Serbia: The 'Coalition for a Secular State' releases Manifesto
- the awareness that a secular society is a legacy of the modern age that reaffirms secular values as a necessary precondition of maintaining and strengthening a democratic order based on respect for human rights;
- the insight into an increasingly aggressive interference of religious communities, most of all the Serbian Orthodox Church, into affairs of the state, for which the state bears most of the responsibility;
- a growing clericalisation of society;
- the fact that abolishing the division between the state and religious communities endangers basic human rights of all citizens, women and men, believers and non-believers;
The Coalition for a Secular State proposes the Manifesto on Secularism
Who are we?
The Coalition for a Secular State was initiated in the beginning of 2006 by a group of nongovernmental organizations in response to the Law on Churches and Religious Communities.
The Coalition consists of civil society activists, mostly from organizations concerned with peace and human rights, autonomous women’s groups, experts in law and other social sciences and humanities, activists of civic oriented political parties; in short - citizens concerned by the growing clericalisation in Serbia, the loss of the secular character of the state and a growing influence of religious communities, especially the Serbian Orthodox Church, in state affairs, the education system and public life in Serbia.
We are for:
- A secular state – complete division of church and state, no interference of any church into state affairs, as well as no interference of the state into religious affairs;
- A secular education system – schools without religious indoctrination and without interference of church or religious institutions, but instead an education based on the principles of science and rationalism;
- Freedom of religion – reaffirming the right of each individual to belong to a religious community, to change or abandon beliefs, as well as to not believe and not belong to any religious community;
- The equal treatment of believers and non-believers - there should be no discrimination whatsoever, nor any privileges based on public expressions of religious beliefs or a lack thereof;
- A society where religious expression is an exclusively private matter of each individual woman and man, especially as far as state officials are concerned.
We intend to:
- warn the public that losing the secular character of the state entails serious consequences on peace, democracy, and human rights, especially women’s rights;
- bring attention to the constant abuse of religion, tradition, national and cultural heritage – all for political purposes, in order to gain legitimacy and political power;
- support real freedom of belief and secularism as a key legacy of modernity;
- encourage and produce similar coalitions within civil society because that is the best way to protect peace, democracy and human rights.
We are initiating:
- Educational activities which will spread information on the values of secularism through leaflets, brochures, public events, round tables, seminars, etc.;
- Lawmaking initiatives, one of which will be a proposal to question the constitutionality of the Law on Churches and Religious Communities;
- A number of activities that will mark December 10th – the International Day of Human Rights. The slogan for the activities will be “Stop Clericalisation” and the public will be informed about the specific details in due course.
Women in Black
Center for Peace and Democracy Development
Center for the Advancement of Legal Studies
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
Youth Initiative for Human Rights
Belgrade Center for Human Rights
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights
Queeria Center for the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and diversity
Social Democratic Union
Belgrade, 9 December 2007
The Coalition for a Secular State began as a citizens’ response to the growing clericalisation of society, as well as to the Law on Churches and Religious Communities which violated the secular character of the state. The latest activities of the Coalition are:
· Press conference on December 7, 2007, where the Coalition will be presented to the public along with the text of the Manifest on Secularism which has been initiated by the Coalition (Women in Black, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Queeria Center for the promotion of a culture of nonviolence and diversity, Republika Journal, Social Democratic Union, Urban In, Center for Peace and Democracy Development, Center for the Advancement of Legal Studies, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia) and supported by 50 intellectuals (women and men) as well as 50 civil society groups throughout Serbia.
· Performance “We are not going back – Stop Clericalisation” took place at Trg Republike on December 10, 2007.
Additionally, the Coalition is publishing the following brochures:
· “What every citizen (woman and man) should know about SOC (Serbian Orthodox Church),” which contains a collection of statements of distinguished church and government officials in which the secular character of the state and our society came into question. Many of the statements also represent an attack on human rights and civil liberties.
· “Secularism and women,” a brochure that promotes the values of secular society.
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