The Church of Scientology of Spain and the MEJORA Foundation—Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society—held their seventh annual Freedom Awards presentation in an online ceremony attended by the Director of Religious Freedom in Spain’s Ministry of the Presidency, Dr. Mercedes Murillo.
Ivan Arjona-Pelado, President of the Church of Scientology European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights, presented the awards to:
- Dr. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, Professor of Law at the University of Navarra
- Dr. Rafael Valencia Candalija, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law at the University of Sevilla
- Dr. Catalina Pons-Estel Tugores, Lecturer in Private Law at the University of Balearic Islands.
Each awardee was presented with a replica of La Tizona, the sword of the legendary Spanish hero El Cid. Long a symbol of the honor and dignity of the knight who defends light against darkness, the sword represents the virtues of common sense, strength, moderation, and justice.
The award ceremony, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of Spain’s Law on Religious Freedom, was opened by Arjona-Pelado and Isabel Ayuso, Secretary-General of MEJORA Foundation. It began with a video from the Scientology TV Network: a public service announcement on The Way to Happiness Foundation titled “Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others.” It is based on a precept of the nonreligious moral code by the same name written by humanitarian and Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard.
“Once again, this year the Church of Scientology 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 said. “We meet this afternoon to present some well-deserved awards to three recognized specialists in this field whom I would like to congratulate.”
Ayuso hailed the award winners as “heroes of our times who have changed the battleground for the classroom into a real battle for freedom.”
Dr. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez’s extensive scholarship includes church-state relations in Spain, Austria, Portugal and France and the status of minorities and multiculturalism in the United States, Canada and Austria. In accepting his award, he said, “There is still much violence for religious reasons…The study of tolerance is important.” He believes that “the protection of diversity is key in a state like ours in which all possible interpretations of the universe have a place.”
Dr. Rafael Valencia Canadlija, who has introduced the idea of religious diversity in Spain to thousands of law students, said, “There is no greater prize today for a professor of religious freedom law than a recognition for protecting religious freedom.” He affirmed his commitment to “continue to work in defense of religious freedom.”
Dr. Catalina Pons-Estel Tugores has taught Spain’s Law on Religious Freedom since 1997. This year she completed a series of lectures on the subject, focusing on both major and minor religious denominations and bringing the field into the public eye. “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,” she said.
The full event may be watched online on the MEJORA Foundation YouTube channel.
Fundacion MEJORA achieved consultive status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, in the summer of 2019, enhancing the opportunities for the Church of Scientology to contribute directly to the accomplishment of the Council’s goals: “to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental.” ECOSOC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.