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Real Religious Intolerance

Archbishop Charles Chaput vs. America's "New Blacklist."

7:30 AM, Jun 16, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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In several OSCE states, regimes discriminate against religious communities by creating structures of prejudicial treatment. High membership requirements prevent small congregations from obtaining legal status which, in contrast, is granted to other "traditional" religious communities. Lack of historical presence can block newer religious groups from qualifying for basic rights and privileges. Denial of legal standing has the very real consequence of either violating individual rights or stigmatizing entire groups. This is state-sponsored discrimination, and it violates OSCE commitments to promote religious freedom for all.

An equally dangerous trend now dominates other OSCE states, where public expressions of religious faith often seem to be ridiculed as fundamentalism. In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular intolerance is sometimes imposed. Out of fear of religious fundamentalism, a new kind of secular fundamentalism may be coerced on public institutions and political discourse.

At the same time, various media in the OSCE area now often allow symbols of Christian identity, Christian believers and their faith to be publicly abused. Programs like "How to cook a crucifix" and sacramental confessions recorded without the confessor's knowledge are deeply contemptuous of Catholic believers. This is unworthy of Europe's moral dignity and religious heritage. Furthermore, it stands in stark contrast to OSCE commitments to promote religious freedom.

Europe has given the whole world the seeds of democracy. Today's growing anti-religious and often anti-Christian spirit undermines that witness.

As with anti-Semitism, the OSCE must employ its practical commitments on
combating discrimination to also fight discrimination and intolerance against Christians and members of other religious communities. Moreover, the OSCE must carefully monitor their implementation.

OSCE participating states must strive to protect Christian communities and other religious groups from discrimination and intolerance. The media should be encouraged to offer truly balanced coverage of religious faith. Educational systems should teach the value of faith in people's lives. The specific contribution given to public life by Christian communities and other religious groups should be remembered.

Democracy depends on people of conviction taking an active, visible part in public life; peacefully and respectfully, but vigorously. That includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and all religious believers, as well as non-believers. Public debate without a free and welcoming role for religious faith does not produce diversity or pluralism. It can easily do the opposite. It can create politics without morality, and public institutions without enduring ideals.

My hope is that OSCE participating states will do everything in their power to discourage all forms of religious intolerance - including any disrespect for Europe's own Christian roots."

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.