Christians in Europe face arrests, fines, vandalism, and professional penalties due to a growing trend of social intolerance and government restrictions, according to a new report. The report ties the discrimination to a wave of new laws that selectively affect Christians. “It is those who strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity who experience a clash,” not nominal believers who align with the mainstream of society, says Dr. Gudrun Kugler.
Kugler heads up the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, which released the report at an international conference on tolerance and discrimination in Albania in May.
European countries pride themselves as vanguards of human rights, often using forums like the UN Human Rights Council to pressure other countries. Yet the report finds a rash of new laws stigmatize Christians and challenge international human rights like freedom of conscience, expression and parental rights.
In the Netherlands, despite a right not to participate in unethical medical procedures, abortions are part of required training for obstetricians and gynecologists. A United Kingdom (UK) court ordered two Catholic midwives to supervise other midwives committing abortions.
Sweden allows no conscience rights for health care workers, midwives, medical students or pharmacists.
Ireland’s civil registrars could be jailed up to six months for not officiating at same-sex ceremonies. Churches can be fined for not allowing their property to be used for same-sex celebrations.
France forbids negative speech against homosexuality. Christian street preachers, pro-life demonstrators and a Christian couple in a private conversation were charged with violating a UK law against words or behavior “likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.”
While obscene “Gay Pride” marches are allowed, Christians’ right to associate are viewed with suspicion. Silent protests, counseling and prayers at abortion clinics can result in arrests for stalking in Austria.
Christian bed-and-breakfast owners in the UK were fined for not renting a room in their house, where they live with their children, to a homosexual couple. The Netherlands requires government bodies break contracts with private parties that object to participating in homosexual unions.
A Christian doctor in the UK was fired for e-mailing a prayer to colleagues. A judge ruled Christians have no right to abstain from working on Sundays claiming it is not “a core component” of their beliefs.
Parents have the universal right to educate their children. Yet homeschooling is criminalized in Germany, while Austria threatens families with taking away their children. Sweden’s graphic sex education is mandatory for children, where an 11-year girl underwent two abortions without her parents’ consent.
The report surmises these laws foster a hostile climate that allows attacks to go unpunished.
An artist in Slovenia set fire to a cross – the same act he committed 10 years before but was acquitted in court. A Catholic bookstore in France was vandalized 26 times with no response from public authorities or media. The Polish Football Association banned crosses and Bibles as “racist and xenophobic materials.”
In France, 84% of vandalism in 2010 was against Christian sites. A city in Spain banned a bishop from official city events for criticizing homosexual lifestyles.
“Christians are not asking for special treatment,” said Gary Streeter, a member of UK’s parliament, “but we are looking for a level playing field and for sincerely held beliefs to be given equal space in our law and in our society.”
Wendy Wright writes for C-FAM, from where this article is adapted.