This Saturday I found myself carrying one half of the British Humanist Association banner at the London Demonstration for a Secular Europe. Just to clarify, the aim of the demonstration was not to create a Europe with no religion, but one where religion and politics are separate so that all religions and worldviews are treated equally and no one religion has a privileged position.
Presently, many religious groups enjoy privileged access to political processes in the UK and the EU although they represent the views of a limited group of people and are not democratically elected. This is especially inappropriate considering the multi-cultural and varied beliefs found throughout the UK and Europe. Others argue further that religious groups hold views and endorse policies which are discriminatory, especially towards women and homosexuals, and do not respect human rights. Whichever perspective you come from, religious or otherwise, I think all would agree that the fairest solution is a system where all viewpoints are afforded equal opportunity to make their views known and considered.
The London demonstration was taking place in solidarity with a 30,000 strong demonstration in Rome protesting against interference by the Vatican in Italian politics. The event was made even more relevant by a recent constitutional crisis in Italy concerning the case of Eluana Englaro. Englaro has been in a vegetative state for the past sixteen years and is not expected to recover. At the request of Englaro’s parents, the courts had ruled that her father would be allowed to remove her feeding tubes and allow Englaro’s body to die and come to rest. After a consultation with the Vatican, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi issued an emergency decree which overturned the decisions of the court and her family and stated that no dependent patient be denied food or water. Furthermore, the prime minister added that Englaro was physically “in the condition to have babies”. An entirely inappropriate comment considering that Eluana Englaro could never consent to this and would never be aware of a family let alone be capable of raising them. President, Giorgio Napolitano, refused to sign the decree and prime minister Berlesconi called for the government to turn the decree into a bill. Eluana Englaro passed away on Monday 9th February in a small clinic in Udine while the government were still discussing her case. More information can be found here, here and here.
Photos from the event and the opportunity to sign up for more information and news about next year’s event can be found here.