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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Europe’s Non-Religious Citizens Disadvantaged By Religious Power-Seekers

Address given to the ‘Religion And Politics In The New Europe’ forum by Keith Porteous Wood on behalf of the National Secular Society and International Humanist & Ethical Union.

European Parliament, Brussels. Tuesday 27th November, 2007.


Europeans who have no religion are increasing in number but are becoming increasingly disadvantaged in the political process.

The majority of the EU population are either non-religious or do not actively practise any religion and they are being betrayed by increasingly strident religious influence on moral matters in EU institutions.

Despite the continuing reduction in church attendance, religious influence in European institutions is increasing. The new EU treaty requires transparent dialogue with religious institutions and the Pope will soon address, or in reality, lecture, elected EU Parliamentarians and probably also those of the Council of Europe. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church on EU institutions is huge but largely hidden, and its objective is clearly to impose its views on all EU citizens, not just Catholics. The Catholic Bishops’ conference is represented as well as the Holy See as a sovereign state. At the meeting the huge disparity became apparent between the demands of these representatives and the views of Catholics in the pews.

There are sixty religious missions to the EU, but only one non-religious one, the European Humanist Association. It has little power and is rarely consulted. This model of representation entirely disenfranchises the majority of the population who are either non-religious, non-practising or whose views differ substantially from their religious representatives – who are almost always male. Civil society and the non-religious have minimal influence but can be adversely affected by the behind-doors decisions made as a result of religious representation.

A growing number of non-religious and non-practising citizens are being left out of this process, as indeed are many practising Christians who are becoming alarmed at their leaders becoming more and more reactionary.

Typical areas where this undue religious influence will be directed are start and end of life issues and sexual matters. The religious climate is becoming progressively less tolerant on such matters, partly because of the deepening conservatism in the Catholic and Anglican churches. But even more important is the growing influence of Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries, and the rise in influence of Islam.


The forum was hosted by Catholics for a Free Choice and the All-Party Working Group on the Separation of Religion and Politics.

November 28 2007


Published Wed, 28 Nov 2007