DO "GOD" AND "CHRISTIANITY" HAVE A PLACE IN THE EUROPEAN
The European Union is preparing its first constitution. Terrence Murray of
the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "How the question of religion is handled
could have serious legal implications once the EU's constitutional text comes
into force, officials say, possibly influencing the outcome of future court
rulings on such issues as euthanasia, abortion rights, and human cloning. 'This
debate is not just an academic one,' says EU spokesman Jonathan Faull. 'In 10
years', 15 or 100 years' time, it could have important implications in
interpreting the text'." 6
The Convention on the Future of Europe, led by Giscard d'Estaing, a
former French president, is drafting the first constitution for The European
Union (EU). One reason for the creation of a constitution at this time is
that the present union of 15 countries is expected to expand to as many as 25
countries by the end of 2004. 1 A constitution might
contribute to the cohesion of the Union.
The first 15 draft articles
of the constitution were released on 2003-FEB-6. They contained references to member countries'
national identity and for human rights, as well as commitments to social justice
and the environment. 2 But they contained no mention to any deity or religion.
German, Italian, Polish and Slovakian delegates favor adding mention of "God" and
Europe's Christian heritage. More secular nations, like France, Spain and the
Netherlands are in opposition. 3
The Italian news
agency ANSA reports that there has been strong pressure from religious
conservatives and the Vatican to recognize God and Christianity. They speculated
that these references were left out because of sensitivity to the wishes of
Islamic immigrant populations.
All current members of the EU have either a majority of its citizens, or a
significant minority, who identify themselves with a Christian denomination. Most have
implemented the principle of separation of church and
state. Most do not refer to their Christian heritage in their own
constitutions. However, many of the countries which are expected to join in 2004
want "Christian values" to appear somewhere in the EU constitution. This is particularly
true of Poland, which has a large Roman Catholic majority. That country will hold
a referendum on 2003-JUN-7/8 on whether to join the EU.
Other countries with a growing secularist tradition, led by France, assert that
pluralist modern Europe is beyond the need to reference religion in the EU
constitution. Some political leaders
feel that a reference to "Christian values" would make it more difficult
to expand the EU in the future to include mostly Muslim countries such as
Some comments favoring the inclusion of God and Christianity:
According to Agence
France-Presse, the Polish primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, has said he
supports EU entry "but only with God."
The same news source quotes the
Roman Catholic primate in Hungary, Monsignor Peter Erdoe, as saying "Without
Christianity, the heart of Europe would be missing."
Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher, Ireland represented the Irish
Catholic Church. Referring to a meeting with the European
Commission president, Romano Prodi, he is quoted as saying: "Religion
is part of our identity. You can't understand the history of Europe
without acknowledging the impact of religion, which has made an enormous
contribution to the identity of Europe. Prodi was trying to impress on us
that we are at a very, very significant juncture, which means a new
Europe. He is sympathetic to the Churches and sees that they have a
contribution to make on the question of EU identity. The question of God
would be a matter for the preamble, rather than the text of the
constitution. We would be looking for an invocatio Dei, but we would not
be looking for a reference to Christ because we respect those who are not
Pope John Paul II has
also lobbied European leaders for "a clear reference to God and the Christian
faith to be formulated in the European constitution."
A former Irish Prime
Minister, John Bruton, formally proposed including a mention of the role of
is quoted as believing that "a greater reference should be made to the fact
that many Europeans derive something beyond humanity - this would apply to those
who believe in all the major religions."
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in England and some Jewish, Muslim
and Protestant faith groups have also advocated inclusion of Christianity and
Elmar Brok, a European deputy from Germany, chairs
the caucus of the conservative European People's Party (PPE) at the
convention He believes that reference to a Christian God would strengthen
European identity. He said: "Europe as a whole is based on a Christian
Ken Connor, President of the Family Research Council, asked, "But
if not God, where or from whom, do they believe those rights are derived? The
truth is, Europe is rooted in religious heritage — from official state
celebrations to government holidays and historic references. If they plan on
admitting anyone to the EU, God would be a perfect choice." 4
Gianfranco Fini, Italy's deputy Prime Minister, suggested
that the EU be described as a "community that shares a Judeo-Christian
heritage as its fundamental values...We must make more explicit the
roots of European identity, which we see as part of the value of the
Christian religion." 7
Some comments opposing the inclusion of God and Christianity:
According to WorldNetDaily: "In an editorial, Scandinavia's largest daily
newspaper, the Swedish Aftonbladet, said referring to Christian values in the
constitution and placing them above other values would be a 'huge mistake'
because it would 'exclude groups and raise new walls'."
Terry Sanderson, vice president of the UK's National Secular Society,
told EUobserver "We are very glad a reference to God has been left out, it
would have created unnecessary barriers in Europe...Europe has to be secular for
it to be really unified."
The European Humanist Federation suggested changing reference
to Europe's " '...spiritual and moral heritage' into '...the
cultural heritage of Europe's history,' since our cultural heritage is a
pluralistic one and hence defeats the idea of a single European identity."
They suggest that Article 1 of the Constitution read: "The Union is
founded on the principles of secular rule of law: freedom, equality,
democracy and pluralism. It guarantees the respect and promotion of human
rights and fundamental freedoms." 5
A British gay-positive group, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
(GALHA) stated that because of "increased secularization of morality and
public life," they consider it pointless to include God in the new
charter. Spokesperson Terry Sanderson said: "We are not opposed to a clause
that would establish the freedom to practice religion. "What we don’t want to
see is religion moving out of the area of freedom and becoming predominant
right there in the beginning." He alleges that: "religion is dying
throughout Europe." He blamed "the church" for the suffering of
gays and lesbians "over the last millennium." GALHA wrote: "To
include references to God or 'our Christian heritage' would be to start
turning back on our 500-year journey from the Enlightenment. Instead, we
should be proud of our progress, and growing humanity." 3
Socialist French deputy Olivier Duhamel suggested
that mention of Christianity and God is "absurd," because it would
exclude Muslims and others of non-Christian faiths, as well as citizens
who do not believe in God. 7
Linda McAvan, a British Labour MEP, argued that a specific
mention of Christianity "would offend those many millions of people of
different faiths or no faith at all."
An Humanist Convention member from Ireland, Dublin MEP Proinsias De
Rossa, suggested that the inclusion of God would be divisive: "It would
be a mistake; it's a serious mistake."
Some suggest an inclusive approach:
Louis Michel, the Belgian Foreign Minister, said the EU should
be inclusive. He said. "Europe is not mono-religious" 7
Jean-Luc Dehaene, vice-president of the Convention and
a former Belgium prime minister, said the any religious reference would have
to be general and pluralist, like that of the EU's Charter of Fundamental
Rights which states that "the Union shall respect cultural, religious,
and linguistic diversity". 7
Les Semaines Sociales de France, a French
Christian policy group, and some Christian lay groups from Germany and
Poland suggested an inclusive statement based on Poland's post-communist
constitution, which had to accommodate communists as well as Catholics.
The proposal says: "The [European] Union values include the values of
those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good, and
beauty, as well as those who do not share such a belief but respect these
universal values arising from other sources." 6
The path forward:
Giscard d'Estaing suggested a compromise wording by having the preamble
mention "religion" without mentioning a specific faith by name. As of 2003-MAY-29, the draft version of the preamble uses the terms: "spiritual", "religious"
and "humanistic" to describe Europe's multiple heritages. It refers to traditions
in Europe having been "nourished by the Greek and Roman civilizations."
But it makes no direct reference to any specific deity or religion.
Starting 2003-MAY-30, 105 Convention delegates drawn from 28 member
states and applicant countries will debate the latest
draft. According oto the EU's web site: "The meeting of the Convention will
be web-streamed on the European
Parliament website. It will also be broadcast live on
Europe by Satellite." They are aiming at having a final draft written by
2003-JUN. 6 The individual EU governments will then make the final decision
on the constitution's wording.
Terrence Murray, "Europe debates God's place in new constitution: A
divine reference is among the most contentious issues as delegates reconvene
this month," The Christian Science Monitor, 2003-APR-10, at:
Stephen Castle, "Tussle over God threatens to delay EU constitution,"
The Independent, 2003-FEB-28, at: