The European Parliament has created a new body that will promote a secular approach to human rights. The European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Europe (which, for some reason, likes to abbreviate itself as EPPSP) plans “to give a voice to secularism in Europe”.
It’s led by Dutch social-liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (right).
Before religious zealots start getting knots in their skimpies, let’s point out that this new body isn’t promoting atheism. Here’s what the EPPSP says:
The Platform defends and promotes Fundamental Rights, with special focus on freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. Freedom of religion is an individual fundamental right, and the Platform will stand up against attempts to use it as a pretext to restrict other fundamental rights.
See that? Freedom of religion is part of the deal. What the EPPSP won’t tolerate, it seems, is religion being privileged in such a way that it impinges on other freedoms. Quite right too.
The body’s home page also states:
The EU institutions must remain secular, so as to ensure that all religions and life stances are treated equally and have equal possibilities to influence EU policy making.
It’s not often you hear such excellent sense coming out of Europe. This deserves support.
The good news is that the inestimable British Humanist Association (BHA) is already doing just that. It’s head of public affairs, Naomi Phillips, attends EPPSP meetings. She commented: “Despite the fact that the European Union is mandated to respect and treat equally both religious and philosophical, non-religious organisations, the churches and other organised religions have wide and privileged access to, and influence over, the institutions of the EU. The BHA works through the EPPSP and through the European Humanist Federation in order to make our contribution to promoting a separation of religion and politics across Europe.”