Opposing Religious Extremism
Secularization is growing in Europe. But a closer look at several European countries shows that the separation of their governments from religion is far from guaranteed and that religious conservatism impedes social progress. This is the case for example in Italy, Ireland, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia but also in many more.
In these countries, humanist and secular organizations are fighting for public decisions and policies to be based on reason rather than on dogma.
Extremist religious policy activism at EU level
Although the European Union is founded on the shared principles of human rights and the rule of law, in practice EU decision-making is subject to strong lobbying by conservative religious organizations trying to impose their views on issues like women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights, LGBTI rights, euthanasia, freedom of expression, scientific research, etc.
These groups introduce themselves as “human rights oriented” and against discrimination, sometimes in a very deceptive way. They have carefully re-thought their communication strategy to gain respectability; using neutral names and websites and putting forward biased legal and scientific expertise rather than religious principles. They also present themselves as victims of discrimination which they call “Christian persecution” or “christianophobia” while hiding behind “religious freedom” to implement their ultra-conservative agenda and to limit human rights and equality at EU level.
This urgently needs to be counter-balanced. This is one of the tasks of the EHF and its member organizations who propose ambitious and progressive policies to European decision-makers with full respect for equality, freedom of choice and freedom of belief for all.
This is not about silencing those with whom the EHF does not agree: like many other civil society organizations, religious communities are entitled to share their views at the European level. But beyond official and moderate representation, a proliferation of extremist (mostly Christian) religious organizations have become very active in EU corridors, trying to impose their ideologically-driven, draconian and undemocratic agendas onto the rest of society by influencing laws and policies with no respect for other religious and philosophical views.
Why do we call them extremists?
We call such groups extremists because they go far beyond religious convictions or democratically expressed conservative opinions. They try to advance hard-line agendas based on extreme interpretations of religious doctrine, which are opposed fundamental European principles in many ways. Many of these organizations regularly equate abortion with murder, homosexuality with pedophilia, sex education with collective masturbation at school and human rights activists with “sodomite lobbies”.
Not all of these groups have necessarily been influential on EU politics. Nevertheless, their activism and rhetoric contribute to creating a climate in which necessary debates about complex issues are politicized and the search for a compromise is replaced by an apparent clash between the “pro” and the “against”. At the EHF, we have often met these groups on our way to promote free choice, equality and non-discrimination.