2014, Europe (general)

Recent Developments and Overall Trends in the Relationship between Religion, Law and State in Europe

Recent Developments and Overall Trends
in the Relationship between Religion, Law and State in Europe

Ronan McCrea

23 January 2014


There are two main issues where European law affects religion: the relationship between religious freedom and antidiscrimination laws and the role of religious symbols in public life and what influence European norms are having in these areas. There is also an overall trend that I think is having a significant impact on approaches to those issues in Europe.

Anti-discrimination laws and exemptions

Religion has a particularly complicated relationship to non-discrimination as religious bodies and institutions make two very distinct and in some ways conflicting demands of the law in this area.

On the one hand, religious individuals claim legal protection from discrimination. That is why the law prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion in areas such as employment. For religious freedom to be properly protected, individuals should, for example, not be fired from their jobs because their employer disapproves of their religious choices.

On the other hand, religious institutions and individuals sometimes seek the right to discriminate, normally by refusing to employ someone in order to protect the ethos of a religiously-owned institution or by refusing to provide goods or services to a person, usually in order to avoid condoning or facilitating sinful conduct.

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2011, Belarus, Europe, Europe (general), Ukraine

Can Churches Contribute to Overcoming Divisions in Europe?

Can Churches Contribute to Overcoming Divisions in Europe?

Peter Pavlovic

The EU and its Neighbourhood Policy: Ukraine and Belarus

The EU Eastern Partnership

The EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a new dimension of the EU Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) towards the countries in the east. It was set up in 2008. The official EU statement states that “The EaP should bring a lasting political message of EU solidarity, alongside additional, tangible support for their democratic and market-oriented reforms and the consolidation of their statehood and territorial integrity.”

According to EU plans, the guiding principle of the EaP should be to offer the maximum possible, taking into account political and economic realities and the state of reforms of the partner concerned, bringing visible benefits for the citizens of each country. An essential component of the EaP will be, according to the EU statement, “a commitment to accompany more intensively partners’ individual reform efforts.”

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2010, Europe, Europe (general)

‘Europe’ in an Era of Bureaucratisation and the Intensification of Identity

‘Europe’ in an Era of Bureaucratisation and the Intensification of Identity

Richard Roberts

Note: this is not the actual text of Richard Roberts’ presentation at the conference, but his own subsequent summary, partly in the light of the discussions at the conference.

The ideas and identities of ‘Europe’ are contested because of their intimate connection with a conflictual religious history1, and this contestation has been expressed in extraordinarily intense ways in the religious history of Scotland, a small nation struggling for centuries to assert itself against a more powerful neighbour. In the course of the past half century since the end of the Second World War what were largely intellectual and ideological issues about belief have become strongly politicised. The most recent manifestation of this transition can be detected in the paradoxical tension that has arisen between demands for fuller integration of the European Union and its ever greater expansion.

The underlying tensions between the integrative ideals of the founding figures in the movement that strove to build the successive associations that now culminate in the EU can be detected in the differences between the European Constitution of 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 that is now on the verge of full ratification. The proposed Constitutional Treaty for the European Union of 2001 contained the following stirring declaration in its preamble:

Convinced that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and histories, the people of Europe are determined to transcend their ancient divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny…. Convinced that, thus “united in its diversity”, Europe offers them the best chance of pursuing, with due regard for the rights of each individual and in awareness of their responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth, the great venture which makes of it a special area of human hope….   (Draft Constitutional Treaty for the European Union, Preamble (Draft Treaty 2003, p. 10)

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2010, Europe (general)

Summary of the Presentations and Discussions at the Faith in Europe Conference ‘European Identity: Who Do We Think We Are?’

The Presentations at the Conference

  • “It’s your story that’s being told”: Europe our Autobiography
    Alastair Hulbert, former Coordinator of the European Commission initiative ‘A Soul for Europe: Ethics and Spirituality’
  • “Europe” in an Era of the Intensification of Identity
    Richard Roberts, Honorary Professor in Residence in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Stirling
  • Brits or Scots – Who Do You Think You Are?
    John Purvis, Scottish MEP, 1979-1984 and 1999-2009
  • Response to John Purvis
    Matthew Ross, Executive Secretary/ Brussels, CSC/CEC, seconded to CEC by four UK churches
  • Where Next?
    Sheilagh Kesting, Secretary, Church of Scotland Ecumenical Relations; former Moderator

What is ‘Identity’?

Philip Walters

Two of the points we kept on making were that identity is not static but constantly developing, and that it is not single but multiple.

We recognised that identity is always a project in construction. Participants working with young people reported that the young people see it as important to find out where they’ve come from in order to know where they’re going. One Scottish participant said he felt very strongly Scottish, and that this was a necessary precondition for a feeling of belonging to anything else.

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2008, Europe (general), Twinning & Partnership

Church Twinning & Partnership – A Symposium

Experience of Church Twinning

The June 2008 Briefing focused on Twinning and Partnership, with a series of papers presented as background preparation for the AGM in July at which Helen Hutchison’s paper (7 below) was given.

2008, Europe (general), European Union

The Future of Mission in Europe – Conference at Redcliffe College

Report on a conference at Redcliffe College – Centre for Mission Training
3-4 January 2008

Dorothy Knights

The Europe Mission Forum has been following the three-year Mission Research of Darrell Jackson based in Budapest. He was sponsored by the Conference of European Churches and Church Mission Society. He has now moved to the above college in Gloucester where, as a continuity of that work, he directs the Nova Research Centre. Nova was officially launched with a dinner on Thursday evening.

I was very pleased to represent CTBI at this event. Many of the forty participants had met Darrell a year ago when the first Conference for the Future of Mission in Europe was held at Redcliffe. They all came from Evangelical backgrounds, a new experience for me, but I felt comfortable thanks to Darrell’s initial lecture ‘Evangelical and Ecumenical Missiology in Post-Communist Europe’ which was as accompanied by a helpful chart. All Ecumenical references were familiar to me and it was very good to see there were more convergences than divergences. I was surprised at first that hardly anyone, except the CMS delegates, knew what CTBI stood for, but when they were told they without fail said it was ‘a good thing’ and that churches should come together.

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2008, Europe (general), Third European Ecumenical Assembly - Sibiu

The Challenges of Sibiu to the Churches and to Faith in Europe

The Challenges of Sibiu to the Churches and to Faith in Europe:

Elizabeth Fisher and Colin Williams

Colin Williams

I would like to thank Faith in Europe for the work it does in highlighting in the UK the European Ecumenical Agenda.

The general consensus on EEA3 was that it was a positive if flawed occasion. The sense of excitement and anticipation has to some extent gone out of ecumenical life since the first European Ecumenical Assembly in Basel in 1989. But as one Lutheran delegate to the Assembly commented, Europe is still the only region in the world where the major Christian confessions are able to come together in this way. The general feeling of those present was to welcome the fact that the Assembly had taken place, and that it had enabled the major Christian traditions to speak to each other in so visible a way. The Assembly was offered by one delegate in a letter to me as a sign that there is still a strong will for the ecumenical journey to continue. Another delegate spoke of how the Assembly demonstrated that Christians in Europe need regular opportunities to celebrate our common roots and our common vision. There was also value attached by delegates to the fact that Sibiu showed that we were able to be open about the differences which still exist between us, as a basis on which to build further

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2008, Europe (general), Third European Ecumenical Assembly - Sibiu

Reports from the Third European Ecumenical Assembly

Reports from the Third European Ecumenical Assembly

Seven reports are offered here. Richard Mortimer is Secretary for Ecumenical Relations for the United Reformed Church. His report will serve as an excellent introduction to the experience of being in an Orthodox country with a communist history, and will give the reader a sense of what it felt like to be part of an occasion quite foreign to the Romanian or Orthodox ways of doing things. Richard’s report is here.

Richard Seebohm comes from a Quaker family and has worked in the steel industry, in the civil service and at the Quaker Council for European Affairs in Brussels. He is at present writing about how government and business interacted between the two world wars. Richard’s report is here.

Dr Martin Conway is a past President of the Selly Oak Colleges and has been on the staff of the World Council of Churches. His report is here.

Dorothy Knights is Co-President of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women www.efecw.net. She belongs to Great Malvern Priory and is a member of Worcester (C of E) Diocesan Synod. She serves on the British Kirchentag Committee and is Focal Person for Europe Mission Forum, Global Mission Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Her report is here.

Jim Bryden is the Salvation Army’s Territorial Ecumenical Officer, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. His report is here

The Venerable Colin Williams, a priest of the Church of England, is Archdeacon Emeritus of Lancaster and General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches. Canon Elizabeth Fisher is Tutor in Biblical Studies at St John’s College, Nottingham, and Moderator of the CEC Commission ‘Churches in Dialogue’. A report of their joint presentation is here.

2006, Europe (general)

The Work of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Religious Freedom

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Malcolm Evans

Why are we interested in religious rights from an international law point of view? Because in recent history the two have always been linked.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the question of religious liberty was separate from the question of how states were run and how they treated their citizens. But in the later part of the nineteenth century, and particularly in the context of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, international attention was focused on how religious groups were treated in newly independent states. The motivation was not religious freedom as such, but concern that social friction should be minimised and hence political instability avoided.

Since the Second World War there has been less emphasis on the rights of religious communities and more emphasis on the rights of individuals. The prevailing modern understanding has been that the religious freedom of the individual is to be restricted only by public order issues.

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2005, Europe (general)

The Dunblane Symposium

The Dunblane Symposium

Reports from the Symposium on Faith in Europe
‘With What Will You Save the World?’
Scottish Churches’ House, Dunblane
19-20 October 2005

Marc Lenders   Europe from a Protestant Church Perspective

Alison Elliot   A Scottish Perspective on Europe

Richard Seebohm   Summing up the Presentations

Philip Walters   Summing up the Conference

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