Dutch MEP seeks condemnation of Pope’s hatemongering

Sophie in ’t Veld, a Dutch MEP who is also an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, has called on the President of the European Commission to condemn remarks made by the Pope which she says incite hatred against homosexuals.

In his Christmas message, the Pope said that gay and transgendered people are a threat to mankind – a bigger threat, indeed, than even the destruction of the rainforests.

In an open letter to the piously Catholic European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, Ms in ’t Veld wrote: “The Vatican sends out a very clear message: LGBT people are criminals and they are a threat to mankind that must be fought by all Catholics. Freedom of expression is one of the core values of the European community. But in a democratic society that freedom is limited by a ban on incitement to hatred or violence. In the EU there are common laws against racist and xenophobic hate speech and violence. It is unacceptable to brand any population group with terms as “criminal” and a “threat to mankind” on grounds of gender, age, race, handicap or religion. It is equally unacceptable to make such statements about LGBT people.

“I am deeply concerned about the statements by such an influential religious leader. Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility as their words carry more weight in the public debate. The Pope’s statements contribute to a climate in which discrimination, homophobic hate speech and violence become socially acceptable.”

Ms in ’t Veld went on to say: “Millions of LGBT people in Europe still suffer discrimination, hatred and violence. Millions of EU citizens live in fear or in the shadows. Some have to fear for their lives in a 21st century witch hunt. The European Commission can not look the other way when a subject is sensitive or awkward. I very much welcome the proposal for the Anti-discrimination package. But more needs to be done. I expect the European Commission to actively contribute to a climate of tolerance in which all EU citizens can live free of fear and discrimination.”

9 January 2009