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The European Parliament affirms its commitment to freedom of conscience

In a resolution adopted on 3 May, the European Parliament affirms its commitment to freedom of thought, conscience, belief and religion. It also calls on the EU institutions to defend it in their internal and international policies.

               Far from limiting it to “religious freedom”, the resolution rightly recalls that this fundamental right, protected by international law, “includes the freedom to choose what to believe or not to believe, the freedom to found, adhere to, change or abandon a religion or belief without any constraints”, or “the freedom to espouse theistic, non-theistic, agnostic or atheistic views, and the right to apostasy”.

Persecutions against secular humanists              

The secularist movement strongly approves the reaffirmation of this fundamental right so often violated, and the denunciation by the Parliament of the “growing persecution and (…) unprecedented waves of incitement to hatred and killings, in a number of countries worldwide” against “non-religious, secular and humanist organisations”.

Moreover, the Parliament condemns the violence against “countless individuals and civil society organisations (…) for peacefully questioning, criticising or satirising religious beliefs”. It rightly points out that “this ongoing violation of freedom of thought and expression is occurring across geographic and cultural borders, including within EU Member States.”

Violence and discrimination in the name of religion

The resolution also rightly stresses the persistence of violence and discrimination against women and LGBT+ persons on religious grounds by states and non-state actors alike.

The Centre d’Action Laïque joins in the condemnation of “all acts of or incitements to violence, persecution, coercion and discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, including by religious leaders or based on religious or belief motivations.”

As the resolution points out, ” the defence of ‘tradition’ or ‘public morality’ cannot contradict, in any instance, international human rights provisions to which states must adhere.”

End Blasphemy Laws

The Centre d’Action Laïque, a partner in the “End blasphemy laws” campaign launched by Humanists International, welcomes the call for the EU “to intensify its political dialogue with all countries concerned, with a view to repealing” laws incriminating ” blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, defamation of or insults against religions”, including among its Member States.

              Humanists International, of which CAL is a member, has launched a campaign to demand the release of Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “blasphemy” following an unfair trial.

In the wake of the Liège Appeal, CAL promotes secularism, which establishes and protects the values of freedom, equality and solidarity, and allows the peaceful coexistence of philosophical or religious opinions. Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience, the foundation of human rights.