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Freedom of Conscience Under Attack by EU “Equalities” Initiatives

LifeSiteNews.com
LifeSiteNews.com

By Hilary White

ROME, September 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The European Union’s proposed Equal Treatment Directive overturns centuries of legal philosophy of justice and will restrict legally guaranteed rights of freedom of conscience, says Sophia Kuby of European Dignity Watch, a pro-life and pro-family NGO working at the European level. Kuby told LifeSiteNews.com at a conference in Rome last week, that, if adopted, upcoming EU initiatives will severely restrict basic democratic freedoms for Christians, all under the rubric of “equalities.”

Major European legislative bodies, Kuby said, are working to create legislation that will ultimately result in Christian doctors being pushed out of the medical professions across Europe. In general, she said, legal tendencies are growing to limit freedoms of expression and conscience and constitute a direct threat to religious individuals and institutions.

The crackdown on conscience comes, she said, as a response to “more and more doctors objecting” to abortion and other legal but morally offensive practices. She cited statistics from the Lazio region of central Italy that includes Rome, where 86 percent of doctors refuse to commit abortions.

Pro-abortion forces in European institutions are reacting now because, the situation “is kind of new. Ten years ago, much fewer doctors were objecting.”

“So now they face a situation where it really becomes a contradiction. Yes, they say, you have to balance rights, but then you have to ‘balance’ the right of freedom of conscience, which is one of the pillars of a democratic society, with a ‘right’ that is actually the killing of an unborn child.”

Kuby highlighted two main initiatives, the McCafferty Report from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, (PACE) and the Equal Treatment draft Directive of the European Commission, that she said combine to create a legal situation opposed to religious freedom and freedom of conscience in Europe.

The EU’s Equal Treatment Directive, now before the Council of Ministers of the EU, proposes to “prohibit discrimination” but in reality, Kuby said, it will attempt to “control the relationships between individuals.” It means that if there is a “socially undesired behaviour,” such as public criticism of homosexuality, feminism, or abortion, it would create mechanisms to sue a person who offends.

The head of the English Catholic Bishops’ Conference political affairs office, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, said that the Catholic Church supports the “underlying moral principle” of the Directive. He warned only of “possible unintended consequences” for Christian believers. But Kuby refuted this, saying that the Directive “turns upside down traditional concepts of justice.”

Its foundation, she said, opposes the ancient legal principle, elucidated by Aristotle, that “like things should be treated alike, unlike things should be treated differently, and everything should be treated appropriately.”

“The antidiscrimination Directive and the philosophy underpinning it go into the radical opposite direction,” Kuby told LSN. “Like things are treated differently, unlike things are treated alike, and nothing is treated appropriately.”

“Indeed, the use of appropriate criteria is simply given up, and replaced by a perpetual cycle of (mostly inappropriate and badly reasoned) comparisons: Because X has got some goodie, Y must also get it, irrespective of any real merit or justification.

“This, in short, is the ideology underlying this whole new compound of political initiatives, and the Church would be well advised to analyse it more systematically and less superficially.”

The Directive leaves open the definitions of behaviour that constitute “discrimination” in this sense. Kuby said that the result is that instances of illegal discrimination are “completely left to a subjective perception of how I feel treated by another.”

The directive says that behaviour shall be deemed discriminatory if it “creates an offensive or humiliating environment.”

“That can mean anything,” she said. “Anything.” 

If adopted, the McCafferty Report, she said, “would close the medical community to people, solely on the basis of a well-founded moral conviction,” which, she pointed out, is well-protected by numerous European international agreements, including Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights that guarantees freedom of conscience.

“Formally, freedom of conscience is protected legally,” but the McCafferty Report “would make it basically impossible for a Catholic or Christian to become a doctor.”

Pro-life advocates in Europe have identified the McCafferty Report as the latest in a string of EU and PACE efforts to establish abortion as a universal human right. The report, is set to be debated in the PACE on October 7 and claims to leave doctors the right to refuse to participate in abortion, but would force them to provide the service by referring to other physicians and, if that fails, to provide it themselves.

Kuby said that the McCafferty Report also turns traditional jurisprudence on its head, obliging doctors to prove that their objection is grounded in their conscience or religious belief. “This might sound not very critical, but what it means is that the burden of proof is on the one who is objecting. So a doctor who says ‘I don’t do those because of my conscience,’ has to prove that he did it in good faith.”

The other goal of such legislation, she said, “is to deprive public and state institutions, such as public hospitals and clinics as a whole from the guarantee of the right to conscientious objection.”

The report’s drafters have also proposed the creation of a public registry of conscientious objectors. “It’s basically a blacklist. And you can imagine the consequences that such a thing could have.” The drafters also propose to create “complaint mechanisms” to allow authorities to keep track of those who object to a procedure on conscientious grounds.

Kuby also spoke of an increasingly ominous public atmosphere in Europe, in which Christian symbols and church buildings are frequently vandalised and desecrated and Christians themselves have reported being attacked in the streets both physically and verbally.


Read related LSN coverage:

Council of Europe Declares Unlimited Abortion an Unconditional Right for all of Europe
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08041611.html

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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