Often, the report said, anti-discrimination laws are applied in such a way that “causes indirect side-effect discrimination of Christians.” In addition, the report said, “Hate speech legislation has a tendency to indirectly discriminate against Christians, criminalizing core elements of Christian teaching.”
For instance, in July, Spain’s socialist government, which backs gay “marriage,” fined a Christian television network 100,000 euros for running a series of advertisements in favor of the family and opposing the homosexual lifestyle.
Also in recent years, the commission reported, bishops in Belgium and Scotland faced threats of prosecution from members of Parliament for defending the Church’s teaching on marriage.
The report also raises questions about the neutrality of the European Court of Human Rights, which has gained increasing authority with the push for European unification. The court, for instance, has ruled that crucifixes displayed in Italian schoolrooms violates students’ religious freedom.
The report also cited a 2009 case in which the Catholic University of Milan decided not to renew the contract of a professor who declared in class that Christianity promoted “unmerciful dogmas” and declared original sin to be a “fiction.” The professor also said that “Jesus was through and through a bad human being” and that the Gospel was the “most frightening message ever made known to mankind.”
Later in 2009, the human rights court said Italy had violated the professor’s right to freely express his opinion — effectively placing the professor’s rights to speech above a Christian institution’s rights to preserve and promote its identity through its hiring practices.
The report also details a rising number of what it calls “hate crimes” directed at Christians and Christian symbols, including arson and vandalism of churches across Europe.
At the recently concluded meeting of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, held in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Vatican’s top diplomat, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, echoed many of the themes raised in this new report.
“It is well documented that Christians are the most discriminated and persecuted religious group,” he said in an address to delegates.
“The international community must combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians with the same determination with which the it fights against hate with respect to other religious communities," he added.
In his comments on the new report, Fr. Lombardi reminded listeners that while Pope Benedict was in England this past September, he also expressed his "concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity ... even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The new report, he said, is an opportunity for reflection and commitment, "not only from those who work for the defense of Christianity and its values, but also of all honest people truly desirous of protecting the values of tolerance and freedom of expression and religion."