Category Archives: Europe

Dutch Christian schools can refuse gay teachers

Christian schools are within their rights to refuse to employ gay teachers if homosexuality breaks school principles, the Nederlands Dagblad reports on Tuesday, quoting the government’s Council of State advisory body.

The paper says that confidential recommendations from council state that while anti-discrimination measures remain paramount, religious and other belief-based institutions ‘can impose specific demands under strict conditions’.

These conditions have to be ‘desirable, legitimate and just’ and show ‘good faith and loyalty’ to the religious principles, the council says.

The Netherlands has dozens of fundamentalist Christian schools which oppose homosexuality on Biblical principles. While funded by the government, they are run independently. Such schools may not discriminate but are free under European rules to determine their own ‘professional demands’ for teachers, the paper says.

Last month a strict Protestant primary school in Gelderland suspended a teacher because he was gay and lived with another man. That case is being taken to the equal opportunities commission.


BNP poll win brings cash and staff – and legal challenges over racism

The BNP will inevitably face a series of legal challenges on issues ranging from discrimination and employment law to possible criminal offences, lawyers say, following two candidates’ election to the European parliament.

The party’s constitution, which says membership is “strictly defined within the terms of … ‘indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ethnic groups emanating from that Race” is a breach of the law against discriminating in membership organisations, according to legal experts.

“An unincorporated association like the BNP which has genuine screening for membership cannot unlawfully discriminate,” said Gavin Millar QC, who specialises in election and discrimination law. “There will inevitably now be legal challenges to this.

“It was presumed before that the BNP were so unimportant that it wasn’t worth trying, but now this is a live issue, and the BNP’s constitution must be challenged.”

Possible challenges to the constitution could make use of a Lords ruling which found that political parties could be regarded as “members’ clubs” and therefore fell within discrimination law.

Lawyers also said that as the BNP gets access to the European parliament, with a budget for employing staff and contracting services, it would also be open to employment law, which prohibits direct and indirect discrimination.

“A black or Jewish candidate who applied and didn’t get the job on grounds of their racial or religious background would have a claim in the employment tribunal,” Millar said.

“If an individual challenges and they maintain a practice not employing any visible minority people, there is no doubt that like any employer who has such practices, they can be sued,” said employment barrister and chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, Peter Herbert. “When they are in receipt of public funds they will have to be an equal opportunities employer. To do otherwise would be incompatible with public office.

“I can see the equality commission mounting an inquiry into how the BNP operate now. The office of public standards could also inquire.”

The questions came as BNP leader Nick Griffin was pelted with eggs at an event in Manchester. Griffin picked up a seat in the north-west of England and Andrew Brons won a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber, a breakthrough in national elections for the far-right party.

Labour MEP for London Claude Moraes, speaking at a Unite Against Fascism press conference in Westminster, said: “There is real damage here to Britain because we have never elected fascists in a national election. Fascists in the European parliament have long wanted members from Britain to join this transnational group.

“There was a long period in which we could have said neofascists would not be elected in Britain to represent us in an international parliament.”

In addition to the BNP’s membership and employment practices, lawyers said that policies once supported by the BNP but now abandoned by its official representatives – including non-voluntary repatriation and forced sterilisation of non-white women – may attract criminal liability for some BNP activists.

Said Millar: “One of the stresses for Nick Griffin is constantly having to say to the membership that this is no longer a policy they can espouse in public. It is a constant source of tension within the party.”

Criminal lawyers said there was no doubt that members who espoused those policies could be liable for charges of inciting racial or religious hatred. “Any policy which incites racial hatred will be liable,” Herbert said. “Twelve years after Stephen Lawrence this is a sad place to be.”

A number of BNP members already have criminal convictions for race-related offences, including Griffin, who was given a two-year suspended sentence for incitement to racial hatred after publishing material denying the Holocaust in 1998.

Although in 2006 Griffin and party activist Mark Collett were cleared of race hate charges relating to speeches he made describing Islam as a “wicked, vicious faith”, Griffin last month told BNP members in an online broadcast that he had no problem with breaking race laws.

“As you know, we don’t break the law. We never have, we never will, you know, on financial things. Don’t mind breaking the odd race law, or being accused of it, you know, inadvertently,” he said.

But lawyers said criminal convictions were difficult to obtain in practice, with an average of only three successful prosecutions per year for inciting racial hatred.

“[BNP activity] will only be criminal if … the material is threatening, abusive or insulting, and also it must be intended to stir up racial hatred,” said Kirsty Brimelow, a barrister who specialises in racial and religious hate crimes. “If BNP leaflets contain extreme racism, there will be a case that they are trying to undermine public order and the rights of the targeted minority – [so] they would not be able to rely on their right to free speech.”

Nick Griffin’s suspended prison sentence for inciting racial hatred

Nick Griffin’s suspended prison sentence for inciting racial hatred would prevent him from standing as a councillor, but not as a Westminster or MEP, under electoral laws.

The Electoral Commission admitted that the only bar to standing in a UK parliamentary seat would be if someone were currently serving a sentence of 12 months or longer. Similarly, people are allowed to stand in European seats under UK electoral law whatever crimes they have committed, provided they have not served a 12-month prison sentence. The bar is, however, set substantially higher at local elections. Anyone who has had a prison sentence of three months or more, for however trivial a crime, in the previous five years is banned from standing as a councillor.

Mr Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was found guilty , in April 1998 of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred and handed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

In 1984, Andrew Brons, the winner of the party’s other European seat, was found guilty of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace after his arrest in Leeds while selling papers. He was fined £50 after being heard shouting “death to Jews” and “white power”. Members of other parties, including UKIP, have also gone on to represent voters after being convicted.

Ashley Mote, 73, who represented South East England as an independent, was found guilty of falsely claiming benefits of more than £65,000 and given a nine-month jail term in 2007. The former UKIP representantive has since been given permission to appeal against his conviction. He was elected for UKIP in 2004 but was thrown out by the party when it learnt of his prosecution. He stayed on as an independent MEP but did not seek re-election this year.

Is fascism on the march again?

Does the election of two BNP MEPs and the success of the far right elsewhere in Europe mean we are facing the threat of fascism? Or is this just a protest vote that will quickly fade?

Michael Burleigh

Author of The Third Reich, A New History

We should be wary about the rise of the far right but not panicky. Even though I write commentary pieces for the Daily Mail, I am not given to hysteria. I don’t like all these stupid historical analogies – this is not a re-run of the 1930s. In some ways, history can box you in and limit your options. We live in a very different world, and these parties organise themselves in a very different way. Hitler didn’t Twitter.

Conditions in Europe are very different now from those that prevailed in the 1930s. We haven’t had a catastrophic European war, with resentments about how that ended. We should also be cautious about saying that an economic recession inevitably leads to the rise of the far right. The fascists came to power in Italy long before the Depression. There is no automatic link. In Germany, most of the unemployed voted for the communists.

It is too early to say whether the rightwing parties that did well in the European election will have any historical significance, or whether they will offer a Europe-wide threat to mainstream politics. Although I suspect they may be better co-ordinated than leftwing parties, they are all subtly different. We should also be aware that rightwing parties can evolve. It is odd that the evolution of communist parties into Eurocommunist parties was recognised, but these rightwing parties are seen as mysteriously static and rooted in the 1930s. You just have to look at the BNP to see how it is trying to adapt its approach to changed circumstances, ramping up its hostility to the EU while playing down other aspects of its policy.

The left has a vested interest in playing up the threat of fascism. It uses it to reoxygenate itself: Margaret Hodge has been doing this for years, and Labour was doing it again before this election. A better approach is to take the BNP seriously. Don’t turn them into martyrs by banning them from the airwaves. Ask them about their other policies: how they would get us out of recession; what their foreign policy is. Launch an assault on the BNP brand, and don’t let them appropriate symbols of Britishness – such as the Spitfire they were using on their posters in this election.

We shouldn’t panic about these results. The real story is that the centre-right has done very well across Europe. Where far-right parties have been elected in the past they have tended to be woefully incompetent and lackadaisical, and on the whole they haven’t been re-elected. Supporters of the BNP tend to be disaffected Labour voters who are voting as an act of defiance against the political elite – and the elite has given them plenty to be defiant about. I’d only start to worry if this became a trend. The real danger, though, may come in the Baltic states and eastern Europe. Countries there have been hit by severe economic turbulence, they have little experience of democracy and politics is volatile. Parties can come from nowhere and win power.

Richard Overy

Professor of history at Exeter University and author of The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars

The BNP have been around for a long time and have never managed to make a serious breakthrough, so we have to get this into perspective. This should be seen as a protest vote at a difficult moment; it does not mean that the UK electorate is swinging in favour of fascism.

The Ukip vote is more interesting. That is a vote the BNP might have been expected to pick up, and if it had won 20% or more, that would have been worrying. With the loss of public confidence in parliament, growing nationalism and alarm at terrorism, this is a moment when you might have expected votes to flow to the BNP. A loss of confidence in parliamentary institutions is characteristic of all periods when fascists have come to power – in Italy and Germany, for example – but on this occasion the BNP has not done especially well. People have preferred to vote for Ukip. It is essentially a protest vote at a moment of crisis in the political system. Parliamentary politics will eventually be restored, but almost certainly not under Gordon Brown.

I am more worried about the drift to the right in the rest of Europe, where the mood is fearful, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and deeply hostile to the left. Europe clearly feels embattled because of factors such as terrorism and the rise of China, and has been moving to the right for some time. But we shouldn’t interpret this rightwing drift as a return to fascism.

Fascism with a capital F was a phenomenon of the 20s and 30s. It was a revolutionary movement asserting a violent imperialism and promising a new social order. There is nothing like that now. Far-right parties now are based on fear – fear of immigration, fear of aliens, fear of being Europeanised. They have no vision of a new social order, nor can they legally campaign for the replacement of a democratic government by an authoritarian regime. This is a protest vote by fearful people.

Kathleen Burk

Professor of modern and contemporary history at University College London

If we think about Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, we shouldn’t be too apprehensive about where the BNP might go in the future. Even at their height, the entire membership of the British Union of Fascists could barely raise a single marching column. It is unfortunate that the BNP have won seats and some will see it as alarming, but I can’t see it spreading all over the country. The BNP did badly in east London, for instance, where they would surely have hoped to do well, especially at a time of economic recession.

I cannot imagine what cataclysm would have to happen for a far-right party not only to be able to grow but to win power in the UK. This is an extremely old country with old mores, and the great rump of the people are not going to be attracted by a far-right party. What we have seen is the sort of protest vote that often happens midterm, and it won’t occur at the general election, when real power is at stake.

The only countries in Europe that I would be apprehensive about are Austria, which did, after all, welcome the Nazis back in 1938; Romania, which has a nasty rightwing party; and Hungary, where the Roma are a big issue. Poland is encouraging in the way it has taken to membership of the European Union, and the election there has been won by a mainstream centre-right party. In general, this is not at all like the 30s: some voters are supporting alternative fringe parties, but I would be astonished if they were able to consolidate their power.

Eric Hobsbawm

Author of The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century (1914-1991), among others

It is not the threat from the extreme right that is the most striking characteristic of these elections, though clearly there is a shift to the right, and centre-right governments are likely to make more concessions to the far right. The real story is the crisis of the left .

We have been here before, in the 1930s when the net effect of the Depression was to strengthen the right and nullify the left – Labour was reduced to 50 MPs in 1931. The left rose again, but I am not optimistic about it being able to do so this time. Social democratic parties across Europe are in decline. That decline is not as dramatic as the communists a generation ago, but it is still marked. The European left relied on a working class that no longer exists in its old form, and in order to recover it will need to find a new constituency. That may be hard.

The left is in trouble everywhere: Labour in the UK, the French socialists, the Italian democrats. The Spanish socialists, one of the few leftwing parties to gain in recent years, have also slipped. The SPD in Germany are not doing as badly as expected, but they are down to around 20%, and these losses are not compensated by the votes for the New Left party. We have seen the demoralisation of the French left and a degree of disintegration of the left in Germany. Social democrats will need a new vision as well as a new constituency.

Joanna Bourke

Professor of history at Birkbeck College, London

We shouldn’t panic, though nor should we be complacent. The levels of racial hatred and antisemitism and all those things that the far right feed on are remarkably small in comparison with the past and in comparison with the rest of Europe and the United States. The far right has much more purchase in the US than it does in the UK, especially the religious right.

Here I tend to be much more optimistic about British institutions and about the ways they have managed these sorts of hatreds. What was interesting about Mosley in the 1930s is that our institutions did not give legitimacy to the claims of the far right. They didn’t make them into scapegoats or martyrs; they responded with the force of law in a fairly reasonable fashion. If you oppress them or deal with them heavyhandedly, it only serves to unite them and justify them using force in return.

In Italy, the fascists, faced by an oppressive state, were seen as martyrs, and that won them popular support. In the UK, they were seen as thugs and marginalised. Mosley’s New Party, which sought to work through the democratic system, attracted a large membership, but once he openly became a fascist and his party became virulently antisemitic and anti-immigrant, that support melted away. Don’t censor or oppress the BNP. Marginalise and ridicule them. Ridicule is an underestimated weapon.

David Kynaston

Research fellow at Kingston University and author of Austerity Britain

As Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, said of Stalinism in her book Hope Against Hope, “Don’t think it can’t happen to you.” There are definite parallels between Germany in the prewar years and now, most obviously the economic crisis that sparked mass unemployment. The Wall Street Crash took place in 1929 but it wasn’t until January 1933 that Hitler became chancellor of Germany; I would suggest that we are a long way from seeing the worst of our own economic crisis and if we date the start as being September 2008 then we still have a while to go in which the far right could gain a stronghold.

More worryingly, the recession has been accompanied by a rise in populism and a loss of faith in democratic politics; the sort of people who, a generation ago, did not used to be cynical about politics now are. Worse still, people are not just indifferent to politics, they are ignorant about it: the level of hostility to intellectualism in this country is deeply depressing.

The BNP is a different animal to Ukip. Ukip can at least make a defensible democratic case for itself; we were promised a referendum on Europe and we haven’t been given one – almost certainly because it would be lost. There is something far more sinister about the BNP because it is an overtly racist party. This is a problem because liberal democracies are not good at dealing with extremism.

Somehow we need to find a way of exposing the BNP, while stopping it from manipulating the system to its advantage. It would help here if politicians from the main parties were more honest and treated the electorate like adults. It is clear from the budget forecasts that the country is basically bust, yet the Labour party carries on its “yah boo” politics of claiming it is not going to cut any public services while the Conservatives have fudged the whole issue on what they intend to do. Both stances are patronising and unsustainable. The public knows the country is bust and there are hard choices to make: it’s time the main parties allowed us to join in a grown-up debate about them.

Norman Davies

Supernumerary fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, and fellow of the British Academy

Any comparisons with 1920s Germany are completely overstated. Fascism grew out of the crushing military defeat in which millions of Germans were killed and the moral humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles which held that Germany alone was responsible for the first world war. This was tantamount to saying that German families, who had done exactly the same as the British and Americans in sending their conscripted sons to fight, had killed their own children and was the catalyst for anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and the emergence of a far-right nationalist movement. Economic depression on its own would not have allowed fascism to flourish.

That does not mean we should be relaxed about the rise of the BNP. While Ukip thrives on the notion that the EU is the new Third Reich, the BNP is much more Anglo-centric; it wants to reclaim an imagined Albion dominated by white nationals. It is a party that is actually misnamed, for its essence is the English National party and, with the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland giving the SNP an overwhelming majority, the break-up of the United Kingdom must be a possibility.

The BNP also has more natural allies among the far right in Europe – the Dutch Freedom party and the French National Front in particular – than Ukip. However, it is worth remembering that the one thing on which you can rely is that far-right parties will fall out with each other, so they are unlikely to form a mass European movement.

What we do need to be concerned about is David Cameron’s current flirtation with the Polish rightwing Law and Justice party, led by Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski. Up until now the British media has been giving the Kaczynski brothers far too easy a time. The brothers, totally lacking in ideology, are falling over themselves with joy at being courted by the Conservatives. They are manipulative politicians with no scruples. In the past they have boycotted state TV, restricting their appearances to Radju Marija – the station belonging to an extreme Catholic nationalist group – and have repeatedly tried to smear centrist politicians and have even claimed that Lech Walesa was a Soviet agent. It’s too simplistic to call them merely far-right – homophobia and anti-Semitism aren’t nearly as much of a problem in Poland as is often claimed – but they do hold the communist-era assumption that Germany is plotting to take over Poland again. Fundamentally, they are anti-liberal and determined to do down democracy. Cameron will definitely come off badly if he gets too close to them.

David Stevenson

Professor of international history at the LSE; author of The Penguin History of the First World war

The election of two BNP MEPs is a very depressing development. But in some ways the surprising thing is that their support hasn’t gone up more. The recession, the influx of immigration and the fact that all the mainstream parties are tarred with the same brush in the expenses scandal should work in their favour.

The parallel I would make is not with the rise of fascism in the 1930s but with the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France in the 1980s. He made his breakthrough in areas where the French communist party had been strong. As the communists collapsed, Le Pen’s Front National came in and took over. Now, in the UK, a portion of the vote that traditionally went to the Labour party has gone to the BNP. When Nick Griffin talks about the country being full and immigrants taking British jobs, he strikes a chord.

The BNP is different in style and structure from fascism in the 1930s. Clad in uniforms, fascists then organised themselves in paramilitary groups; they marched and engaged in street fighting. Far-right parties still have their bully boys, but there are fewer of them, though the danger is that they will multiply.

Even more worrying, though, is what will happen in other parts of Europe. The far right did badly in France and Germany, but areas of concern are Hungary and the Baltic states. Then there is the whole question of Italy. Berlusconi has strengthened his support and is a threat to civil liberties. He controls the media, and the left are weak and powerless against him. He is not far-right in the sense that Hitler was far-right, but he is a threat to democracy. Italy has become a western-European equivalent of the sort of guided democracy you get in Russia.

There are many worrying developments across Europe, and a number of different phenomena we need to be aware of. It is wrong to expect that an economic depression will help the left. It didn’t in the 1930s, nor in the 1870s and 80s, when the radical, populist right was born. It seems that in periods of economic uncertainty, people look to authoritarianism rather than democracy.

Scientology could be driven out of France

The Scientology movement went on trial in Paris yesterday for “organised fraud” in a case which could lead to the cult’s organising bodies being outlawed in France.

The French state prosecution service has failed to back the trial but denies that its decision was influenced by the lobbying of French politicians, including Nicolas Sarkozy before he became President, by leading Scientologists, including the actor Tom Cruise. After an 11-year inquiry, following complaints from four French former Scientologists, an independent, investigating magistrate decided that the prosecution should go ahead.

Two female plaintiffs allege that, between 1997 and 1999, the French movement persuaded them to pay the equivalent of €20,000 each on drugs, vitamins, counselling, saunas and equipment to improve their mental and physical health. This included an “electrometer” to measure the state of their “spiritual condition”.

The movement is accused of pretending to “identify and resolve alleged psychological difficulties” and “promoting the personal flowering” of its adepts with the “sole aim of seizing their resources” and “establishing psychological control over them”.

Although individual Scientologists, including the cult’s founder, L Ron Hubbard, have previously been convicted in France, this is the first time that the movement itself has been accused in a French court of systematic criminal activity. Seven leading members of the movement in France are also on trial.

Scientology, officially accepted as a religion in the United States, is on trial for “escroquerie en bande organisée” – or organised financial fraud. It is also accused of dispensing drugs illegally to its members. Two of the original plaintiffs have withdrawn their actions.

If convicted after a two or three-week trial, the main French organisations of the movement could be ordered to close down.

The cult’s French spokeswoman, Danièle Gounord, protested yesterday that Scientology was the victim of a “heresy trial” and “mendacious accusations”. Maitre Olivier Morice, lawyer for the two remaining plaintiffs, said the court would have an opportunity “once and for all” to examine the evidence that the leaders of the Church of Scientology are driven by financial gain.

This was the conclusion drawn by the report submitted by the investigating magistrate, Jean-Christophe Hullin, three years ago. He said that Scientology was “first and foremost a commercial organisation” motivated by “an absolute obsession with profit”.

The French state prosecution service rejected Judge Hullin’s conclusions and decided in 2006 that Scientology should not be sent for trial. Whatever outsiders might think, the prosecution service decided, Scientology was motivated by “religious conviction” and not “personal gain“. The actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise had led a lobbying campaign to block the legal action, which is the latest of five against the movement in France since the 1970s. At one point, he sought, and was granted a meeting with M Sarkozy, before he became President. The prosecution service, or parquet, denies any connection between this political lobbying and its decision to recommend an acquittal.

Judge Hullin decided to send the case for trial despite the parquet’s decision. Under French law, the investigating magistrate can, in effect, overrule the state prosecution service but the chances of a successful prosecution are inevitably dimmed.

The defendants, including the Church of Scientology itself, are formally accused of cheating the defendants “by systematic use of personality tests of no scientific value … with the sole aim of selling services and products”.

Scientology was founded in 1952 by a former science fiction writer, L Ron. Hubbard. Although the complete teachings of Scientology are available only to senior adepts, the core of its beliefs is that all humans are immortal beings who have strayed from their true nature. Human souls or “thetans” can be reincarnated. Many have already lived on other planets in the universe.

The movement “audits” the souls of members and would-be members and – in return for fees or donations – prescribes “purification” courses, including vitamins, drugs and lengthy saunas.

Scientology claims that it is a religion, like any other religion with beliefs that may seem implausible to outsiders. Its approach would, the cult argues, lead to a world without crime and war.

Girls raped by Catholic priest told to stop ‘dwelling on old wounds’

A father who wants to confront the Pope about the rape of his daughters by a Catholic priest has reacted angrily to claims by a senior Australian bishop that he was dwelling crankily on old wounds.

Anthony Foster, who is flying from Britain to Sydney, is demanding that Benedict XVI and Australia’s senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, beg for forgiveness over the repeated rape of his daughters by the priest at a Melbourne primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Mr Foster said that his daughters had been devastated by the attacks. The elder, Emma, committed suicide this year, aged 26. Her younger sister, Katie, who became a heavy drinker, was hit by a car, aged 15, and now needs 24-hour care.

The Pope, who begins his official duties today at World Youth Day celebrations attended by an estimated 225,000 people, has promised to issue an apology this week to young people sexually abused by priests.

But when asked yesterday about an Australian Broadcasting Commission report on the Fosters’ complaints, the Church’s World Youth Day spokesman, Bishop Anthony Fisher, sounded dismissive. He said that he had not seen the report because he had been at the celebrations. “Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying, delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people,” he said, “rather than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds.”

In an interview with an Australian website at Tokyo airport, Mr Foster rejected the comments and said that they showed “a complete lack of understanding of the victims, that there are so many people out there that really do have open wounds”. His wife, Christine, said that she was also deeply hurt: “There are no old wounds for victims. It is always current.”

The bishop’s comments forced Cardinal Pell — who was Archbishop of Melbourne at the time of the attacks — to try to repair the damage by making a public statement in which he said that he had been “very saddened” by Emma’s story.

She had endured “one of the worst things that can happen to a young woman”, he said. Cardinal Pell repeated his earlier apology to the family.

He did not say that he would meet Mr Foster, who insists that he will only accept the pontiff’s planned apology “if the Pope will embrace the notion of begging forgiveness from victims, and supporting them in every way possible and putting the resources of the Church behind that support”.

In his case Mr Foster said that it had taken eight years to win a financial settlement. He said that Cardinal Pell had introduced a system that imposed a A$50,000 (£24,000) cap on compensation. “It wasn’t just,” he said. Others had been offered as little as A$2,000. Emma and Katie’s attacker, Father Kevin O’Donnell, was convicted in 1996 of the abuse of 11 boys and a girl, aged 8 to 14, between 1946 and 1977.

The dangers of creationism in education

Council of Europe Resolution 1580 (2007)1

1. The aim of this resolution is not to question or to fight a belief – the right to freedom of belief does not permit that. The aim is to warn against certain tendencies to pass off a belief as science. It is necessary to separate belief from science. It is not a matter of antagonism. Science and belief must be able to coexist. It is not a matter of opposing belief and science, but it is necessary to prevent belief from opposing science.

2. For some people the Creation, as a matter of religious belief, gives a meaning to life. Nevertheless, the Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights, which are a key concern of the Council of Europe.

3. Creationism, born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection, was for a long time an almost exclusively American phenomenon. Today creationist ideas are tending to find their way into Europe and their spread is affecting quite a few Council of Europe member states.

4. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are of the Christian or Muslim faith, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their ideas are included in the school science syllabuses. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.

5. Creationists question the scientific character of certain areas of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others. They accuse scientists of not providing enough evidence to establish the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. On the contrary, creationists defend their own statements as scientific. None of this stands up to objective analysis.

6. We are witnessing a growth of modes of thought which challenge established knowledge about nature, evolution, our origins and our place in the universe.

7. There is a real risk of serious confusion being introduced into our children’s minds between what has to do with convictions, beliefs, ideals of all sorts and what has to do with science. An “all things are equal” attitude may seem appealing and tolerant, but is in fact dangerous.

8. Creationism has many contradictory aspects. The “intelligent design” idea, which is the latest, more refined version of creationism, does not deny a certain degree of evolution. However, intelligent design, presented in a more subtle way, seeks to portray its approach as scientific, and therein lies the danger.

9. The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a rather significant factor in economic, technological and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.

10. Creationism claims to be based on scientific rigour. In reality the methods employed by creationists are of three types: purely dogmatic assertions; distorted use of scientific quotations, sometimes illustrated with magnificent photographs; and backing from more or less well-known scientists, most of whom are not specialists in these matters. By these means creationists seek to appeal to non-specialists and spread doubt and confusion in their minds.

11. Evolution is not simply a matter of the evolution of humans and of populations. Denying it could have serious consequences for the development of our societies. Advances in medical research, aiming at combating infectious diseases such as Aids, are impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood.

12. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human and civic rights.

13. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism closely linked to extreme right-wing political movements. The creationist movements possess real political power. The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that some advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.

14. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of science in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.

15. The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies. For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculums, and especially in the science syllabuses, as long as, like any other theory, it is able to stand up to thorough scientific scrutiny. Evolution is present everywhere, from medical overprescription of antibiotics that encourages the emergence of resistant bacteria to agricultural overuse of pesticides that causes insect mutations on which pesticides no longer have any effect.

16. The Council of Europe has highlighted the importance of teaching about culture and religion. In the name of freedom of expression and individual belief, creationist ideas, as any other theological position, could possibly be presented as an addition to cultural and religious education, but they cannot claim scientific respectability.

17. Science provides irreplaceable training in intellectual rigour. It seeks not to explain “why things are” but to understand how they work.

18. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council of Europe’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.

19. The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities to:

19.1. defend and promote scientific knowledge;

19.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;

19.3. make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;

19.4. firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general the presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion;

19.5. promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculums.

20. The Assembly welcomes the fact that 27 academies of science of Council of Europe member states signed, in June 2006, a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.