Monday, April 5, 2010

Freedom of thought, expression and conscience in Europe

It seems that the European Union is becoming, more and more, ‘Big Brother’ to all and sundry, and that soon we will find it very difficult – if not impossible – to express our thoughts, beliefs and comments without being subject to EU/government scrutiny.

One of the latest manifestations of this is a proposal for a new EU Directive which would threaten the expression of one’s religious beliefs on any specific subject. David Fieldsend, of Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), was recently testifying to the Social Affairs Committee of the Dutch Parliament. This was in relation to the discussions being held by the Dutch Parliament to consider its decision on the proposed Directive from the EU Council of Ministers. Legislation enacted following the Directive could, said Mr. Fieldsend, leave the way open for interpretations of ‘harassment’ and ‘tolerance’ that effectively required agreement with the point of view of the person to be tolerated.

Mr. Fieldsend continued as follows:
‘Whether it be a religious publishing house, a retreat centre for Christian conferences or an elder care centre provided for church members, the founding religious ethos will be diluted, if not lost altogether, if the management are not able to say no when there is a request to make use of their services from someone who does not subscribe to either the beliefs or moral code of the organisation concerned.’

Shades of the refusal of the Irish Minister for Justice to allow a ‘conscience clause’ in his ‘Civil Partnership Bill? I wonder if Irish people are aware of the consequences for them (a hefty fine/imprisonment) if they decline to provide services in a situation where their conscience requires them not to provide such services?