Christianity has been around what now is Europe since the first century, with some parts of the New Testament written to people in Greece and Rome. But a new report is warning that open hostility to Christianity across the continent is on the rise and intolerance is being paired with legislative power to attack and violate the religious rights of the faithful.
“There are signs that hostility towards free and open demonstrations of faith is growing. Christians are increasingly marginalized and are appearing more often in courts over matters related to faith. So I think that we are heading for a bloodless persecution,” Gudrun Kugler told Mercatornet about her organization’s newest report.
The report, called “Shadow Report on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe,” cites page after page of examples of attacks on Christians and Christianity across Europe.
Kugler, who works with an organization that watches for intolerance and discrimination, said the report found that European Christians are under attack for their freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and parental rights, are targeted by hate crimes, emblems representing Christianity are being destroyed and they are subjected to negative stereotyping in the media.
“I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters,” warned Pope Benedict XVI late last year, “even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.
“There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience.
“These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square,” he said.
According to the report, the issue has reached the level of the European Parliament, where Italian member Mario Mauro last year finished his book, “War against Christians.”
Equal exercise of freedom
“Discriminatory laws directly or indirectly prevent equal exercise of freedom,” the report finds. “With regard to Christianity in Europe, this is often the case in the areas of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
“The latter is understood to include the right to raise one’s children in one’s faith, to share one’s faith peacefully with others, to publish religious materials without censorship, to change one’s religion (by choice, not coercion) and to practice no religion at all,” the report said.
“We often come across overly broad equal treatment or anti-discrimination legislation that causes indirect side-effect discrimination of Christians, criminalizing core elements of Christian teaching,” it said.
For example, last October, former British MP Christine McCafferty urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to recommend limitations to conscientious objection when it comes to abortion.
“The draft report contained a limitation of freedom of conscience to individuals. Objecting individuals would have faced restrictions and blacklisting,” the report said, describing the draft as “aiming at discriminating against Christians.”
Then in Spain there was a judge who was suspended from his position for objecting to the adoption of a young girl by lesbians. And in the United Kingdom, a registrar was ordered to perform homosexual weddings despite the individual’s personal religious objections to the procedures.
Further, the council in the UK city of Brighton demanded that a care home for elderly Christians provided information about residents’ sexual orientation, and cut funding for the service organization when the demand was not met.
Fined for advertising traditional families
Regarding Christians’ freedom of expression, the report found that Spain’s government fined a Christian television network 100,000 euros for carrying advertising opposing the homosexual lifestyle, an anti-abortion campaigner was jailed for sending abortion photos to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and a street preacher in the United Kingdom was arrested after telling passersby that homosexuality is a sin.
“BHA (British Humanist Association) has called on the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, North Somerset Council, to visit Britain and South West England to shut down the zoo. The secular group claims the zoo is misleading tens of thousands of visitors annually and ‘threatening public understanding’ by questioning the traditional view of evolution,” the report continued.
Regarding the collective freedom of religion, the report found, an Italian attorney, Georg Zanger, announced plans to sue members of the Catholic Church on grounds of membership in a criminal organization, and homosexuals disrupted Catholic services because the church was refusing communion to those who openly flaunted their rejection of church teaching.
And a homosexual advocacy law in the UK forced the Catholic Church to withdraw from adoption services and a proposal would have forced Christian churches to hire practicing homosexuals as youth workers.
‘Only Muslims can be good people’
The change in standards also has encompassed education. In the Netherlands, students are taught that “Christianity would be abolished in the end, all other religions would disappear and everybody will convert to Islam.”
“After all,” said the lesson, “only Muslims can be good people.”
Regarding employment, in the UK, an Employment Appeal Tribunal ordered that Christians cannot act according to their consciences if their beliefs conflict with the promotion of homosexuality, and a foster care giver was suspended from her career for allowing a Muslim child in her care to convert to Christianity.
Perhaps some of the most egregious cases uncovered by the study include the rights of parents.
In Austria the government enforced sex education guidelines that “practically prohibit the teaching of authentic Christian sexual values,” and in Germany, a mother of eight was jailed for eight days after she refused to send her nine-year-old son to school for its sexual education program.
Turkey requires students to study Islam and Sweden is trying to “curb the influence” of religion – in private church schools.
The study found that journalists and the media are contributing, with a situation in Germany where the German Daily “Die Zeit” wrongly accused Christians of favoring a radical law in Uganda and a popular BBC soap, “Coronation Street,” featured attacks on the Christian faith.
Defamation of the Christian faith came from organizations such as International Planned Parenthood Federation, which said, “Fundamentalists and other religious groups, the Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic schools) for example, have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction.”
In Austria, a pro-abortion rally featured shouts of, “If Mary had had an abortion, we would have been spared from you!” In Germany, speeches at a psychotherapy congress on whether sexual orientation could be changed had to be delivered under police protection because of the “tolerance” of homosexual organizations.
Just recently in a Hungarian talk show, the statement was made that, “A child’s life can be destroyed by two things: Christianity and pornography.”
In Belarus, a mother was denied permission to pray at the tomb of her son, who had been executed by authorities, and a war memorial cross was destroyed in Amsterdam because Muslims said it “disturbed” them.
The results are “hate crimes” against Christians, the report said.
“Hatred of Christianity is often directed against church buildings,” the report warned. “Acts of vandalism and desecration take place more frequently than many would expect. The French daily ‘Le Figaro’ reports one every other day in France alone. Some desecrations prove to be satanic acts, others an expression of disapproval of moral viewpoints of Christianity.”
Against individuals, such “hate crimes” range from “beatings to killings,” the report said.
Physical attacks have been reported by those witnessing at abortion clinics, priests have been beaten and stabbed and protesters have stormed into church services.
The report recommends that European governments ensure equal rights for Christians and modify legislation that attacks the Christian faith, watch for discrimination against Christians and take action when appropriate.
The European Union itself should examine its own legislation and make freedom of religion, speech and conscience a priority.
Kugler, a Vienna lawyer and advisor for the Fundamental Rights Platform of European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, told Mercatornet that it’s all religious freedom, not just that for Christians, at risk.
“We are all aware that Jews and Muslims experience intolerance and discrimination. But so do Christians – even if they constitute a nominal majority here,” she said.
“I have the impression that journalists and policy-makers are often more anti-Christian than their fellow citizens. But they shape the mood of the country. What we observe is that Christians are increasingly being described as ‘homophobic,’ sexist, intolerant and unworldly,” she said.
But there’s a good reason for the attacks, too, she noted.
“Christianity and the cross are a constant bone of contention. Perhaps crucifixes and other religious imagery are reminders that people ought to put their lives in order. Christians are also the last obstacle to a new vision of secularity which is so politically correct that it verges on totalitarianism,” she said.