Wednesday, March 11, 2009

EU 'anti-discrimination' threat


From the Christian Institute. New Proposed European Anti –Discrimination Directive –A Threat to Religious Liberty in the UK and Across Europe.

There is a new proposed European Directive which is rapidly in the process of going through the various stages of the European Parliament. This proposed Anti-Discrimination Directive prohibits discrimination and harassment on the grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation and religion or belief for:

social protection (including social security and healthcare); social advantages; education (but not the content of teaching) ; access to and the supply of goods and other services which are available to the public, including housing (applying to individuals only insofar as they are performing a professional or commercial activity).

Seeking to prohibit discrimination on grounds of disability and age is not contentious. However, it is of concern that the proposed directive includes sexual orientation and religion or belief.

Lessons from the EU’s Employment Discrimination Directive It might be thought that the Directive would enhance religious liberty. However, the implementation of the 2000 Employment Discrimination Directive has given cause for concern. As a result of the Directive, a Bishop of the Anglican Church was successfully sued by a homosexual after not being given a position as a youth minister. A British Christian charity was successfully sued for refusing to promote an atheist support worker.

Removal of Rights of Conscience The new Directive could remove rights of
conscience for those whose religious beliefs prevent them endorsing certain
homosexual and religious practices. A Christian architect should not be
required to design a mosque. A Christian publication should not be required to
advertise material promoting homosexual activity.

We are concerned that the Directive could remove Christianity from public
services. An atheist patient should not be able to sue a hospital because there
is a Bible in the bedside locker. Local councils and schools should not be
intimidated into cancelling Christmas carol services.

Promotion of Homosexuality In the UK similar legislation has been widely
interpreted as requiring the homosexual lifestyle to be promoted by public
services. Adoption agencies, with public funding, which do not believe in
placing children with same sex couples, have had to close. Foster parents have
been removed from council registers because they are not willing to promote
homosexuality to their children. Only the threat of legal action has led to
their reinstatement.

It is of concern that the Directive could remove Christianity from public
services. An atheist patient should not be able to sue a hospital because there
is a Bible in the bedside locker. Local councils and schools should not be
intimidated into cancelling Christmas carol services.

Harassment It is of deep concern what the harassment laws could do to free
speech. Unlike criminal harassment the EU law will have a very low threshold
and therefore be easy to prove. The mere explanation of the relevant religious
belief to a homosexual or a Christian communication on your religious beliefs
to those of another faith may be interpreted as amounting to harassment.
Harassment is from the subjective perspective of the person alleging the

The loose wording of the new EU harassment law leaves huge scope for bogus and
trivial complaints which will limit freedom of speech and religious liberty.

The sexual orientation regulations in England and Wales did not include
harassment. The High Court in Northern Ireland struck out the harassment
provisions for parallel sexual orientation regulations.

As a result of a UK Government consultation response to a forthcoming Equality
Bill, with around 4,000 responses from a wide range of stake-holders, the
Government decided not to extend protection against harassment outside work, on
the grounds of sexual orientation or religion or belief, because they did not
see evidence of a real problem.

Exemptions Article 3 of the draft Directive contains exemptions for religious
schools and churches and other organisations based on religion or belief.
However, it is not clear whether the exemption for religious organisations is
aimed only at protecting existing laws that guarantee religious freedom, or
whether it allows Member States to introduce new protections when implementing
the Directive. The definition of religious organisations protected by the
exemptions is also unclear.

Where church-based groups hire facilities to enable them to run social
activities, the religious exemptions will not protect them.

Where religious organisations provide welfare and care, a potential claim for
discrimination could be made against the organisation for refusing to condone
same sex activities e.g. refusing a double room in a Christian care home to a
same-sex couple.

Balance of Rights The proposed Directive has profound implications for the
fundamental rights of European citizens to freedom of religion. The Directive
and the accompanying documents do not appear to have properly considered the
need to have mechanisms to balance conflicting fundamental rights with each
other and without doing so, it may create at the very least indirect
discrimination against religious believers. In our opinion, the absence of the
word “morals”, found in Articles 8(2), 9(2), 10(2) and 11(2) of the European
Convention on Human Convention of Human Rights, from the balancing recital in
the Directive is symbolic of the changes being made.

It is essential that religious beliefs and the rights of the homosexual
community are properly balanced otherwise well-meaning Directives such as the
proposed Directive will themselves become instruments of discrimination or
oppression. There are many unanswered questions as to the compatibility of the
proposed Directive for religious organisations and individuals with the ECHR,
the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and the Declaration on Elimination
of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief,
UN Resolution 36/55. The religious freedom of its citizens is the hallmark of a
democratic society and a core value for modern human rights law.

Including Fundamental Rights within Article 3 An explanation of the Directive
has stated that the prohibition of discrimination should go hand in hand with
other fundamental rights and freedoms such as freedom of religion. Yet these
fundamental rights are only in a Recital not in the Articles, which are the
main part of the Directive. A recent European case ruling on the principle of
equality overruled Recital 22 of the Employment Directive and it is of concern
that this may create a future precedent for overruling Recitals in other
directives. [See Case C-267/06 Tadao Maruko v Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen
Bühnen at:]

There are many different European Parliamentary Committees considering this
proposed Directive, but the main one is the Libe Committee. The current
proposed Directive can be found at the following link (from page 13):

Amendments and Approximate Timetable There have been many proposed amendments
put forward by the various Committees and individual MEPs to this proposed
Directive. These many amendments will be considered by the Libe Committee on
the 17th February 2009 and voted upon. European Parliamentary parties may then
put down further amendments but not individual MEPs. MEPs are expected to vote
on the Directive in the European Parliament plenary session on the 23 March
2009 (indicative date). After that time the Directive will then be considered
by the Council of Ministers (possibly in April 2009 but there is no indicative
date yet) and unless there is a nation veto, the Directive will then become an
official European Directive by being entered into the official journal.

We do not know what the final Directive will say. However there are a number of
amendments already proposed from a Committee which may make the Directive even
worse. This includes an amendment to even remove the fundamental rights and
freedoms from a Recital, where this shows the importance of respecting such
rights while prohibiting discrimination. There are also proposed amendments to
destroy any special status nations may accord to marriage. Stating that where
types of relationship, other than marriage are recognised as equivalent to
marriage under national law, the principle of equal treatment should apply.
Discrimination is about the need to protect fundamental rights not to promote
or create a hierarchy of rights and religious freedom is a core human right
which should not be trampled upon.

Multiple Discrimination It is of concern that there are amendments which seek to
extend the prohibition of discrimination to multiple discrimination. Seeking to
introduce multiple discrimination on the grounds of age and disability is not
contentious. The easiest non-contentious example of a multiple discrimination
case is of a black woman with the potential of alleging multiple discrimination
on the combination of race and sex. But what about the comparison between a
young white male Christian (religion only) and a black disabled elderly lesbian
of a different religion or belief (religion or belief, race, disability, age,
sex and sexual orientation equals 6 unbalancing multiple discrimination
potential equality factors).

This illustrates how the introduction of multiple discrimination between
religions and between religion and sexual orientation is so complex, highly
unadvisable and requires careful consideration. Multiple Discrimination is a
concept which lacks legal clarity and instead of a positive approach to life
may serve simply to generate an aggressive, unhealthy, detrimental multiple
victim mentality. It upsets the delicate balance of rights which are already
complex enough when there are only two conflicting fundamental rights being
considered. It could very easily result in the application of unreasonable and
circumstantially irrelevant weightings which result in both a hierarchy and
unfair balancing of fundamental rights, which instead of protecting rights
becomes of itself oppressive.

There have already been numerous examples of how existing equality and diversity
laws in the UK have led to the infringement of religious liberty. For example,
see the cases described on the Christian Legal Centre Website.

Let us pray to God for a miracle as Christian European Citizens of all European
nations contact their MEPs and Nations overwhelmingly reject this new Proposed
Anti-Discrimination European Directive and restore the original proposal to
remove both sexual orientation and religion or belief from the Directive.

What happens in Europe is important as Directives are European legal obligations
for all European countries. Please prayerfully consider writing to your MEP in
your own words, using the material in this paper to help you.

MEP link for UK

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen