The Leipzig Award 2003
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Speech held by Andreas Heldal-Lund when he received The Leipzig Human Rights Award, May 18th 2003.
Members of the Committee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank You! I am honoured and pleased to accept the Human Rights Award of the European- American Citizens Committee for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in the USA.
Yesterday, on the 17th of May, we Norwegians celebrated our constitution day to mark the signing of Norway´s constitution in 1814. Maybe it is because we are a small country: In Norway this is an important day. All over Norway children have paraded in their best clothes to the music of thousands of marching bands, and countless speeches have been made to remind each others, as fellow Norwegians, that freedom should never be taken for granted.
Norway´s almost 200 year old constitution was heavily inspired by the French and United States´ Constitution penned a few years earlier. The new constitution had 3 key elements:
We are gathered here today, not to focus on individuals such as myself, but to remind ourselves, like millions of my countrymen did yesterday, that these rights might all to easily be lost, and that countless human beings are still deprived of such basic rights as freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
What brings us together across the world, in spite of our different nationalities, languages, political and religious beliefs, is a strong belief in our obligation to guard these rights and assure they are not abused.
But we have one more thing in common: We have identified and declared war on the most hideous abusers of all: The Organizations, churches and cults, religious or not, whom, under the protection of exactly these rights - freedom of religion and freedom of speech - abuse them and deny their followers and ex-members of these same rights.
You may ask: Should not the protection of these rights be a public responsibility? Does not the constitution of, say, Germany, Norway or the United States establish bodies and procedures for the protection of these rights?
Yes, they do, and therein also lays the problem. The organizations we are up against are masters in disguising their activities under these very rights our governments are obligated to uphold and protect.
Was it not for the likes of you and me: Ordinary citizens around the world with a particular obligation to speak out about, and spotlight the abuse of these basic human rights: I sincerely believe that such cults could develop into ever more menacing and abusive organisations that someday might threaten the very foundation of our democratic society.
In 1996 I read a story about how a Norwegian ex-Scientologist sued and won a case against the Church of Scientology. It made me curious enough to spend a weekend doing research on the internet. What surprised me was the reluctance I met among people who obviously had a story to tell. It did not take long to understand that what kept them back was FEAR! Fear of an organized system of reprisals and repression.
At first I thought that no thinking person would fall for the strange arguments and naïve stories of such a cult. Later I was to find that the Church of Scientology had built an insidious system of logic and snares that had trapped a number of bright, intellectual individuals, represented by ex-members whom I grew to respect. Several became personal friends. I saw that it might have been me - or you!
What began as a week-end stunt developed into countless long nights and a steadily and still growing material documenting the Church of Scientology. But certainly not lonely nights: What motivated me and kept me going right from the start, was the response I received and still get: I was contacted again and again by crying parents from around the world, teenagers having lost years of their youth, children who had seen their parents disappear into the grip of this organization, ex-members in constant fear of retribution.
Today Operation Clambake - the name of my internet site - has become a lifestyle. I have an obligation to keep the site alive. But I don´t see it as a burden. It makes my life richer, by providing meaning and purpose. The feeling that what you do makes a difference alone makes it worth everything. Not for millions - that is not my arena, but for INDIVIDUALS who contact me every day.
Although, I admit, at times I find it hard to juggle my nightly activities with my daytime job as a Managing Director in a Multinational Corporation; I find my experience valuable in my professional leadership. Words are cheap, values are all too easy to support passively: You have to LIVE your values! And I can prove it!
I am not a former Scientologist. I hold no grudge against the organization or any of their representatives. I do not have reason to seek revenge. But I am a humanist. I believe that all humans should be free to believe in whatever they want, including Scientology.
What I will not accept, from the Church of Scientology or anyone other church or organization, is deceitfulness, lack of compassion for its members, aggressive hard sell, arrogance, attack on free speech, litigiousness, harassment of critics, lack of concern for families, gross neglect and abuse of children.
Not from the Church of Scientology, nor from anyone else.
Today I want to bring to your attention an even greater enemy I believe we also have in common; INDIFFERENCE!
Last year Time Magazine named three women Persons of the Year:
These three women were Whistleblowers - people who dare to speak out when they discover injustice or untruths, and are willing to take the consequences. All three sacrificed their careers for something they believed in. Whistleblowers are the true heroes of the war against indifference. Whistleblowers need our support. Not only our moral support which is all too easy to give, they need our practical support and even refuge.
Therefore, I want to share this prize with all who speak up, all who expose abuse, deceit and untruthfulness, all who will not accept injustice, but do something about it, and particularly with those who also take risks doing so.
I believe that the basic human rights our modern societies are built on, the rights my fellow Norwegians celebrated yesterday must never be taken for granted. We have to earn these rights - again and again!