Equality a 'threat' to religious freedoms
IRELAND and other countries across Europe are at risk of an "aggressive secularism" which threatens religious freedoms, it has been claimed.
Speakers at a conference yesterday told how equality concerns were now overriding principles people may have because of their religion.
The claims were made at a conference organised by the Iona Institute -- a pro-marriage and pro-religion body -- following recent comments by the Pope. During his recent trip to Britain, Pope Benedict warned of the rapid rise in secularism there.
Yesterday, Professor Roger Trigg from Oxford University said governments should respect people's freedom of conscience in the face of new equality laws.
"In Europe today, the pursuit of equality, non-discrimination and 'human rights' is seen as overriding any claim to freedom of conscience, or, of religion," he told the conference taking place in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin.
"Religion is no longer valued for its own sake," he said. The Government was criticised by the academic for what he said was a failure to "respect the principle of conscientious objection" in the upcoming Civil Partnership Bill.
"In Ireland, the recent debate about civil partnerships has exposed an unwillingness on the part of the Government to allow any legal exceptions to cater for freedom of conscience, or manifestation of religious belief," he said.
Meanwhile, English barrister Neil Addison said the issue of secularism was shared across Europe and that equality laws and anti-harassment laws were increasingly being used against religious believers.
"We are constantly being told that we are a secular society and at the same time that we are a multi-faith society and the conflict between these two positions has not yet been truly faced up to, let alone resolved," he said.
Director of the Iona Institute David Quinn said putting equality above other rights, such as religion, was a new "moral absolutism".