NewsTue Apr 14, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST
EU Parliament Removes Religious Exemption: Churches Could be Forced to Perform Same-Sex “Marriages”
By Hilary White
BRUSSELS, April 14, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Changes made this month in the EU Anti-Discrimination Directive could force Christian and other religious groups to perform homosexual "marriages" and allow non-believers to receive Communion and other sacraments in their churches.
The directive was adopted by the EU Parliament on April 2nd, by 360 votes in favor and 227 votes against and will apply to all organizations offering a service to the public, including hospitals, charities, businesses and prisons, and churches. With the removal of exemptions for "organizations based on religion and belief," Christian groups, including the Church of England and the Catholic Education Service, have expressed concerns that conscience protections traditionally allowed under UK law will be abolished.
MEPs also altered the directive to ensure that "differences in treatment in access to educational institutions based on religion or belief" will not "represent an infringement of the right to education and does not justify discrimination on any other grounds."
The directive bans discrimination in the offering of goods and services and specifies "sexual orientation" as one of the grounds of outlawed discrimination. Similar legislation passed in Britain under the Tony Blair Labour government result in the closure of several Catholic adoption agencies after the government refused to allow a religious exemption.
In July 2008, the European Commission announced, "The law will prohibit direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation."
Critics have warned, however, that it could result in religious groups facing lawsuits for refusing to perform "marriage" ceremonies for same-sex partners. Christians have also argued that the law could prohibit them from refusing to give Communion or membership to non-Christians. It could also abolish policies in religious schools to give priority in admission to members of their own faith.
A spokesman for the Christian Institute, said, "UK discrimination law is already pretty extreme, as the forced closure of Roman Catholic adoption agencies shows. The Directive would make things even worse by transferring ultimate control of equality law to Brussels, beyond the control of our own Parliament."
Oona Stannard, chief executive of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, said that, "It feels as though the European Parliament is antagonistic to faith and fails to see the human rights dimension of faith."
Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England, also criticized the directive, saying, "As it stands, this legislation would not only threaten the status of faith schools, hospitals, adoption agencies and the like; it could also force political parties to hire ideological opponents or criminalise single sex institutions."
The Daily Telegraph editorialized on Saturday, "What is being attempted, under the guise of eliminating discrimination, is discrimination against Christians." Under the new concept of European "anti-discrimination" theories, which are contrary to British legal traditions, "legislation has closed Catholic adoption agencies, while a politically correct reign of terror is afflicting our workplaces." Christians face an "increasingly hostile environment" in Britain, said the paper.