Western Europe is no longer Christian and within less than two decades it will be Islamic. The greatest threat to secularists and liberals in Europe today are not the Christians but the Muslims. This is what Theo van Gogh experienced two years ago. This is also the reason why the Swedish jeans manufacturer Bjorn Atldax, who calls religion “a force of evil,” has designed a jeans brand with an anti-Christian logo, but does not plan to make something anti-Islamic. This is why another Christian renegade, the Italian author Luigi Cascioli, has written a book with the title “The Fable of Christ” but would not contemplate writing “The Fable of Muhammad.”
Atldax and Cascioli, two white male Europeans, lack the courage of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fellow atheist and religion hater. She has the balls that Atldax and Cascioli do not. Attacking someone whose religion teaches him to turn the other cheek is so much safer than hitting someone whose religion tells him to ritually slaughter an offender of the faith. Apart from the fact that he would not dare to write a book insulting Islam, let alone draw a picture of the Muslim prophet, Signor Cascioli would never dare to take an imam to court to prove that Muhammad really existed. He did, however, force a priest into a court of law to prove that Jesus really existed.
According to the Italian Penal Code, both “abuse of popular credulity” (Sec. 661) and “impersonation” (Sec. 494) are offenses. Based on these two articles Luigi Cascioli filed a suit against Father Enrico Righi, ordering him to prove Christ’s historical existence. Last Monday a judge in Viterbo set a preliminary hearing for the end of this month and ordered Father Righi to appear. At first the judge had refused to take up the case but he was overruled by the Court of Appeal, which agreed that Signor Cascioli had a reasonable case for his accusations of abuse of popular credulity and impersonation by Catholic priests, such as Father Righi, who “present invented facts as if true.”
This is not just an Italian anecdote. In the Belgian Senate the government parties (Liberals and Socialists) have proposed a bill, currently under debate, (text in French, text in Dutch) which makes it a penal offense, punishable by up to two years imprisonment, to “abuse credulity in order to persuade [an individual] of the existence of false enterprises, an imaginary power or the occurrence of non-existing events.”
There is also a real danger that the European Union will be abused as a vehicle for promoting an intolerant secular and anti-Christian agenda. Last month, the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights issued a 40-page opinion [pdf] denouncing a draft treaty between the Vatican and Slovakia that would allow medical professionals to refuse to participate in abortions and other procedures that may violate their religious beliefs and conscientious objections. According to the EU experts the legal right of an individual to an abortion overrules the right of others to refuse to participate in it whenever a refusal would entail that the abortion cannot take place.
In addition, the experts’ opinion holds that this applies not only to abortion. It adds that assisted suicide, same-sex marriage and access to contraception are also among the basic human rights guaranteed to citizens of the EU. On euthanasia the experts write:
“For instance, although neither euthanasia nor assisted suicide are protected as such under the European Convention on Human Rights or any other international human rights instrument, in a State where euthanasia or assisted suicide are partially decriminalized, the right to religious conscientious objection, while it should be recognized to the medical doctors asked to perform euthanasia or to assist a person in committing suicide, should not be exercised in a way which leads to depriving any person from the possibility of exercising effectively his or her rights as guaranteed under the applicable legislation.”
The “right” of individuals to a same-sex marriage also has consequences for civil servants and, according to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) in its latest Friday Fax could possibly even require that clergy perform ceremonies which directly contradict their faith. In their text the EU experts say that:
“the right to religious conscientious objection may be invoked by an officer refusing to celebrate a marriage between two persons of the same sex or where one of the prospective spouses is a transsexual. It would be unacceptable to allow this to result in marriage being unavailable to the couple concerned: any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (as would result from the refusal to celebrate a marriage between two persons of the same sex where this institution is recognized) and any violation of the right to marry of transsexuals should not be tolerated, and the public authorities should ensure in such circumstances that other officers will be available and willing to celebrate those unions.”
The conflict arises when the state cannot guarantee that other officers are available. In such cases the right to conscientious objection has to give way to the right of the individuals to the abortion, assisted suicide or same-sex marriage they can legally claim. Indeed, as the experts say, the right to conscientious objection is not “unlimited.” In this respect the text of the EU experts refers to pharmacists who are unwilling to dispense drugs to which they are morally opposed, such as contraceptives, abortifacient pills or euthanasia kits:
“The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights suggests that, where access to contraceptives is legal, women should not be deprived of such access because of the exercise, by health practitioners or pharmacologists, of their right to religious conscientious objection: under this case-law, a State may oblige pharmacologists to sell contraceptives, at least where women would otherwise not have access to contraceptives.”
In 2001 Nynke Eringa, a civil servant in the Dutch town of Leeuwarden was fired because she refused to perform gay marriages, recently legalized in the Netherlands. Though the civil servant had made her conscientious objection public, gay couples explicitly demanded to be married by her and not by other civil servants. When she continued to refuse the COC, a gay rights organisation, demanded – and obtained – her dismissal, although the town spokesman conceded that he “got the impression that COC had intentionally sent the homosexual couples to a civil servant whom they knew was a conscientious objector.”
In 2004 Eringa’s dismissal was annulled because the town had made procedural errors when she was sacked. The authorities have since decided that conscientious objection can only be claimed by civil servants who were already in office before 2001, while those employed after the legalization of gay marriages do not have a right to refuse to marry gays. This means that access to jobs in the civil service which involve performing registry office marriages is effectively denied to religious people who refuse to participate in same-sex marriages. Similarly, in some Western European countries today the tendency is to effectively exclude Christians from medical professions by introducing requirements that force students to participate in abortions during their studies.
Last October, Xavier Desmet, a notary from Antwerp, was threatened with a court case by the Belgian government’s Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR) because he had conscientious objections to validating a marriage contract for a gay couple. The CEOOR warned the Federation of Notaries that it can ask the court to impose a penalty for every gay couple the notary turns down. There are dozens of Antwerp notaries willing to assist gay couples. However, if Desmet ever gets convicted, homosexuals can intentionally ruin him by choosing him to validate their marriage contract. Has Europe again reached the point where it is forbidden to have a conscience? Under the Nazis having a conscience was not allowed either.
EU Brings Down Slovak Government, 9 February 2006
EU to Catholic Doctors: Thou Shalt Abort, 24 December 2005