To cut off human rights at source, religious lobby targets Europe from two sides
In a pincher movement, clerics use their right of prior “consultation”, to influence the laws of the EU, while organised grassroots campaigns to put voting pressure on EU lawmakers. However, “far too often, these religious lobbies do not accurately represent the interests or beliefs of a majority of adherents to their faith, nor do they promote the common good.”
See the infographic: The European Court of Human Rights: What it does, who it protects, why it matters.
♦ Clerics demand input in EU laws: text from the CEC and COMECE (2002)
♦ Catholic bishops demand still more: text from COMECE (2007)
♦ Clerics want more influence on all EU agencies: text from CEC and COMECE (2010)
♦ Council of Europe endorses “religious exemption” from human rights (May 2010)
♦ “Conscientious objectors” block protection of legal healthcare for women (October 2010)
♦ Vatican starts using powerful new European petition procedure (2012)
♦ The need for a secular voice in the European Union (2010)
Only those at the three podiums have been elected, yet the rest
claim that giving them privileges can “bring the Union closer to its citizens”.
European Commission President Barroso (centre) justifies allowing clerics
to influence European social policy by citing the churches’
“long-standing experience in social work”. True, this goes back to
the Middle Ages, but can he really claim that it’s better than services
run by the state? The Magdalene laundries show what can happen when
social work is devoted to rooting out “sin”.
Clerics have insisted on being consulted at the highest level of the European Union. Clerics of all faiths set out their demands in 2002, then Catholic bishops revealed further aims in 2007 and finally, two years later, when the Lisbon Treaty amended the constitution of the EU, their consultations became an official dialogue.
The push is on for influence in the European Union because in critical areas EU directives these now supercede national legislation. These areas include religion or belief, and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. For instance, in 2010 the religious lobby managed to water down an attempt in the Council of Europe to ensure that human rights are interpreted to include homosexuals and the next year it passed a resolution condemning sex-specific abortion which the pro-lifers hailed as the thin edge of the wedge.
The clerics' privileges are based on new rules for the European Union. Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 reads as follows:
- The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.
[This cements privileges already given to religious organisations at the national level and very much lessens the chance of a successful challenge in an EU court.]
- The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organisations.
[This is a sop to some of the potential opponents of this measure. It omits the phrase inserted for religions, “and does not prejudice”. This may be an admission that the non-religious organisations don't have any status worth protecting.]
- Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.
[The phrases “open” and “transparent” were another sop, with no move to give these teeth. What's important is that the clerics get “regular”, in other words institutionalised, lobbying access. Notice that it does not say “formal” which means that, according to informed sources, no minutes are kept and attempts even to establish the frequency of meetings and attendees have been resisted by the European Commission.]
There is a good summary of the clerics' step-by-step infiltration of the European Commission in “The Churches’ Campaign for Special Rights in the EU”. However, the humanist authors (characteristically) plead for “state neutrality” which means that they would get their own share of state funds. Unlike secularists, they do not insist on “church-state separation”, because this would oblige everyone to pay their own way.
Another development in the infiltration of European human rights bodies is the first appointment by the new president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) whose remit includes gender equality, human rights, media freedom and tolerance and nondiscrimination. In order to combat discrimination in Europe a “Catholic activist” has been appointed, “whose proclaimed goal in public life is to spread the social doctrine of the Catholic Church”.
A further way the European Commission can be subjected to religious pressure is by way of the new petitioning procedure, due to come into effect in 2012. (See “Pro-Lifers Plan to Use Lisbon Treaty Innovation”.)