DER STANDARD, 21 July 2005)
The eminent Viennese constitutional lawyer Heinz Mayer anticipates that Austria will be condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. […] Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been registered as a “religious community” since 1998, believe they are disadvantaged compared to the legally recognised churches and religious societies. After the Federal Constitutional Court established the applicants’ right to obtain a decision from the administrative authorities in 1995, the National Assembly (Nationalrat) passed the Registered Religious Communities Act in 1998. These religious communities now have legal personality, but not the special advantages enjoyed by recognised religious societies. Heinz Mayer, professor of constitutional law at the University of Vienna, has always deemed the 1998 Registered Religious Communities Act problematic: “Fully recognising some, whilst only granting inferior status to others – that is clear discrimination.”
(ORF NEWS, 20 July 2005)
Jehovah’s Witnesses filed an action against Austria with the European Court of Human Rights. They feel discriminated against compared to other religions.
(DIE PRESSE, 19 July 2005)