By: Brian Hutt, Christian Today
A report has voiced concern over the ability of Christians in Europe to publicly express their faith.
The report is released every five years by the Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe.
It warned that discriminatory laws were preventing the equal exercise of freedom in the areas of speech, conscience and religion, while the introduction of equality legislation was leading to “side-effect discrimination” against Christians.
“Hate speech legislation has a tendency to indirectly discriminate against Christians, criminalising core elements of Christian teaching,” the report said.
Many of the incidents of discrimination highlighted by the report related to the experiences of Christians in the UK.
Examples of discrimination against Christians also included those in the area of employment and education.
The Observatory said in its report that it was not looking to legislate against social intolerance but rather to respond to the growing phenomenon with “soft measures” such as raising awareness and “giving incentives”.
“We recommend that legislators carefully consider legislation with a view to freedom of religion, speech and conscience especially with regard to its effect on Christians.”
“The Christian symbol of the cross is more than a religious symbol, it illustrates historical roots and its removal is more than a merely neutral act,” the report said.
The Observatory warned that political correctness was fostering a “dictatorship of opinion” and making the expression of Christian views “impossible” in the public square.
It said that a “more friendly and positive atmosphere in favour of religion in general and Christianity ought to be fostered” and that the political community in Europe had a “duty” to tackle intolerance and discrimination towards Christians.
It called upon European governments to uphold freedom of religion and modify legislation that discriminates against Christians.