A draft of the new European Union constitution fails to acknowledge the role of God and Christianity on the continent. Some Christians are outraged. The document does mention Europe's "religious heritage."
Religious conservatives are pushing for some constitutional acknowledgement of "the Creator," or at least a statement that indicates that Christianity and Christian values have been key influences in Europe's history and culture.
"It is an offense to reason, to good sense, and to a good part of Europe's citizens," said Cardinal Roberto Tucci, president of Radio Vatican. The Vatican is asking for changes to make the draft more balanced.
The document will provide the framework for enlarging the EU, which will admit 10 new members in 2004.
Alexander Kwasniewski, a self-described atheist and president of staunchly Catholic Poland, called the godless tone of the constitution shameful.
In March the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) said it would "welcome a mention of Judeo-Christian values in the [constitution] since [these values] shaped European culture."
Jeff Fountain, one of the initiators of Hope for Europe, an evangelical network tied to the EEA, is a native New Zealander who lives in the Netherlands. Fountain told CT the constitution's values should explicitly reflect the Judeo-Christian tradition. "The values that shaped Europe, and many of the values that were built into the European Union, cannot be found outside of Scripture," Fountain said.
But Human Rights Without Frontiers, a Belgium-based human rights organization focusing on religious liberties, is fearful of a possible two-tiered legal system for traditional and minority faiths. Director Willy Fautre told CT this would "reinforce and legitimize the institutionalized discrimination and intolerance already prevailing in the EU member countries."
On the other hand, said Mats Tunehag, president of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, "We do not want state control of religion, but we want a society based on scriptural values."
Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, said Europeans are seeking a delicate balance between religious liberty and tolerance, given the continent's history.
"I don't think a blatant secularism is the way forward," George said. "But keeping a proper distance between the institutions of state and the religious community is a concern."
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In a recent Books & Culture article, Philip Jenkins examined Andrew Greeley's claims that Europe hasn't become as secularized as most people think.
Other media coverage includes:
Europe without God | You thought Christianity had something to do with European culture? Tell that to the drafters of the European Constitution—Alain Woodrow, The Tablet, U.K. (June 21, 2003)
Nations debate on God in E.U. Constitution | Italy and three other nations at the European Union summit pushed Friday to reopen a contentious debate about mentioning God in the E.U.'s new constitution—Associated Press (June 20, 2003)
Godless in Brussels | New E.U. constitution jettisons Europe's Judeo-Christian heritage—John F. Cullinan, National Review Online (June 16, 2003)
An oxymoron: Europe without Christianity | What kind of future can there be for a united Europe that disavows its own past?—Kenneth L. Woodward, The New York Times, June 14, 2003)
IGC to carry on Christianity debate—EU Observer (June 13, 2003)
Constitutional wrangling enters last phase—EU Observer (June 12, 2003)
Constitution - Religion in, enlightenment out—EU Observer (June 11, 2003)
Atheist premier attacks lack of Christianity in E.U. constitution—The Daily Telegraph, London (June 6, 2003)
E.U.'s draft constitution sets up raucous debate—The Washington Times (June 2, 2003)
God and the E.U.—Time Europe (June 1, 2003)
Vatican irked by Christian omission—BBC (May 31, 2003)
God's place in Europe's future constitution—Deutsche Welle, Germany (May 31, 2003)
God has no place in 'elitist' Giscard Euro blueprint—The Daily Telegraph, London (May 30, 2003)
Doubting north wins battle to leave God out of it—The Guardian, London (May 28, 2003)
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