Professor Brett G. Scharffs, ICLRS Associate Director, was the featured guest on two radio interviews conducted 17 November 2010 on Freedom’s Ring Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly broadcast produced by the Church State Council in cooperation with the North American Religious Liberty Association.
The first broadcast was a twenty-minute interview about a recent case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Inokentiy) and Others v. Bulgaria, concerning a division between two factions of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In the case, the Court held that the Bulgarian government had violated the religious freedom rights of one of the factions when it refused to register it. Scharffs noted that the deep lesson of the case is the “mischief that can arise when there is a close alliance between the state and one particular religious group.” Although the applicant was awarded 50,000 Euros in damages, this was far less than the 680 million Euros it sought when the government evicted them from 107 churches and buildings they had been occupying.
The second broadcast was about two recent European Court of Human Rights cases involving churches in Germany that dismissed employees for adultery. In one of those cases, Obst v. Germany, the European Court sided with the German courts, who had ruled that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been within its rights when it dismissed the director of public relations for Europe. In the other case, Schuth v. Germany, the Court said that the German courts had failed to properly balance the privacy and family rights interests of a Catholic church organist who was dismissed. The cases raise important issues about the parameters of church autonomy with respect to employment in Europe. Professor Scharffs noted that observers did not predict that these cases would have yielded differing results, and these results raise concerns for church autonomy because the ECtHR was quite assertive of its own judgment about when it is and is not appropriate for churches to fire employees on the basis of behavior that conflicts with church doctrine.
The Church State Council, which produces Freedom’s Ring Radio, is a religious liberty ministry of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The program is broadcast in 39 states and over several satellite networks, and has an estimated weekly listening audience of 500,000. To access podcasts click here.