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After having surmounted the seemingly overwhelming challenges of communism and Nazism in the twentieth century, Christians might have expected to live happily ever after in post-communist freedom and democracy. Although our true commitment is to God as king, freedom as the West had come to understand it easily allowed for a personal life under the lordship of the God of the Bible. And so we seem in disarray both in terms of rhetoric and actions in responding to a new threat which is really of similar magnitude (if not yet as systematically organized): that of the liberal antidiscrimination regime.
This is a body of laws and policies prohibiting adverse actions against protected categories of people. Of the original categories that were advanced in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most basic, race, poses little difficulty for traditional Christians; only extrapolations could justify the claim that racial inequality is a Biblical doctrine. Others, such as sex or even religion, do not pose great difficulty (the last because religious organizations were specifically exempted from it). And the “ministerial exception,” generally practiced in the civil rights era and given constitutional standing by the Supreme Court in 2012, makes religious considerations absolute in the employment of clergy or teachers of religious doctrine. What threatens the freedom, and even the long term survival of orthodox Christianity in the West, is the addition of sexual orientation to the list of protected categories. In particular, courts are making it clear that the prohibition against discrimination applies to facilitating personal behavior Christian doctrine holds to be sinful, as well as to personal orientation.
As was the case with freedom of speech, in which the cultural left moved from the unrestrained free expression (including obscenity and vulgarity) of the Berkeley free speech movement to restricting “discriminatory” speech in its hate speech doctrine, so in personal behavior the left has moved from a concern for “privacy” (in no small measure to protect the sexual revolution) to an attempt to regulate personal behavior through antidiscrimination law and policy.
So far in America, the antidiscrimination regime is being realized through state and local laws which require persons serving the public to provide goods and services that will facilitate homosexual behavior, and through attacks on conscience protections for medical and other health care providers. But in Europe, there are several proposed supranational legal instruments which would systematically apply this regime to personal life, thus enacting a new totalitarianism, controlling all of life, in the midst of multi-party democracy.
The first of these proposed instruments in the Equal Treatment Directive in the European Union. Originally intended to prohibit discrimination between the sexes with respect to employment when proposed in 2006, it was expanded by the European Commission in 2008 to include religion, age, disability and sexual orientation and has a much broader scope of the provision of goods and services, i.e., one may not refuse the provision of goods and services to anyone in the protected groups. Since the provision of goods and services is what business, the professions, and charities are about, the directive amounts to a major intrusion of state power into private businesses and institutions, and a major loss of civil liberties for anyone not subscribing to the dogma of “equality” in the antidiscrimination categories. As the British Equality and Human Rights Commission enthusiastically describes in a question and answer document on its website, if the directive is passed, it will be “transposed” into the national law of EU member countries that do not already have such antidiscrimination law, and require member states to prohibit refusal of services to protected groups, thus overriding any considerations of conscience or personal choice on the part of providers.
European Dignity Watch (EDW), a non-governmental organization which monitors the European Union at its Brussels headquarters, reports that the addition of sexual orientation to the directive was occasioned by an effort to make disabled persons a protected category. As can easily happen (and may well be intended), policy concerning disabled persons, expressed in the framework of civil rights and protected status, provided an opening wedge through which it could be argued that it is proper for the government to regulate personal behavior and the private world in the interest of improving society and changing attitudes.
EDW has incisively analyzed the directive as overruling basic freedoms of religion, association, and speech. An individual’s personal freedom to act in these areas would be denied by an overarching principle of “equality,” with no adverse judgments or decisions made about the protected groups even in one’s own personal life. The directive attempts to regulate and correct “horizontal” relationships (between private citizens) in which “discrimination” is understood as “less favorable treatment,” which is verified by the judgment of the offended party. Any complaint about “discrimination” in personal life by a member of a protected group will require the accused to justify his or her decision to a human rights bureaucracy, which will decide cases brought on subjective criteria as it thinks fit. The state thus gains control of much of people’s day to day lives, and if the subjective criteria are stretched far enough, over all of life, the essence of totalitarianism. EDW observes that what guidance is given to the human rights apparatus tends to contradict common sense justice; inherently different categories of persons are held to be due the same treatment.
The breathtaking scope of state control and the underlying criterion of hurt feelings on which it is based cannot be overestimated. As described by LifeSiteNews in a 2010 article, personal behavior will be deemed “discriminatory” if it “creates an offensive or humiliating environment.” This establishes a legal environment ready made for radical activists intent on prevailing against the great mass of society with the force of the law, and for the EU’s cultural left bureaucrats to remold society as they wish. The same source earlier noted that the directive would essentially dictate “to religious bodies which beliefs they may hold.” This is accomplished by a provision in Article 13 of the directive that declares that the internal rules and functioning of for-profit and non-profit bodies must conform to “the principle of equal treatment.” Another article by Atheist Conservative (despite its confusing introduction that seems to endorse the “tolerance” principle of Equality Directive) notes that Islam would be prominent among the categories immune from criticism, and that children in Europe would be indoctrinated in the new social code of behavior and thought and punished if they disagreed with it. The same source notes that the press will be required to conform to the ideology of “tolerance,” and submit to government supervision of national “mass media complaints commission(s).”
A second supranational document, the Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance, is brazenly explicit about being intolerant of any dissent from its doctrine of tolerance. EDW notes that this document states frankly that “there is no need to be tolerant of the intolerant,” defines “tolerance” as acceptance of protected groups, emphasizes that tolerance is to be practiced by individuals in “horizontal” relationships (between private groups and individuals) as well as by governments with respect to their citizens, and calls for government surveillance of society to ensure “tolerance.” Illegal doctrines will be “racism, colour bias, ethnic discrimination, religious intolerance, totalitarian ideologies [as if “tolerance” has not become totalitarian ideology], xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and homophobia.” The statute will, in short, put European society on an explicitly ideological basis. Any expression or activity by private parties judged to be “intolerant” will be illegal.
Two other documents are “reports” which would be non-binding if the European Union accepted them, but which nevertheless could be cited by activists and lawyers seeking to force their desired changes on an unwilling society. They are the Estrela Report (pertaining to abortion), and the Lunacek Report (pertaining to homosexuality). The former, offered by Portuguese European Parliament member Edite Estrela, called for abortion on demand, eliminated conscience protections for medical providers, and compulsory sex education for children in the 0-4 age range. It was narrowly defeated in the European Parliament on Oct. 22, and again, without some of its compulsory sex education provisions, on Dec. 10. The second vote followed a massive public campaign against it, with proponents characteristically endeavoring to get the report approved as quietly as possible with no debate on its contents. While turned down for now, the same well-funded pro-abortion and LGBT interest groups will surely continue to press for essentially the same provisions in the future. Incredibly, as reported by the Turtle Bay and Beyond NGO, the Lunacek report, advanced by a Green member of the European Parliament, Ulricke Lunacek, proposes that LGBT interests have a special privilege called “mainstreaming,” in which new laws and policies cannot be adopted without a formal process to ensure they do not conflict with LGBT interests (a “right” held by no other group), the more common demand for “hate crimes” and “hate speech” provisions, and a related staggering immunity from criticism of LGBT leaders in any context. EDW offered its own similar analysis of the Lunacek Report, noting the report also included a call to the European Union to enact the Equal Treatment Directive.
As yet, these instruments are not in force. EDW reports that the Equality Treatment Directive has been blocked by Germany (as it needs the universal consent of European states), the Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance, and the Lunacek report have not yet been adopted, and the Estrela Report has been defeated for now. But if any (particularly the binding Equal Treatment Directive) ever is adopted, the European and international left will have come a long way toward overcoming the adverse verdict of 1989 (the collapse of communism), and toward removing its objective (acceptance of the sexual revolution) from public discussion. In the kind of “mission creep” not uncommon in the “human rights” bureaucracies established in the West in the last generation, whatever the left deems “progressive” will likewise be removed from public discussion and made state doctrine, enforceable in all of life. Increasingly, the West will resemble the pre-1989 communist East, with which the western left was allied in the Cold War, with all of society, public and private, subject to its ideology, and no legal opposition possible.