Presented To The Panel On Family, Faith And Freedom
At The World Congress Of Families V
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
August 12, 2009
by C. Gwendolyn Landolt
National Vice President
REAL Women ofCanada
The 21st century has swept in with many technological marvels – email, blogs, Twitter, the Blackberry, YouTube, Facebook, etc. These developments are startling, even, at times, overwhelming, as we struggle to keep up with them.
However, there are two aspects of society that never change – family and faith. These remain stable throughout time, cultures and social and economic challenges. Without them, society would be impoverished, unable to function. Why? For several reasons.
The family is central to all civilizations. It is the foundation of a nation. It serves as a powerful resistance to totalitarian governments. In fact, every totalitarian movement in the 20th century has tried to destroy the family unit. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in the previous century, set this as one of their goals. This ideology was followed by Stalin and Adolph Hitler. They believed the family was a dangerous threat to the power of the State, which was to be substituted for the rights, responsibilities and authority of the family. This is because the family alone teaches the hard truths of moral values. It is the family which provides the formation of character, which gives the young the ability to grow up to become independent, stable, functioning, and compassionate individuals.
A family, therefore, is much more than a mere legal, social or economic unit. It is a community of love, solidarity and comfort, uniquely suited to teach and transmit the cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values essential for the development and well being of its own members and society as a whole. It is also a binding, permanent commitment to past, present and future generations and, as such, it is the cement that holds society together. Society has yet to develop a better way of caring for the young, the elderly and protecting the weak. Without strong families, a nation becomes weak and vulnerable.
Faith enhances communities by allowing individuals to relate to one another in smaller communities, not in the abstract, or at a distance. It creates humane relationships based on reverence for the personal dignity of each one of us as children of God.
Faith groups also make a massive contribution to the common good of society through deeds of charity and social action – a helping hand to those in need – whether food and shelter for the homeless, assistance for those with HIV-AIDS, adoption agencies, homes for the elderly, etc. In addition to this, faith groups have established the critical institutions of schools, universities and hospitals.
Faith groups also bring to the table age old wisdom, and a passionate concern for the vulnerable.
They contribute to the public debate, too, with insights based not only on faith, but also on reason and natural justice.
With this in mind, believers who, after all, constitute most of the citizenry, have every right and duty to become actively engaged in the public discussion of various, often contentious, social issues. Their views deserve to be met with courtesy and respect. Whatever the irritation caused to those who profess a secularist faith – and secularism is in itself a kind of faith – it is of great value to any healthy society that a strong religious voice speak out on all issues of public concern.
Because family and faith are such powerful forces in society, there are tremendous efforts to silence them – or at least to cripple them, by pushing them to the margins of society. This can be seen at the international, national and local levels.
The UN is in the forefront of the effort to undermine families and faith, despite numerous treaties that conspicuously declare religious freedom and the rights of families as universally recognized human rights. The UN is doggedly attempting to undermine these treaty rights by developing resolutions and documents which, they hope, will re-educate the world to another viewpoint. Such resolutions and documents promote sexual rights outside the family, abortion — referred to under the UN code words of “sexual and reproductive health” — and the undermining of the natural family of mother, father and children.
Unfortunately, many countries do not have expertise in the UN’s official languages and must rely on interpretation by others. Some countries also rely on foreign aid and are afraid to protest against the wishes of countries which provide such aid. There are also cases where a country’s delegate, under UN influence, has acted in defiance of that country’s actual policy position on an issue under discussion at the UN. I know this is a fact with my own Canadian delegation at the UN.
There are also UN monitoring committees, reviewing each country’s compliance with UN treaties, which berate a country for its failure to provide feminist/homosexual/abortion legislation, even though the treaties do not include such provisions. Since 1995, there have been over 100 instances where UN monitoring committees populated by pro-abortion NGOs, have pressured over 65 nations to legalize or increase access to abortion.
The UN has developed other techniques to undermine family and faith internationally. Examples include:
- UNICEF launched a global initiative in October 2007, under the guise of protecting maternal health called “The Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health,” which included a call for abortion. The UN agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Family Planning Agency (UNFPA), also participated in the program.
- In December 2007, UNESCO published documents on HIV/AIDS which promoted a supposed new right of sexual orientation, even though this provision had been previously explicitly rejected by UN members.
The UN Family Planning Agency (UNFPA) released a proposal in August 2007 to spread “reproductive health,” i.e., abortion, world wide for all sectors of society.
- In 2008, the World Health Organization supported an abortion conference called, “Women Deliver.” The conference was organized by pro-abortion NGOs to promote and legitimize abortion internationally.
- In its annual report in July 2009, the WHO listed maternal mortality as one of the top ten global causes of death for women. This is not the case. This agency apparently included this false information for the purpose of promoting abortion, alleging it was necessary to reduce maternal mortality.
Recent legislation and regulations in several countries indicate a heavy-handed intolerance of dissent from the secularist views of the state. The purpose of such legislation and regulations is to silence and deny the fundamental human right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of expression which are needed in order to promote pro-family policies.
There is no clearer example of this than what occurred in Sweden in 2003, when charges were laid against a Pentecostal Pastor, Ake Green, because of a sermon on homosexuality which he delivered in his church in 2003. He was charged under the Swedish Criminal Code, which prohibits communications that threaten or express disrespect to a group of people, including homosexual citizens. This legislation trumped the dual doctrines in Sweden of freedom of religion and of speech. Pastor Green’s sermon included the Biblical precepts that homosexual practices are not normal, and are a sin against God. His sermon, however, also included a message of grace, love and forgiveness, which are also a part of the gospel. The lower court in Sweden (Tingsträtt) sentenced Pastor Green to one month in jail. The Appellate Court of Sweden acquitted Pastor Green on the grounds that his sermon could not be considered incitement, but rather was a sermon faithful to the Bible. The prosecutor then appealed this verdict to the Swedish Supreme Court. On November 29, 2005, Pastor Green was acquitted of the charges because, according to the Court, it was concerned that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, would probably, if it adjudicated the case, find Pastor Green innocent of the charges. It seems the Swedish Supreme Court felt (without admitting it) that a rebuke in the European Court would be embarrassing both to it and to Sweden. Hence, its decision to dismiss the charges.
It is noted that all during Pastor Green’s trial, approximately 50 journalists, including some from abroad, were in attendance, carefully observing the proceedings. In addition, several amicus curiae briefs were submitted to the Swedish courts in support of Pastor Green. These briefs came from both Europe and the US
The United Kingdom
Britain drafted the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) of the 2006 Equality Act that requires religious schools, private businesses, and all social agencies to conform to homosexual ideology. The governing Labour government admitted that the regulations were intended to change the culture of society. Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that religious conscience could not be allowed to stand in the way of full implementation of the law refusing the banning of homosexual/lesbian job applicants. Thus, when the legislation is implemented next year, religious schools will be required to adjust their curriculum to the regulations. This will result, for example, in Catholic schools not being allowed to teach the Catholic faith and in all churches being required to hire homosexual applicants, including youth workers, regardless of the effect on the integrity of the faith based organization.
In September 2005, the European Commission ordered the Spanish government to start charging the Catholic Church sales tax on goods it buys, such as candles, pews and land for building churches.
The Council of Europe, which is distinct from the European Union – it is larger, with 47 member
states, and older than the EU – recently recommended that sexual orientation and gender identity be recognized by inter alia religious leaders, to ensure that the exercise of freedom of expression and religion do not violate “the rights of freedom of persons of diverse social orientation and gender identities.”
The European Union, in 2009, threatened to open a formal investigation into the charitable tax status of schools and hospitals owned by the Catholic Church in Italy.
In April 2009, the European Parliament passed an Anti-Discrimination Directive, called the “Equal treatment of persons irrespective of religion or belief, disabilities or sexual orientation.” Although the directive must still be approved by the EU Council of Ministers – comprised of the members from each member nation – which functions as an upper legislative chamber, this directive, if passed, will interfere with the social policies of member states, even though this action is supposedly outside its jurisdiction.
New York State Democrats in the state legislature have put forward a proposal which includes requiring all hospitals to perform abortions; cutting major funding for Catholic schools, and abolishing the statute of limitations on sex abuse law suits against the Catholic Church. The latter provision would apply only to private institutions, such as the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts, but would exempt public schools. This is odd, because 485 “moral misconduct” charges (most involving sex) were brought against New York State teachers between 2001 and 2005, but during this same period of time, fewer than 10 charges of sex abuse were brought against Catholic priests in New York. This proposal, therefore, if passed into law, contains more than a hint of bigotry and bias and suggests a very keen desire to remove all traces of religion from contemporary society.
A San Francisco based resolution, passed in March 2006 by city council, condemned the Catholic Church because of its moral teachings on homosexuality. The resolution was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, which concluded that the resolution did not violate the state’s constitution which, in fact, directly prohibits government hostility toward religion. This case is now on appeal.
In Brantford, Ontario, Canada, the Municipal Council is considering removal of the tax-exempt status from the non-worship space of mosques, temples and other areas owned by places of worship, such as halls, nurseries, offices, kitchens, parking lots, etc. This resolution was first proposed last year, but caused such a furor, that it was put aside for further deliberation. However, it has been proposed again.
In July, 2009, a homosexual altar server in a Catholic Ontario Canadian Diocese was requested by his bishop to cease to serve since he was living with a same-sex partner, contrary to Catholic teachings, which constitutes a public scandal.
The homosexual altar server laid a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against the Bishop. The Commission agreed to investigate the complaint. This means that a human rights tribunal will be addressing whether Church doctrine is subject to review by a secular body. That is, it raises the question whether the internal governance of a Church is subject to secular review. The case has potential for unprecedented repercussions related to religious freedom inCanadaand abroad.
Inter-Religious Cooperation Is Critical
The examples described above have far-reaching ramifications for families and freedom of religion and speech, far beyond each country’s borders where they have occurred. What takes place in one country rapidly occurs in another. No nation can feel secure or isolated. The collateral damage in other countries can be enormous. This is why inter-religious cooperation is critical today. Standing alone, a faith group or family under pressure from the secular media, government and an organized special interest NGO is at a great disadvantage. However, as occurred in Sweden’s Pastor Green case, the interventions by faith based and family organizations outside the country do have a remarkable impact on the outcome.
There are a number of recent examples of successful inter-religious cooperation. These include:
The international feminist organization, Women’s Link Worldwide, supported by theNew York based pro-abortion feminist organization, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CFF) and other feminist NGOs, brought a challenge to the Constitutional Court of Colombia in 2006 as part of its “stealth strategy” to redefine longstanding human rights to include abortion. The feminists argued before theConstitutional Court that the non-binding decisions of the UN treaty monitoring committees promoting abortion created an international law that abortion was a human right. Pro-life amicus curiae briefs fromCanada,Australia, theUnited Kingdom,Spain and members of the European Parliament,USA and Latin American countries were submitted to the court to argue against this premise.
Unfortunately, however, theColombia Courtsuccumbed to the feminist pressure and in May 2006, concluded that it was bound by the international authorities – which it was not. However, the case caused much controversy, both inColombiaand abroad, and served as a warning of this new feminist strategy.
In California, when the Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in May 2008, legalized same-sex marriage, a broad-based coalition of Jews, Muslims, Evangelicals, Catholics, Sikhs, Hindus, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints joined together to promote and win the referendum, called Proposition 8, which overturned that Supreme Court ruling.
Nowhere is inter-religious cooperation more prominent and important than at the UN. Although few in number, pro-life/family NGOs, with consultative status at the UN and representing many different faiths, have managed to hold back the very many attempts by UN personnel and delegations to impose an anti-family/faith perspective and plan of action on the world. This is an on-going struggle – often of David and Goliath proportions. However, with determination and hard work, our pro-family position has tenaciously held back the anti-family/faith tide – mostly emanating from the EU, US, Canada and Japan. In this struggle, Christians and Jews have been ably assisted by the Muslim states (Group of 77), which have resolutely resisted anti-family/faith policies and language in UN documents, which are intended to overrule the cultural and religious rights of sovereign nations.
On December 10, 2008, at The Hague, here in the Netherlands, representatives from world faiths signed a document called Faith in Human Rights, which represents the first time such a diverse and high level group of religious representatives have explicitly endorsed human rights and religious freedom set out in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Gathered at the signing were representatives from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, indigenous religions, Islam, Taoism and the Baha’i Faith. Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was present at this momentous occasion.
In May 2009, the Romanian Civil Code was amended to provide specific protection for marriage and the family. The changes include defining marriage as a union between a man and woman, specifically prohibiting marital recognition of same-sex partners and the criminalization of
euthanasia, assisted suicide, prostitution and incest.
These amendments were due to the efforts of the Alliance of Romania’s Families (ARF) which was assisted by the international pro-family movement, organized by the World Congress of Families, which arranged a petition of support for ARF signed by more than 100 pro-family leaders in over 20 countries. This shows the importance of pro-family movement in affecting family policy world wide.
We must support and strengthen this inter-religious cooperation, at the UN and elsewhere. The destiny of nations is at stake. Working together we will succeed to create a positive world where the dignity of every culture, faith and human life is respected and protected.