"Europe & Laïcité"
Sketch of a European Charter for
the protection of secular rights
PreambleEurope must be built on democratic institutions whose underlying principles and operations must be based on a civil and social system of values which will bring about harmony between the different human groups from which Europe derives its richness and its vitality. Theses values and underlying principles must not expose the peoples of Europe to clashes between "communities", religious rivalries, simplistic fundamentalism or the usurpation of civil rights by the clergy.
This draft is meant as a contribution to the setting up of a Charter whose aim shall be to define the scope and nature of the underlying values on which European Union (EU) and its institutions must be founded if they are to be instruments of progress.
Article 1Within EU, civil, political, cultural and social life must be so ordered as to respect individual and collective freedom, in the interest of all and for the common good. European law shall further set citizens free from the civil disabilities from which some still suffer in certain Member States.
Absolute freedom of expression and artistic creation will be guaranteed in all Member States of EU, and no religious - or "community" - based pressure group shall be entitled to restrict this freedom by virtue of a prohibition that can only apply to members of the groups concerned.
The application of scientific discoveries shall likewise be unfettered, and may only be limited by domestic legislation, duly approved by elected bodies legally empowered to enact such legislation. Religious prohibitions shall not be embodied in European legislation.
Article 2The status of women, and their established right to share fairly in civil and social life will be unambiguously defined: no exception to this on the basis of religious, ethnic or traditional prohibitions shall be embodied into shared European law.
Laws pertaining to the child will take into account its future status as a free, responsible citizen and whenever possible, will protect it from doctrinal ou dogmatic conditioning of a harsh nature, whether in the home, in its "community" (when it may impose its traditions), or in society at large.
Article 3European institutions must allow and encourage the practice of mutual tolerance and respect for racial and cultural differences, within the framework of a system that affords exactly equal rights, and imposes equal obligations on all citizens of EU: they should, in particular, exclude all tolerance for racist or segregationist forces, both within political and social life. As their fundamental guiding principle, they must accept that:
the right to be different must not give rise to different rights.
Article 4European institutions will ensure that official bodies, public services and legal processes in EU shall be completely independent of any ecclesiastical, clerical or sectarian influence.
Responsability for civil, social, cultural and educational matters following from European policy will be assumed by public services of EU, and not devolved to any private organisation.
In matters of religion, legitimate rights (whether individual or collective) shall be enshrined in European law in so far as they concern the private sphere to which they belong, but they shall not in any way interfere with public or political life.
European institutions shall give priority to the interest of all and to the common good, but without ever legalising or instituting special individual or collective privileges, and without ever yielding to pressure groups seeking to obtain undue advantages which would be incompatible with the interest of all or social justice. This same principle must be followed by the different social and economic systems that must coexist within a necessarily diverse EU.
Article 6European institutions and bodies shall encourage national governments, private and public bodies to adhere to principles that will provide support to peoples, States and social groups, however great their economic, social or cultural differences or attainements may be.
This support shall foster broadly-based social justice without which their can be no economic growth. The extension of this effort to so-called developping countries is a clear necessity if international cooperation, through which alone peace and progress may come about, is to be established.
Article 7Within their field of competence, the elected European authorities may not found their policy or actions on ideas whose applicaion would be a violation or a limitation of the basic values of secular humanism or of its practice. They shall in particular grant no privilege to an ethnic, sectarian or cultural group from which rivalries and disagreements stem, but shall always consider the human-citizen as the basic building block of European civil life.
Article 8Member States whose constitution and legal processes are not secular in conception must not undertake to hinder the spread of secularist ideals in any way that would put these on a different basis from other ethical or ideological systems.
Member States governments of EU must undertake to respect the laws of EU which enshrine secularist values, or which make specific mention of them.
Secular humanism, based on respect for all beliefs and opinions, for individual rights and basic freedoms, will be respected by European institutions and authorities which will facilitate its spread in the interest of all and to achieve social cohesion.
Article 9The philosophical, ethical, moral and civil values on which secular humanism is based make it acceptable to all those who love freedom, tolerance and justice: thus, it has a universal applicability, because of the positive and opportune solutions it offers to many social and civil problems that arise in Europe and elsewhere. It is therefore necessary and in the interest of all individuals, social and national groups that secular humanism should be promoted as the guiding-force, both within the EU and outside it, and that it should form the basis for the creation of the common European citizenship which must one day come about.
This text is a proposal by the "Mouvement Europe & Laïcité".
A completely new writing of this proposal is in preparation.
The translation from French is by D. Parris (Dublin). (There are translations in other languages.)
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Last update February 2000.