.- Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's Minister for European Affairs and the nominee to the European Commission who was vociferously rejected by the EU for his Catholic views on marriage and sexuality, has been awarded the "Faith and Freedom" Award by the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico, President of the Acton Institute lauds Buttiglione, who was accused of intolerance and bigotry in EU parliament confirmaton hearings, as a person who has stood up for his beliefs and in favor of religious freedom, and stated that “he was the target of a malicious and profoundly unfair campaign that increasingly resembles the assault on religious liberty in America."
"Buttiglione was borked because he articulated genuine answers to questions about his personal beliefs even though those beliefs would have no role in his work. There is a critical difference between a healthy separation of church and state and a radical secularism that denies all public manifestation of religion," he said.
Ten days ago, the tension between radical secularism and the separation of church and state became ever more apparent as a coalition of more than one million people from all over Europe signed a petition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and fellow EU leaders calling for changes to the preamble of the European Constitution.
The people requested that the EU recognize Europe's Christian heritage. Many state representatives had requested some reference to Christianity in the document but were blocked by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, because such a reference would "exclude" and "offend."
Poland's President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, denounced the "Godless" tone of the Constitution as shameful. He told the press: "I am an atheist and everybody knows it, but there are no excuses for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and the Enlightenment, without making references to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe."
"We are seeing something similar in America" said Sirico "especially in the last few weeks when numerous public intellectuals and journalists insist on describing the integration of faith, character, and morality as “theocracy.” Secularism is a value that religious leaders recognize but so much of the secularism that we see manifested in European and American public life is intolerant and anti-Christian."
Mr. Buttiglione is the third recipient of the Faith and Freedom Award, which has been awarded to Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, a Catholic priest who spent 13 years in a Vietnamese prison because of his faith. Sir John Templeton, a staunch defender of religious belief.