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04 October 2003

EU members in unholy row

Here is a fascinating article in the Guardian Unlimited about one of the major difficulties to be overcome in agreeing to an EU constitution. It's probably due to my strong Jeffersonian philosphical background, but I think they are rather missing the point. The squabbles over how to word a "reference" to Europe's religious heritage, whether that be called Christian or Judeo-Christian, merely points up the need for religion to be mentioned in the document. But the powerful disestablishmentarians, those who are adamant about the "separation of church and state" (that's mainly the French, with typically wishy-washy backing from our Tone) want to enforce a policy of no references at all to religion of any sort. What is needed is an explicit statement that the union itself and the member states will have freedom of religion and no state-sponsored religions; then, a mere historical reference to Christianity will be unable to be used harmfully, to oppress or exclude.
I have to say, I have a hard time understanding why so many people are unable to either understand or embrace religious tolerance. The "separation of church and state", too, although a cornerstone of American liberty, is widely misunderstood in America, by Bible-thumpers and militant atheists and everyone in between. Christian fundies think the amendment is their enemy, not realising that they wouldn't be there today without it. Those wary of religion think the amendment is a weapon to silence religious discourse about politics. It seems like madness to me, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the chaotic approach in Europe.

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