IHEU has written to all the Heads of European Governments to communicate urgently the unanimous recommendation of nearly 500 representatives of secular, free thought and humanist organisations from 14 European countries, that Article 51 of the Draft European Constitution be deleted in its entirety.
Paris, 6 December 2003
To: Heads to Governments of the European Union
and Members of the European Council
We wish to communicate urgently the unanimous recommendation of nearly 500 representatives of secular, free thought and humanist organisations from 14 European countries meeting today in Paris, that Article 51 of the Draft European Constitution be deleted in its entirety.
The Human Rights experts and activists assembled under the aegis of the International Humanist and Ethical Union point out that in so far as Article 51 seeks to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, it is superfluous since these freedoms are already protected by Article 10.
The meeting expressed grave disquiet that clause 1 of Article 51, viz “The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States” would legitimise historical privileges. If article 51 were to be accepted, the Union would be powerless to intervene, however undemocratic or repressive the terms of any historical or future agreements between the Church and a Member State might be. A privilege for some implies discrimination for others and violates the principle of state neutrality. European institutions have an obligation of fairness and justice towards all citizens.
The provision for dialogue under Article 51 is a repetition of a provision of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, it is significant that dialogue as envisaged by Article 51 will mean a subversion of the democratic process. All citizens of Europe enjoy adult franchise, and are represented through their elected political representatives. Double representation would subvert the democratic process, specially when the Union will seek to dialogue with Churches and other religious institutions which are not democratically organised.
In conclusion we wish to point out that adoption of article 51 of the proposed European Constitution will run contrary to the spirit of article 3 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination on the basis of Religion or Belief which specifically states “discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
We urge you to ensure at your forthcoming meeting in Rome that Article 51 be deleted in its entirety.