By Martin Banks - 2nd October 2012
This is a blatant attempt to manipulate the ideas and views of people, including school children
A hearing in parliament was told that Christians in Europe face "persecution" because of their beliefs.
The seminar on Tuesday heard that Europe's Christian community was also being "marginalised" and "sidelined" on account of their views on issues such as same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
Several speakers, including MEPs, said Christians in countries like the UK faced "increasing levels of intolerance" because they had "dared" to be critical of Islam and homosexuality.
EPP member Anna Zaborska went even further, saying Christians were being "persecuted for their beliefs".
She cited an example of "intolerance" the "difficulties" some workers have in wearing the Christian cross while at work.
Zaborska said she was referring to two British Christians– British Airways check-in clerk Nadia Eweida and NHS hospital nurse Shirley Chaplin – who were refused the legal right to wear a cross at work and are now asking the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to overturn the British judgments.
Lawyers briefed by the UK coalition are expected to tell the court that Christians in Britain should not expect to be allowed to wear a cross at work or with a uniform.
Zaborska, a Hungarian MEP, said the EU had a role to play in "defending freedom of speech", adding, "This is all about respect of human rights.
"This is a universal right and, in cases where it is being abuse, the EU has a right to speak out in the defence of it."
The deputy was one of the keynote speakers at a high-profile seminar organised by the ECR group in parliament on "discrimination" against Christians in Europe.
Another speaker, John Deighan, parliamentary officer of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, which represents the eight RC bishops in Scotland, was particularly critical of the "intolerance" facing Christians.
He said that in Scotland, children as young as 12 had been branded as "Nazis" and "bigots" for disagreeing with issues such as same-sex marriage.
He said that groups such as Stonewall and the Equality Network had subjected the public to "intense levels of hostility".
Deighan said, "This is a blatant attempt to manipulate the ideas and views of people, including school children, so that they become more intolerant of the Catholic message."
He also said it was "very difficult" to persuade politicians and political parties in Scotland to speak out on such concerns.
"They are afraid that in doing so they will jeopardise their careers," he told the seminar.
Further comment came from Martin Kugler, of the Austria-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe.
He pointed to a recent opinion poll which showed that 74 per cent of those surveyed felt that Christians faced "negative discrimination" compared with people of other religious faiths.
A further 60 per cent of those polled said that such discrimination was on the increase.
Kugler said, "Even friendly criticism of homosexuality has led to criminal investigation."
He added, "We are not asking for special treatment, privileges or exceptions but merely the right to exercise freedom of speech."
Irish MEP Sean Kelly agreed, saying, "We as Christians just want others to respect our views and not to be dismissed as irrelevant."
Another panel speaker, Daniel Lipsic, a former justice minister in Slovakia, said, "This is not just about arguing the case for Christians, but for freedom of speech."