Freedom of Conscience Under Attack by EU “Equalities” Initiatives
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