My legal specialty is international human rights law and I have defended with success religious liberties—in particular, the rights of Christians to evangelise—before the European Court of Human Rights: three consolidated cases against Greece (Larissis et al.) and Bessarabian Orthodox Church v Moldova. The Bessarabian Church case was regarded by a former President of the Court as the most important religious liberties case to come before the ECHR at that time (2001).
I therefore keep a close eye on cases involving Article 9 rights as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Recently, a series of three lectures at Lincoln’s Inn (English barristers must be members of an Inn—a medieval guild) provided updates on the case-law of the ECHR. The lectures were given by a former Judge of the Court, Egbert Myjer, a distinguished Dutch jurist. (En passant, I cannot resist mentioning the irrelevant fact that, though called to the English bar at Middle Temple, I soon joined Lincoln’s Inn, owing to  its fine library, and  its superb wine cellar.)
In discussing recent cases under Article 9—the article protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion—Judge Myjer focused on Osmanoglu and Kocabas v. Switzerland (Judgment of 10 January 2017).
In this case, Mr Osmanoglu, born in Turkey but brought up in Switzerland, returned as an adult to Turkey to deepen his knowledge of Islam. Whilst there, he married, and then returned to Switzerland. His pre-adolescent daughter was enrolled in a primary school requiring swimming lessons for all the children. The pupils were not separated by sex for these lessons, and Mr Osmanoglu objected on religious grounds. He lost at every level in the Swiss courts and, having “exhausted domestic remedies,” took his complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Court conceded that he had a genuine religious complaint, even though the Qur’an demands the separation of the sexes only post-puberty under such conditions. But it decided for the Swiss government—on the grounds of “the margin of appreciation” and “proportionality”—that, in light of Article 9’s qualification that religious liberties can be limited where there are reasonable and legal grounds to do so for the public good. In the instant case, it was asking too much that the country provide separate swimming facilities or modify its educational curricula in primary schools to satisfy the concerns of hyper-devout Muslims.
As I contemplated this case, I immediately thought of the current, 18-month incarceration of an American evangelist in Turkey. In 2016, Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American citizen who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, was arrested and charged with complicity against the Turkish regime by way of alleged support for a Muslim cleric in the United States, one Fethuhhah Gülen, who wants to overthrow the current, radically Islamic and oppressive Turkish presidency of Recep Erdogan. If convicted, Brunson could face a 35-year prison sentence or even life imprisonment for treason and terrorism. Without success, Pastor Brunson has testified that he has no connections whatever with Gülen or his outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has no political agenda whatever, and has been jailed simply for his Christian testimony. The charge against Brunson includes the specific claim that Turkey is a traditionally Muslim country and to encourage people to become Christians is effectively a treasonable activity—this, in spite of Turkey’s ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing religious freedom and right to change one’s religion! (In discussing this matter with Judge Myjer, I was told that there are currently no less than 150 human rights cases pending against Turkey at the ECHR.)
Since no judgment has yet come down in the Brunson matter, domestic remedies have not been exhausted and the case cannot be taken to the ECHR. Pastor Brunson must cool his heels in jail, and he was recently transferred to a jail with a particularly bad reputation for the ill treatment of prisoners. Erdogan has obliquely suggested that the solution might be the U.S.’s willingness to extradite Gulen—as a kind of prisoner exchange.
Now what lesson can be derived from the two cases just described? In Osmanoglu, a Muslim living in an open, Western society attempts to use the freedoms guaranteed in that society to obtain special privileges for his religion, to the disadvantage of non-Muslims. In the Brunson matter, occurring in a Muslim country, even basic religious freedoms are curtailed with no regard for evidence or the rule of law.
The Muslim religion is two-faced. It wants religious liberty for itself and, given the opportunity, curtails it for everyone else. When Western thinkers endeavor to present Islam as just another example of fine religiosity, this truth deserves to be taken into account. In point of fact, Islam and human rights are simply incompatible.
Further reading on the subject: Montgomery, “A Non-Politically-Correct Remedy to Muslim Terrorist Immigration,” in his Defending the Gospel in Legal Style (Bonn, Germany: Verlag fuer Kultur und Wissenschaft, 2017).
John Warwick Montgomery
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Evangelism to the Jew is a sensitive subject. There are, sadly, evangelicals who appear to believe that Jews are saved qua Jews—in direct contradiction to the clear message of Jesus in the New Testament that no one comes to the Father but through personal belief in Jesus himself. And the maltreatment of Jews by institutional Christianity across the centuries has made contemporary witness exceedingly difficult. The nation-state of Israel, whilst granting citizenship to virtually any one of proven Jewish ancestry by way of the Law of the Return denies the application of that law to “Messianic Jews”—those Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.
The Global Journal editor has often maintained that the New Testament witness “to the Jew first” is particularly assisted by the argument that accepting Jesus as the Divine Messiah offers the Jew a double advantage: (1) fulfillment soteriologically (Messiah has come, so salvation is an assured reality) and (2) fulfillment epistemologically (though, unlike the New Testament, the inerrancy of the Old Testament cannot be demonstrated through sufficiently early historical documents, the entire revelational authority of the Old Testament is established once one accepts Jesus’—i.e., the Incarnate God’s—full confidence in the Old Testament records).
This issue of the Global Journal features two scholarly articles on Jewish-Christian issues: Amy Downey’s “Maimonides Against the Trinity: Implications for Contemporary Dialogue with Jewish Religious Thought” and Alan Shore’s “Modern Jewish History and the Making of the Messianic Identity.”
Grab a Kosher corned beef sandwich at New York’s wondrous Second Avenue Deli—or your local equivalent—and enjoy!