The Church of Scientology Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society, in consultative status with the United Nations since 2019, presented the Religious Freedom Awards 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 Spain’s Ministry of Presidency.
The ceremony, opened by Ivan Arjona-Pelado, the President of the European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights, and Isabel Ayuso, the Secretary-General of the Mejora Foundation, began with two videos regarding the right to freedom of thought, religion and conscience.
Mercedes Murillo, the Director of Religious Liberty for the Ministry of the Presidency, addressed the award winners and attendees at the online ceremony, saying, “Once again, this year the Church of Scientology Foundation is presenting its Religious Freedom Awards, a pioneering initiative, and so it is also appropriate for another year to recognize and appreciate this opportunity to bring together people concerned about this right around the world“
Murillo continued by saying “we are meeting this afternoon to present some well-deserved awards to three recognized specialists in this field whom I would like to congratulate”. The master of ceremonies then went on to present the winners, who personally thanked the Fundación Mejora, of the Church of Scientology, for the award received and for the initiative that seeks to encourage people to promote and defend freedom of conscience.
Ayuso, the Secretary-General of the Foundation, said in her presentation that “they are the heroes of our times”…”they have changed the battleground for the classroom, the swords for the quill… on a real battle for freedom”.
The first winner of the celebration was Prof. Dr. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, a Full Professor of Law at the Public University of Navarra with an array of publications on religious freedom. His publications focus on the study of the financing and tax system of religious denominations, models of Church-State relations in Spain, Austria, Portugal and France, the status of minorities and multiculturalism in the United States, Canada and Austria. In his acceptance speech he left, among other messages, messages such as “the study of freedom of conscience is still relevant because we should not have fewer rights as a result of being less”… “in a society like ours in which there is still much violence for religious reasons I understand that the study of tolerance is important”… “the protection of diversity is 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 of which we all participate in a democratic society”.
Arjona gave the following award to Prof. Dr. Rafael Valencia Canadlija, currently a Professor of Ecclesiastical Law at the University of Sevilla. In addition to having opened religious diversity in Spain in a practical way to thousands of law students, he will soon publish a book on Religious Freedom in Football, a pioneering prism in the field. Prof. Valencia said at the ceremony that “there is no prize today for a professor of religious freedom law giving a greater hope and joy as a recognition for protecting religious freedom” … ” we must continue to fight, therefore we must continue to work in defense of religious freedom … for those situations that violate this great right that occupies us and above all, we must continue to seek and continue to establish proposals for better protection of the good, that is our work, and that should be our mission“.
2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Spain’s Law on Religious Freedom. As a result, an award could not be denied to Prof. Dr. Catalina Pons-Estel Tugores, from the University of the Balearic Islands, who in addition to teaching this subject since 1997, this year has completed a series of lectures reviewing and commenting on the current Spanish law with the vision of both minor and major religious entities, as well as professionals in the field both scholars and government officials, which she has brought to the general public in addition to classrooms.
In her acceptance speech, Prof. Pons-Estel explained that “religious freedom is a very current subject, a subject that is very much alive and close to all citizens” … “although we have all taken for granted the importance of the fundamental right of religious freedom, in these times in which everything seems to be in crisis, it never hurts to remember the importance of these rights that have cost us so much to achieve and guarantee”.