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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Joint Declaration of the NSS and Libre Pensée

4th June 2003

Dear friends and comrades,

The National Federation of the French Freethought and the National Secular Society have just taken the initiative to convene a European gathering against the article I-51 of the future European Constitution, on Saturday, December 6th, 2003, in Paris. It follows this letter.

1) We would be pleased to learn what you think of it

2) If you agree to join us on this declaration and agree to publicly sign it, please let us know. If you are signifying your agreement publicly with the Declaration on behalf of an organisation, you are welcome, to address the audience of the rally if you wish. (if so, you will appear in the list of the organising bodies). It is important to indicate your participation as soon as possible.

3) As agreed between the National Secular Society of England and the National Federation of the French Freethought, this wording of the declaration cannot be modified. We have made it sufficiently broad so that every sympathetic organisation should be able to indicate their support. We recognise that it will not exactly reflect every aspect of your difficulties with this issue, but we are confident that it should address your major concerns.

4) The costs of the accommodation and the expenses for the gathering are being borne by the French Federation of the Freethought. Foreign delegations will have to pay themselves for the trips, accommodation and meals for their own delegation.

Thank you for your kind and fast reply,

Be sure of our deep attachment to the need for the separation of the Church and the State.

For the NSS, the Executive Director: Keith Porteous Wood

For the FNLPF, the Secretary-general: Christian Eyschen

For the total freedom of conscience by the separation of the Churches and the States and for secularity in Europe:
Abrogation of the Amsterdam Declaration No.11!
Joint Declaration of the National Secular Society (United Kingdom) and of Libre Pensée (France)

1. Libre Pensée and the National Secular Society of Britain have decided to address jointly all citizens and all associations, whether rationalist, sceptic, freethinking, humanist or secularist who are fighting in Europe for secularity. Currently the future constitution of the European Union is being formulated. Under greatest threat is the principle of respect for absolute freedom of conscience, which includes the freedom to either believe or not to believe.

2. The European Charter of basic rights guarantees the freedom of religion and to change one's religion but there is emphatically no protection for those with no religious allegiance who wish to be free FROM religious influence despite nearly 40% of Europeans being neither religious adherents nor practising their faith.

3. Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights is supposed to guarantee "the freedom of conscience, of thought and religion " but in reality the judgments of the European Court of Justice have not acknowledged a duty to protect the secularity of the national institutions and the separation of the Churches and the States. According to the European Court, neither established religions, nor the medieval offence of blasphemy nor Church taxes are contrary to Article 9.

4. It is in this legal and institutional context that the discussion of the future constitution of the European Union continues. Certain interests require a clear reference to the concept of a " revealed god " in the preamble to this constitution and the mention of "Christianity as the common cultural heritage of the people of Europe ".

5. Clerical lobbies of every kind, supported by various governments, require that Declaration 11 of Amsterdam be adopted as Article I 51 of the future European constitution. Let us not forget that the sole aim of this Article is to guarantee and to reactivate the anti-democratic privileges of the Churches and the religions in the various countries of the European Union, most of which already grant immense privileges to religious institutions either with a concordat or by having a state religion.

6. If such a provision were adopted, no people, no nation, no State in Europe could ever call into question the State religions, the legal settlements, the offences of blasphemy and the Church taxes such as they exist in a great number of countries on the European continent.

7. Indeed, Article I 51 (Status of churches and non-confessional organisations) lays down entirely clerical provisions such as: "The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States "Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations."

8. It is a matter of not only the maintenance of anti-secular and anti-democratic privileges of the Churches, but also of the conferring of official status to the religions in the institutions. It is the negation of absolute freedom of conscience of the citizens of the various countries as well as a further violation of the principle of equality of rights of citizens.

9. The National Secular Society and Libre Pensée are calling for a massive campaign on the part of supporters of secularity in Europe to defeat this clerical offensive.

10. Libre Pensée and the National Secular Society call upon all rationalist, sceptical, freethinking, humanist and secular organisations and the citizens of the various countries in Europe