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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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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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