Equality and non-discrimination, at home and in Europe

The EU Rapporteur for the proposed European anti-discrimination Directive addressed a meeting yesterday of the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics (EPPSP). The meeting heard that the development of the Directive, which would increase protection from discrimination for people across a number of grounds, and outside employment and vocational training, had largely stalled for the moment, with significant opposition from some member states.

The EPPSP, which brings together MEPs and NGOs from across Europe, defends and promotes fundamental rights, freedom of conscience, belief and speech, and is led by Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld. BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips attends meetings of the EPPSP in the European Parliament in Brussels and sits on its advisory board.

In 2009, the BHA responded to the Government Equalities Office’s ‘UK Consultation on the European Commission Proposal for an Equal Treatment Directive.

Ms Phillips commented, ‘As an organisation deeply committed to equalities and non-discrimination, the BHA has supported the introduction of an EU Equal Treatment Directive, much on the same lines that we worked towards a single Equality Act which came into force last year. Despite the fact that the European Union is mandated to respect and treat equally both religious and philosophical, non-religious organisations, the churches and other organised religions have wide and privileged access to, and influence over, the institutions of the EU. Unfortunately, as with our domestic legislation, it seems that the proposed Directive would contain significant exemptions from the law specifically for religious groups, which we believe are largely unjustified, and unnecessary.

‘It is our firm position that people should be equal before the law and, importantly, that there should not be wide exceptions granted from the law for religious groups to allow them to discriminate.’

Notes

The EPPSP interactive website can be found at http://politicsreligion.eu/

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK and is affiliated to both the European Humanist Federation (EHF) and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).