The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a ground-breaking resolution that recognizes the right of religious and conscience rights in the public arena.
According to the National Catholic Register, the resolution says that “The Assembly therefore calls on member States to … accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care, education and the civil service.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 148-3, with seven abstentions.
Supporters of religious and conscience rights hail the resolution as “an important step.” Gregor Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice said that the resolution is “… is the first time that … a source of law, saying that there is a right to conscientious objection and freedom of conscience in all ‘morally sensitive matters.” He said that the resolution applies to the fundamental right of parents to educate their children.
I do not understand the the workings of the European Union and the Council of Europe. For instance, I don’t know if this resolution carries the force of law, or is just a statement of intent.
However, since supporters say it is the first legislative recognition of the right to conscience at this level, it is, at the least, an important first step.
From the Catholic Register:
STRASBOURG, France — A resolution passed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is being lauded as an important — although limited — recognition of religious and conscience rights in the public sphere.
“The important step with this resolution is the mention of the right to conscientious objection and the enlargement of its scope of application,” Grégor Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, told CNA April 29.
“It is the first time that I see a document, a source of law, saying there is a right to conscientious objection and freedom of conscience in all ‘morally sensitive matters,’” he said, which means it applies to the fundamental right of parents to educate their children.
Resolution 1928, passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 24, says, “The Assembly therefore calls on member States to … accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care, education and the civil service.”
However, this accommodation is “provided that the rights of others to be free from discrimination are respected and that the access to lawful services is guaranteed.” This has made some critics wary that rights of religious freedom will be viewed as inferior and secondary to abortion and “gay rights.” (Read the rest here.)
It is enforceable in the European Court of Human Rights. This court is the ultimate court of appeal in matters of human rights for all the signataries to the European Convention establishing the Council of Europe, and its sentences are as binding as, say, those of the US Supreme Court. The defendants are always states, so far as I know, and a state that is condemned by the ECHR has no choice in law but to change its ways and if necessary alter its laws, because court judgments may be enforced as laws by lower courts. Plus, America does not have the system of Administrative Justice that prevails in Code Napoleon countries, which have systems of Administrative Courts judging in conflicts between State and citizen (or private body). These are a much stronger guardian against excesses of state powers than the ordinary courts which judge such matters in Britain and America, and refer to a much more stable jurisprudence. No European administrative court would have passed such a judicial absurdity as Kelso vs New London. (My mother, until her recent retirement, worked as a clerk in the Council of State, Italy’s supreme administrative court, so I know a bit about it.)
One example I can remember of the positive influence of the ECHR. A few years ago, the Swedish justice (or “justice”) system went berserk at the expense of a certain Pastor Ake Green, who had been guilty of preaching a sermon in which Christian teachings to do with homosexual practice were mentioned. The Pastor appealed all the way to Sweden’s highest court, and the learned judges handed down one of the funniest, most frustrated sentences it has ever been my pleasure to read – practically saying that much though they would love to support the sentence of penal servitude against this monster who had blasphemed against holy homosexuality, there could be no doubt that if the cause went to the European Court of Human Rights, they would find for the defendant. So… ->snarl<-… let the so-and-so go.