VIENNA, December 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The religious freedom of Christians in Europe is under threat from “equalities” and anti-discrimination laws around the EU, said The Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) at a conference earlier this month in Vienna.
In his closing remarks, Director Janez Lenarcic said that the OSCE has become well aware of “emerging issues” regarding equality and non-discrimination legislation and the parent’s right to educate their children.
Lenarcic highlighted the positive contribution of religious symbols in society and the special role a particular religion could play due to its historical and cultural role in a certain society, such as Christianity in Europe.
Key issues addressed at the conference included the relationship between “equality and non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief; questions of autonomy of religious or belief organizations,” and “challenging issues such as the relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.”
The conference focused on the freedom of Christians to order their lives and have a visible presence in public.
Incidents cited included the notorious Italian Crucifix Case currently before the European Court of Human Rights, in which the court ordered all the crucifixes displayed in public buildings in Italy to be removed based on the complaint of one woman.
The OSCE is an intergovernmental organisation (IGO), created by a charter from the UN, that addresses security issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. It represents 56 countries around the world and its 3500 staff members engage in conflict prevention negotiations, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in areas of political crisis.
Several partcipating NGOs at the meeting warned that too-zealous anti-discrimination, equal treatment and hate speech legislation that is sweeping through legislatures in Western Europe is already resulting in limitations of religious freedom, especially for Christians who hold up moral views that are increasingly deemed discriminatory.
The pro-life and pro-family NGO European Dignity Watch said they are pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
“We pushed hard for including anti-discrimination and equality legislation as a threat to religious freedom in Europe and this concern was markedly addressed through the final remarks of the conference,” spokesman Sophia Kuby said.
Commenting on the OSCE meeting’s findings, a statement from the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, said, “The collapse of the antireligious [Soviet] regime has not made the problems related to religious freedom less actual than they used to be.”
Citing the Italian Crucifix Case, the statement said, “Attempts to establish a model religiously-neutral state in Europe have many negative implications.”
“[T]he religiously neutral public space will only mean a space intolerant to all the adherents of any beliefs. European culture is closely interlinked with religion and the links are different in each country. So, any state fighting against manifestations of religion in public undermines in fact the European civilization as a whole.
The statement said that “if the logic of the European Court of Human Rights is to be followed, then we should demolish cathedrals topped with crucifixes in European cities and erase crosses from National Flags.”
“This approach to the religious diversity in Europe could be reasonably called Christianophobia.”