Briefing :: The State-Sanctioned Marginalization of Christians in Western Europe


Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:  U.S. Helsinki Commission

“The State-Sanctioned Marginalization of Christians in Western Europe”

Roger Kiska, Legal Counsel,
Alliance Defending Freedom (Vienna, Austria)

Professor Tom Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project,
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University

Dr. Roger Trigg, Academic Director,
Kellogg Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Oxford University and 
Associate Scholar, Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University

The Briefing Was Held From 2:00 p.m. To 3:00 p.m. in Room Number B318, Rayburn 
House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Monday, December 10, 2012

ALLISON HOLLABAUGH (?):  Good afternoon and welcome to our Helsinki Commission 
briefing on “The State-Sanctioned Marginalization of Christians in Western 

I am going to deliver a statement on behalf of Congressman Smith, whom I hope 
will join us in about a half an hour or so.  The transcript from today as well 
as the statements of our guests will be on the Helsinki Commission website and 
you can access them from there.  We also have materials available on the desk 
to your left.  

It seems an odd proposition to be discussing religious freedom in Western 
Europe other than issues of anti-Semitism.  Hearings on religious freedom 
usually cover countries that are not democratic and where human rights are 
systematically oppressed or countries where the majority faith is protected by 
the government and minority faiths or unorthodox strands of the majority faith 
are persecuted.  

However, reports out of Europe have reached a (concentric ?) mass cumulating in 
a recent Pew Forum study, the “Rising Tide of Religious Restrictions,” that 
ranks the United Kingdom, German, and France alongside Burma in terms of social 
hostility toward religion.  Even more, the trend line seems to be moving 
towards more social hostility rather than less with increased government 
restrictions not far behind.  

Four British citizens recently took their cases to the European Court of Human 
Rights when British courts did not support their request for reasonable 
religious accommodations in their places of employment.  

Two of the cases regarding the wearing of religious symbols in the workplace 
were combined into Eweida and Chaplin vs. the United Kingdom.  Both women in 
these cases were told by their employers that they must either cover up or 
remove cross necklaces.  In both cases, the applicants claim that accommodation 
was made for some employees of other faiths, but not for them.  

The other two cases were combined into Ladele and McFarlane vs. the United 
Kingdom, and involved two Christians who were disciplined or lost their jobs 
for declining to engage in work assignments contrary to their faith.  In both 
cases, other employees were available to carry out the assignments.  Their 
public and private employers made no attempt to make reasonable accommodation 
for their religious beliefs.  

These refusals of even the simplest religious accommodations seem to fly in the 
face of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 
as well as the European Convention on Human Rights Article Nine, both of which 
protect the right to manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, 
practice, observance, subject only to restrictions that are absolutely 

Why this social and governmental hostility towards individuals who practice 
Christianity?  And are governments supporting efforts to marginalize 

Here to answer the questions this afternoon are three eminently qualified 

We’ll begin with Dr. Roger Trigg.  He is an emeritus professor of philosophy at 
the University of Warwick, and the academic director of the Center for the 
Study of Religion and Public Life, Kellogg College, Oxford.  He’s a senior 
research fellow at the Kellogg College as well.  

In – excuse me – 2007 to 2011, he was the co-director of a project jointly with 
the faculty of anthropology on the cognitive science of religion based in the 
Ian Ramsey Center.  In 2006 to 2007, he was the interim director of the center. 
 He is the founding president of the British Society for the Philosophy of 
Religion, and more recently president of the European Society for Philosophy of 
Religion.  He was the first president of the British Philosophical Association, 
and chaired its predecessor, the National Committee for Philosophy.  

He’s a joint editor with Wentzel van Huyssteen of Princeton of an international 
series of monographs on science and religion published by Ashgate.  He authored 
many books on philosophy.  One of his main targets over a long period has been 
philosophical relativism and its many forms.  He is currently associate scholar 
of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkeley Center at Georgetown 
University in Washington, D.C.  

And we are very honored that he happened to be here at the same time we were 
doing our briefing.  And, Dr. Trigg.

ROGER TRIGG:  Well, thank you very much indeed.  And I’m very grateful to the 
commission for the invitation.  

Now, the question is whether Christians are being marginalized in Europe.  
Actually, I took part in a television program on the BBC a year or so back, 
which was entitled “Are Christians Being Persecuted?”  Now, the very fact that 
that question could be posed on a mainstream television program on Easter day 
is itself very interesting.  

But I would wary of the word “persecution,” because when you look at what’s 
happening in many parts of the world with people being killed and churches 
being burnt down, and so on, what’s happening in Europe is still, I would have 
thought, not in that category at all.  If you’re thinking of a category of 
persecution of one to 10, probably Britain’s got to one on that.  It’s not very 
far, but used not to be even there.  And so the tendency is worrying.  

And this is I think because Europe as a whole is becoming more aggressively 
secular.  The Council of Europe, which is important because it’s responsible 
for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, which is a key element in 
all of this – and the council is to be distinguished from the European Union 
and representing the parliaments of all across European, including Turkey and 

But this in a recent document saw the separation of church and state as one of 
Europe’s shared values.  Perhaps that may not seem very shocking to Americans, 
but actually it goes against the constitutional background of at least half 
European countries, and it suggests that they rather (ride roughshod ?) over 

And then it says – and this is what I find particularly worrying – nor may 
states allow the dissemination of religious principles, which if put into 
practice would violate human rights.  If doubts exist in this respect, states 
must require – again that word, “require” – religious leaders to take an 
unambiguous stand in favor of the precedence of human rights over any religious 

Now, I find that very interesting, both the idea of almost compulsion entering 
in – I think the Council of Europe has begun to backtrack from that – but also 
the idea which comes in quite naturally that human rights are on the one hand 
and religious principles are on the other.  

Now, to my mind, human rights are based on religious principles.  That’s a long 
philosophical argument.  They also include very strongly freedom of religion 
and the freedom to manifest it.  And to make the two seem to be at war with 
each other seems I think exceptionally worrying.  And, as I say later, I think 
this is coming in very much from France.  

But what’s happening is that so-called equality and non-discrimination are in 
court decision after court decision trumping appeals to religious freedom so 
that you find that if there’s a suggestion of racial discrimination, that will 
always trump everything else, you might say quite properly.  But note that one 
recent case in the U.K. supreme court was about racial discrimination by Jews 
because they wanted to admit only orthodox Jews to their orthodox school and 
they were told that was racial discrimination and illegal.  It caused a great 
deal of upset amongst the Jewish community.  And so, again, the law isn’t just 
bearing down on Christians.  It’s bearing down on other faiths too.  

Also, you can see that human rights are pitted against religion, and freedom of 
religion is itself being marginalized as a right.  I was at a meeting in the 
House of Lords in London only last week where people who were saying that, 
actually, Article One of Magna Carta, dating from 1215, protects the freedom of 
the church.  Magna Carta was written by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the day 
so perhaps that isn’t surprising.  But still, that’s one of the four articles 
still in force.  So freedom of religious has got a long history and freedom of 
religious institutions has to be safeguarded.  

That isn’t the view of the atheism and anti-clericalism of traditional France, 
of the later French Enlightenment.  And you can see France and Spain are very 
active nowadays in pursuing, I would have thought, an agenda to eradicate 
religion from the public square.  And you see this again and again in arguments 
in religious institutions.  

There was a wish to have a reference to Europe’s Christian heritage written 
into the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union.  France wouldn’t have that at any 
price.  The last pope weighed in and supported the idea, and I think that was 
death of the idea in many people’s eyes.  The anti-clericalism was all too 

But the British and the American way is rather different.  It doesn’t see 
religion on the one hand, human rights on the other.  It sees rights as growing 
out of religion, and we’re equal because we’re equal in the sight of God.  We 
are free because God has given us free will.  

Now, that was very definitely the view of John Locke, the philosopher in the 
17th century, who is in a sense almost the – dare I say patron saint on the 
1688, ’89 Glorious Revolution, and nearly a century later, of American 
independence because he was much admired in the colonies and much admired by 
people like Thomas Jefferson, who thought he was one of the three greatest 
thinkers who’d ever lived.  

So that religious-based view of equality and freedom is what’s formed Britain 
and formed the United States.  I’m afraid that if you actually take away the 
Christian foundations, it’s not clear how human rights and our belief in 
equality and freedom will survive for very long.  It isn’t enough to just say, 
well, we believe in them because we believe in them.

Now, the Strasbourg Court is much more active in its rulings.  It’s got very 
unpopular in the United Kingdom for all kinds of reasons, and the English 
courts now, through the Human Rights Act of 1998, bringing the European 
Convention of Human Rights into British law, and Equality Act of 2010 
emphasizing equality, means that equality is what’s governing a lot of court 
decisions.  Non-discrimination, but non-discrimination on grounds of race, sex, 
and sexual orientation but not religion, and that’s rather curious.  

One of the four cases that we have mentioned already that are currently before 
the European Court of Human Rights was about Lillian Ladele, who was a civil 
registrar who refused to register civil partnership ceremonies.  

Now, as I always say, the issue here is not whether you agree with her stand or 
not.  If you disagree with it, it’s all the more important that you should 
think that she should have the right to abide by her conscience.  It’s easy to 
allow freedom to people who agree with us.  

But, anyway, she lost her job and she was told by the courts that beliefs about 
marriage were not a core part of Christian belief.  And I find it very worrying 
the courts are so willing to venture into that kind of theological statement, 
quite a controversial one in many ways.  

In the same range of cases, there’s one about – two about the wearing of 
crosses.  Again, the court said wearing a cross is not a core part of 
Christianity.  Well, I suppose the judges think they know what Christianity is 
and they haven’t – (inaudible) – to wear crosses.  

But it was very interesting that in the beginning of this year, an Anglo-Saxon 
princess was dug up near Cambridge in England, and people got very excited 
because it was obviously one of the very first Christian burials by 
Anglo-Saxons.  Why?  Because the girl was found to be wearing a cross.  So the 
cross is the mark of being a Christian.  Now, courts say nothing to do with 
Christianity.  It’s just jewelry.  

And that is I think all part of the general idea that you narrow what religion 
is.  It’s just freedom of worship.  Lillian Ladele was actually told, you have 
freedom of religion because you’re free to worship as you please.  

The tendency, though, built into the European Convention of Human Rights is the 
right to manifest religion.  Built into that is the idea that we, of course, 
can live according to the way our religion tells us, not so according to the 
courts because a lot of so-called manifestation isn’t manifestation of 
religion.  It’s ethical beliefs.  It’s something else, again, in narrowing what 
counts as manifestation.  

I find it particularly worrying when you get to Sunday working, for instance, 
which does actually impinge on freedom of worship, just as Saturday or Friday 
working might.  And people are told by the European courts that they have 
freedom of religion because they’ve got the freedom of contract so they can 
give up their job if they want to worship on Sundays.  But the freedom to be 
unemployed is not much of a freedom.

Now, the courts easily sideline religion as subjective and irrational.  In one 
of the cases, it actually went to the European Court.  Lord Justice Laws really 
rather dismissed religion.  He says that in the eyes of everyone save the 
religious believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being 
incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence, and to protect a position held 
on religious grounds is irrational.  Religion is irrational.  

Well, I’ve written books on faith and reason so I just find that that kind of 
flip remark about a controversial issue which has occupied philosophers for 
centuries goes beyond what judges should be doing. 

It suggests that courts are unsympathetic to religion, that they’re unwilling 
to make a reasonable accommodation for religion.  And I think that phrase, 
“reasonable accommodation,” is something that’s really quite important.  

Secularists actually know what they’re doing.  They use the courts to override 
public opinion.  They can get things through the courts they can’t get through 
parliament.  And there was a controversial case earlier this year whether 
courts said that counselors couldn’t have prayers, even though the counselors, 
as a democratic body, wanted prayers.  Oh, no.  They couldn’t do that.  And 
they’ve been doing it since the time of Elizabeth the First.  So it was quite a 

Another example of how things are going against religion is the change in 
British charity law recently.  Religion and education are no longer seen as a 
good in themselves.  They have to prove they have a public benefit.  

At the time, I thought it was just the labor government getting at independent 
schools.  But, actually, in retrospect, you can see that the thing was aimed at 
religion as well.  And even the Church of England has been told by the Charity 
Commission as – that unless it can show public benefit, it can’t automatically 
be regarded as charitable.  Extraordinary view really.  Obviously, religion in 
itself is not something that’s worth pursuing in itself.  

Well, I would argue there’s no hierarchy of rights.  So the right to religious 
freedom cannot be ignored.  It should not be narrowed.  We need not just 
freedom from religion, as France wants, but freedom for religion, which is an 
integral part of human nature.  

As was mentioned, I’ve spent a few years in Oxford as part of a team looking at 
the comments of science and religion.  And the conclusion to that is that 
whether religion is true or false, good or bad, it’s there as a part of human 
nature.  It builds on the very central part.  If you want, I could talk for an 
hour on that, but I won’t.  

Well, I think we can probably exaggerate too much about all of this in one way. 
 I’m very concerned about the trend.  But I think it’s still true to say that 
England in origins, heritage and indeed even in fact now can still probably be 
called a Christian nation.  It still does provide recognition for the places of 
religion and public life.  Although fast living on its spiritual capital, it’s 
still recognizable as a country with a Christian heritage.  Christmas is still 
Christmas, not just the holidays.  And carols and hymns sound around the 
shopping streets.  

So religion is present in the public sphere and establishment is actually 
defended most of all by people like the chief rabbi.  I find bishops are 
embarrassed to defend it, but the chief rabbi speaks passionately about it 
because he knows that if the church was disestablished, it would be to get 
religion out of the public sphere, that all faiths would lose influence.  

There is an alarming growing ignorance within Britain amongst the young 
generation of Christianity.  Christian understandings can no longer be assumed 
to be a normal part of the culture.  I sometimes think that may be part of the 
trouble with judges.  They think they know about Christianity and they don’t 
anymore.  So that’s providing the dangerous and growing vacuum.  

And I think also – and this is another story – multicultural policies, which 
have come into disrepute, haven’t helped either.  Thank you.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you, Dr. Trigg.  I’ll follow-up on the 
multi-cultural policies and your study in the question and answer period.  

Next we’ll be hearing from Roger Kiska, who flew in from Vienna to join us 
today.  He serves as legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom based in 
Vienna, Austria, where he specializes in international litigation with a focus 
on European law.  

He has developed the Alliance Defending Freedom Allied Attorney Network in 
Europe working with allies to litigate European cases that have a potential for 
impacting Alliance Defending Freedom ethics in the United States.  

Prior to joining the Alliance Defending Freedom, Kiska served as legal counsel 
at the European Center for Law and Justice.  After earning his J.D. at Ave 
Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kiska began his legal career in the 
Slovak Republic as an attorney with the firm of former Slovak Prime Minister 
Ján ?arnogurský.  He is admitted to the State Bar of Michigan and also passed 
the Solicitors Bar’s examination for the United Kingdom.  Kiska is fluent in 
English and Slovak.

ROGER KISKA:  Thank you.  I’d like to thank the commission for this 

I believe there are four major legal trends where cultural and special 
interests have made a significant foothold in Western Europe and created a 
climate non-politically as intolerance and discrimination against Christians.  
These trends include non-discrimination legislation, which has been used in 
clash of rights conflicts to marginalize both Christian manifestation of 
beliefs and rights of Christian conscience.  

There is a censorship of the cross and other religious symbols from the public 
square and there’s a use of limitation on freedom of expression through various 
manifestations of hate speech laws.  

And, finally, I’d like to talk about the attack on the parental rights, 
particularly in the sphere of education.  

So let’s begin with anti-discrimination.  Dr. Trigg spent a great deal of his 
time speaking on the dangers of anti-discrimination legislation.  It’s enough 
to say that the European Union is now in the process of concluding a directive 
on anti-discrimination in goods and services.  It will need unanimity among the 
27 member states of the European Union; there’s a question of whether they’ll 
receive that, but if they do, it will be transposed into the national 
legislation of all 27 member states, soon to be 28 with Croatia joining.  

The United Kingdom has already enacted many of the provisions of this 
directive.  However, in fact, the U.K. directives are even more conservative 
than that proposed by the EU.  Despite the fact that it’s more conservative, we 
really do – we really can see into the future of what this directive might 
cause on the continent if adopted.  

Recently, in the United Kingdom, bed and breakfast owners have been sued 
successfully for refusing to rent one of the rooms in their own home to 
same-sex couples.  In another instance, a foster family was denied the right to 
take in foster children because they opposed homosexual behavior.  Most 
Catholic adoption agencies, which have sincerely held on to their Christian 
ethos, have also shut down the business because of their refusal to place 
infants with same-sex couples.  

Now, I believe that the issue here is that the commission, when they were 
adopting the sexual orientation provision in the Treaty of Amsterdam, failed to 
define the difference between protection based on sexual orientation and 
opposition to homosexual behavior.  One should be protected, the other 
shouldn’t be.  Because of that failure, every time there’s been a clash of 
rights in the U.K. and elsewhere between protection of sexual orientation and 
opposition to homosexual behavior, religious liberty is lost.  

But the anti-discrimination phenomenon goes beyond just that issue.  In another 
case, another bed and breakfast owner got into a friendly debate on religion 
with a Muslim guest.  The Muslim guest complained and the lawsuit ensued.  The 
Equalities Commission funded the lawsuit, and despite winning the case after 
quite a lengthy period of litigation, the bed and breakfast owners refused to – 
they were forced to close down because they were bankrupted by the legal fees 
associated with the claim.  

The anti-discrimination debate really has taken center stage at the European 
Court of Human Rights in the four companion cases that were mentioned here 
today.  What we’re seeing is that simply by seeking a reasonable accommodation 
for sincerely held religious belief, people are being punished, fired, or 
pushed out of their job.  And really the accommodations in these four cases 
were de minimis and there was no undo business hardship.  

One of the issues facing Europe and the European Court of Human Rights is that 
the Strasbourg Court has not yet adopted a doctrine of reasonable 
accommodation.  So despite the fact that religious liberty is, you know, part 
of the European Convention of Human Rights, Article Nine, and that the 
protection should be that any interference must be necessary to democratic 
society and proportionate to the legitimate aim, that’s not been the case.  The 
reality has been that religious liberty has become a second-class right.  

The Alliance Defending Freedom has intervened in all of the cases.  We’ve 
assisted in funding all of the cases.  We sat at the lawyers’ table so we’re 
very familiar with these cases.  We think that they’re taking preeminence 
before the court.  

And just looking at the statistics, there is backlog currently of 250,000 cases 
before the court.  There’s only 40 cases that are given oral hearings a year 
and these were among those hearings.  So we know that there will be an epically 
large decision pending within the coming months, and we’re hoping that 
reasonable accommodation will now become part of the precedent of the European 
Court of Human Rights. 

Let me briefly summarize the other areas of which to speak on – the issue of 
censorship of religious symbols has come to the fore recently when a lower 
chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Lautsi v. Italy demanded based 
on church and state separation that Italy remove all the crosses from its 
public school classrooms despite constitutionally protected concordats with the 
(Holy See ?) to the contrary, and despite centuries of cultural tradition in 

Now, the Grand Chamber of the same court one year later dramatically overturned 
that decision.  It had been a seven to zero chamber decision.  It ended off 
with the Grand Chamber going 15 to two declaring there wasn’t a violation of 
Protocol One, Article Two, and 17 to zero that the issue of religious liberty 
need not be reviewed at all.  Nonetheless, copycat claims have sprung out since 
the Lautsi case, for example, against Greece and against Romania.  

With Lautsi being defined the way it was, radical secularist groups were no 
longer going after governments.  They were going after individuals.  And so now 
we see the case of Eweida and Chaplin, and the refusal to wear religious 
symbols in the workplace.  And that is basically discrimination against the 
Christian worldview because in those cases, other religions were being 
accommodated under the diversity policy, in one case for British Airways and 
the other cases for the hospital in question.  

The question of religious expression has also to the prominence as of late.  
I’d like to submit to the commission a book published by our office which 
compiles all of the hate speech laws of the European Union and in English, and 
cites example after example of how Christian speech has been marginalized.  

The book, which you see here, it even goes into the fact that the European 
Court of Human Rights, over decades of protecting freedom of expression, with a 
standard that you were allowed to shock and offend and disturb has now changed 
that standard and embraced hate speech saying that it will now criminalize 
allegations which are serious and prejudicial.  

In essence, the European Court has allowed its judges to embrace hate speech 
laws and provided them unfettered discretion in determining what is and what is 
not criminal speech.  And I believe that’s important here in the United States 
because, as it’s often said, when Europe coughs, the United States catches a 

And the final issue I wanted to speak about is parental rights.  In Salzkotten, 
Germany, we represent 14 Christian parents who were imprisoned, some for more 
than 40 days and most on multiple occasions, simply for opting their nine and 
10-year-old children out of two days of mandatory sexual education.  

Another case we’re defending is that a 15 year old Melissa Busekros, who comes 
from an Evangelical family who wanted to home school, she was put in a mental 
institution simply for wishing to home school, being diagnosed with what one 
physician, attending physician called school phobia and she was kept there for 
several months.  

In Sweden, a seven-year-old-boy was taken off an airplane bound for India by 
police and social services simply for being home educated.  The family was 
onboard a place from Stockholm to India where they were going to relocate to do 
missionary work.  The Child and Family Service came onto the place without a 
warrant, with no accusations of abuse whatsoever and took young Domenic 
Johansson from his family, and for three years he’s remained in foster care.  
And, unfortunately, today I just got word that the appeals court has not 
terminated their parental rights altogether and given full custody to the 
foster family.  

And the last example I want to share is that of the former Zapatero government 
in Spain which initiated mandatory classes known as education for citizenship 
which basically indoctrinated young children with a bombardment of material 
promoting homosexual behavior, hypersexual behavior, communism, and which 
aggressively mocked the Catholic Church.  What was perhaps even more shocking 
was that the government refused all requests for opt-outs for the classes.  
Over 50,000 parents filed complaints with the Ministry of Education.  I briefed 
3,000 lawsuits domestically took place and one class action lawsuit at the 
European Court of Human Rights.  Yet, that curriculum remains in place.  The 
current government has promised that it would rid the country of the curriculum 
altogether, but it’s taken no steps to that extent.  

My hope is that by providing the short outline on the major issues facing 
Christians in Western Europe, you can have a better understanding of the legal 
and cultural conditions which have allowed for such a severe deterioration of 
religious liberties for Christians in Europe.  

Perhaps ironically, the Christians in – it is Christians in Eastern Europe who 
are the strongest in exercising their Christian rights and seeking to influence 
the West to return to the ideals that acted as a beacon of light to lead the 
East out of the shackle of communism.  Thank you.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you, Mr. Kiska.  

Next, we will hear from Tom Farr, who’s known to many of you.  He’s been 
working in religious freedom in the United States for well over 15 years, I 
believe at this point.  

Currently, he’s a visiting associate professor of religion and international 
affairs at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.  
He directs the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkeley Center for 
Religion, Peace and World Affairs, where he is a senior fellow.  He served in 
the U.S. Army and American Foreign Service, and has taught at both of the U.S. 
Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy.  

Dr. Farr is the first director of the State Department’s Office of 
International Religious Freedom, director of the Witherspoon Institute’s Task 
Force on International Religious Freedom, and a member of the Chicago World 
Affairs Council Task Force on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy.  

He’s currently a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New 
Jersey, and serves on the Secretary of State’s Working Group on Religious 
Freedom, the boards of advisors of the John Templeton Foundation and the 
Alexander Hamilton Society, and the boards of directors of the Institute of 
Religion and Democracy and Christian Solidarity Worldwide USA.  

He has a number of publications, and he’s a contributing editor for the Review 
of Faith and International Affairs.  His work has appeared in many edited 
volumes in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Houston Journal of 
International Law, Drake Law Review, Weekly Standard, National Review, New York 
Times, Washington Post first thing, and the list goes on to a book he’s 
written, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is 
Vital to American National Security, which is published by Oxford University 

Professor Farr, we’re honored to have you with us today.

TOM FARR:  Thank you, Allison.  Thanks to you and Mark Milosch and especially 
to Chairman Smith of the Helsinki Commission for holding this briefing.  

Before I give my views about the status of Christians in Europe, I want to 
acknowledge, as Roger Trigg has done, this terrible state of Christian 
minorities outside the West.  

Three-quarters of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians live outside the West.  
There are more Christians that go to church in China on a given Sunday than all 
the Christians in Western Europe put together.  Millions of these people, along 
with other believers, are subject to violent persecution and even death, either 
because of their religious beliefs or those of their tormentors.  

When we speak, as we must of the growing travail of religious liberty in 
Europe, and, by the way, in the United States, we must never forget those 
Christians and non-Christians whose very lives are under constant threat 
because of their faith.

Now, having said this, I want to make it clear that I believe we’re witnessing 
a worldwide crisis of religious liberty, one that, as you’ve heard from both of 
our speakers, increasingly includes Europe, and I would add, again, the United 

While Christians and other believers in the West are not subject to violent 
persecution, we have growing reason for concern, not only for the well-being of 
religious freedom, but for the health of democracy.

So let me begin by placing Europe’s problems into a global context, very 
briefly.  The Pew Research Center has in recent years conducted three massive 
studies that measure two things: government restrictions on religion and social 
hostilities toward religion in every country of the world.  

What these studies have discovered is staggering: 75 percent of the population 
of the world lives in countries in which religious freedom is either highly 
restricted or very highly restricted.  Those affected are Christians, Muslims, 
Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others, most of them minorities, but some are 
reformers within the majority communities, who cannot speak out without being 
attacked under anti-blasphemy and anti-defamation laws and practices.  

These people live for the most part in about 73 countries of the world.  Most 
of those countries are Muslim majority, and many of them are in the broader 
Middle East.  Others are communist countries, such as China and North Korea, 
Cuba, or large non-Muslim countries, such as India and Russia.  

It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that Europe has now entered this mix.  
The list of 73 countries includes France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  Of 
all the religious groups that are subject to harassment worldwide and 
persecution, Christians fear the worst.  They are harassed in some 139 
countries of the world.  Muslims are a close second, suffering harassment in 
121 countries.  

Perhaps the most alarming result of the Pew studies, however, is that the twin 
problems of restrictions on religion and religious persecution are getting 
worse, not better.  Virtually all the indicators have shown a deterioration in 
every region in the world.  Both the data and the trends, I would submit, 
constitute a global crisis in religious liberty.  

So let’s turn now to the fate of religious freedom and of Christians in Europe. 
 Recall that Europe is the continent where the intellectual origins of 
religious liberty lie.  In our Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s 
Berkeley Center, we’re conducting a program on Christianity and freedom to take 
a fresh look at the contributions of Christians and Christian’s ideas to the 
spread of freedom, both historically and in the contemporary world.  

Among other things, our research is confirming that the wellsprings of 
religious freedom are to be found in the first centuries of Christianity, and 
that the concept grew to maturity in what later became European civilization, 
including the American colonies and, ultimately, the United States.  It’s all 
the more alarming then to discover how the roots of religious freedom have 
atrophied in the Europe of the 21st century.  

One of the Pew studies reported that all of the regions of the world, social 
hostilities toward religion are rising most rapidly, not in the Middle East, or 
Asia, or in Africa but in Europe.  Here are a few indicators of the trend.  

As of 2010, the United Kingdom was ranked 17th in the world in social 
hostilities toward religion.  That’s out of approximately 200 countries.  
Germany was ranked 23rd and France 25th.  Between 2007 and 2010, there were 
significant increases in social hostilities in all three countries.  By 2010, 
each of these major Western European countries graded worse in the category of 
social hostilities than the likes of Burma, Iran, and Sudan.  

The three also showed significant increases in the levels of government 
restrictions on religion.  Between 2007 and 2010, government restrictions in 
the U.K. increased, according to these studies, by an astounding 67 percent; in 
France, by 20 percent; Germany by 23 percent.  

Symptomatic for this problem is that there are, as we’ve heard, currently four 
cases of British citizens before the European Court of Human Rights, each 
alleging that the state has simply ignored their fundamental rights of 

Both British courts and the current British government have taken the position 
that they will define what constitutes Orthodox Christianity, not the 
individuals concerned or the churches themselves.  This I would submit is a 
position that endangers, not only religious freedom but democracy itself.  

By way of comparison, as of 2010, the United States was ranked 49th in the 
world, worse than Syria, Laos, and the Congo in social hostilities toward 
religion.  This phenomenon is or ought to be shocking to all of us.  Like the 
three European countries, U.S. scores show significant worsening between 2007 
and 2010 in both categories, that is social hostilities and government 

So how do we explain all this?  Should we be alarmed?  And if so, why?  The Pew 
report suggests that we are witnessing a significant downgrading of religious 
liberty in the West, precisely at the time that religious persecution is 
spiking elsewhere in the world.  

Allowing for the fundamental differences in the symptoms, namely violent 
persecution outside the West and growing discrimination inside the West, are 
there any similarities?  I would argue that there are.  

To put the matter succinctly, the belief that religious freedom is necessary 
for human flourishing and for the success of democracy is either being rejected 
or just simply being lost.  Outside the West, the commitment to religious 
liberty has never taken root.  This deficit helps account for the failures of 
Arab Spring in other countries struggling for democracy.  

There’s ample evidence in history and contemporary scholarship that democracy 
in highly religious societies cannot consolidate without religious freedom in 
full.  That evidence also suggests, by the way, that religious freedom is 
important for the defeat of religion-based terrorism.  

The critical role of religious freedom in the consolidation of democracy and in 
undermining religion-based terrorism are two reasons why the U.S. policy of 
advancing international religious freedom is so important to American national 

But the Pew reports also suggest that Western nations, including Europe, as 
I’ve said, and the U.S., are themselves abandoning the belief that religious 
liberty is necessary to the flourishing of individuals and the success of 
democracy.  This helps to explain why we have proven so ineffective in 
advancing international religious freedom.  

Now, there are many reasons for this decline in Europe and the West.  I’ll cite 
four very briefly.  First is the decline of religion itself and the emergence 
of what Pope Benedict the 16th has called the dictatorship of relativism, that 
is the belief that there are no objective truths and that all rights claims 
have equal validity.  This helps explain why in Europe, and increasingly in the 
U.S., religion is considered a personal preference with no more claim to state 
protection than any other preference.  

The second reason is the triumph in Europe of the French model of religious 
liberty, in which the freedom to practice religion is confined to the private 

Third is the related belief that religion – Roger mentioned this, Roger Trigg, 
religion is essentially emotive and irrational, and, therefore, inappropriate 
as a means of influencing public policy.  

And fourth – and I don’t want to underestimate the importance of this – is the 
contraction of faith-based organizations in civil society.  Private religious 
hospitals, colleges, charitable organizations have either been historically 
weak, as in France, or are losing their religious motivations and identities, 
as in the United Kingdom.  And I would note that each of these four trends, 
while less advanced than in Europe, is present in the United States as well.  

So let me conclude.  Why does all this matter?  Because religion is more than a 
private and personal preference, more than a private matter unrelated to the 
health of democracy.  Religion is the enterprise of discovering whether there 
is a more than human reality to which or to whom I owe my existence, whether 
there is a transcendent reality that accounts for my being to which or to whom 
I should attune my behavior and who determines my fate in an afterlife, if one 

These are powerful questions that every human being naturally seeks to answer.  
In the 21st century, the data show the vast majority of the world’s peoples 
think they have found answers to at least some if not all of these questions.  

Religious freedom is the right to pursue the answers to the religious 
questions.  It’s the right to join with others of like mind and spirit and 
worship in civil society associations and the right to influence the laws and 
policies of the nation with religion-based arguments, on the same basis as 
non-religious persons and non-religious arguments.  It’s the right not to be 
coerced by the state to act against one’s religious conscience.  To deny 
religious freedom in any of these senses is to mount an attack on human dignity 
and to undermine civil and political society.  

In short, to insist that a person or a religious community must live as the 
state mandates, without the right to live privately and publicly in accord with 
religious truth, as one has apprehended that truth, constitutes a firm step in 
the direction of tyranny.  Unfortunately, that is the trend we are witnessing 
in Europe today.  

Again, thank you for the opportunity to appear today.  

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you, Professor Farr.  I have several questions I’d 
like to put the panel and then I’ll open it up to the audience members for 

Following up on your statement just a moment ago, that the individuals and the 
church – the U.K. courts involved determining what constitutes Orthodox 
Christianity rather than individuals in the church, church determining what 
constitutes Orthodox Christianity endangers not only religious freedom but 
democracy itself, and that highly religious societies cannot consolidate 
without religious freedom in full.  

Would you elaborate further on the connection between religious freedom and 
democracy?  And also, clarify whether or not religious freedom is necessary for 
cohesion in the society if a society is not highly religious society?

MR. FARR:  OK.  Very good.  There was a lot packed into those two questions.  
And I’ll try not to give too extensive an answer but certainly willing to 
follow up.  

There’s a lot of evidence in history, not least the history of the United 
States, but also the former history of the United Kingdom, if I could put that 
way, Roger, that religious freedom is necessary for the consolidation of 
democracy.  Our own founding fathers saw this as necessary for the health of 

For George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, even Thomas Jefferson, 
and Ben Franklin, the two least religious of our founders, it was quite clear 
that they were talking about the religious enterprise in general, not just 
Christianity, as necessary for the health of democracy.  I suppose the best 
example of many is the famous speech of George Washington in the second 
farewell address as president in which he said, don’t – I’m paraphrasing here – 
don’t fool yourselves, Americans, that we can have a moral citizenry without 
religion, because, in his view, religion was the source of morality.  Now, we 
may have matured a bit beyond that narrow understanding of the sources of 
morality, but the American people are still highly religious.  

And this goes to the second part of your question, Allison.  The vast majority 
of the countries of the world are made up of highly religious individuals.  
It’s both common sense, it’s historical, but I would argue grounded in the work 
of empirical sociologists, such as Brian Grim at the Pew Research Center, that 
democracy for highly religious societies is not going to work.  It’s not going 
to last, not going to root, so that it doesn’t just collapse into tyranny or 
theocracy or something else without religious freedom.  

Read the work of Brian Grim and Roger Finke.  The Price of Freedom Denied is 
one very good place to start.  And it shows huge correlations between the 
absence of religious liberty and the failure of democracy to consolidate.  And, 
by the way, there are other huge correlations as well that are connected with 
this: economic growth, women’s rights, the absence, as I mentioned, of violent 
religious persecution and terrorism.  

So the point is if you want democracy to work, especially in highly religious 
societies, you’re not going to succeed without religious freedom.  

So I think this is a terribly important point for our own country, for our own 
foreign policy, but also for Europe not to lose this, because if they do, it 
suggests that our own democracies are imperiled in a way that neither they nor 
we have begun to talk about.  I hope that addresses the question.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you, Professor Farr.  Yes, it does.  Something that 
would be helpful on putting the situation in the UK into context would be maybe 
a little bit of history on accommodations for religion in the U.K.  

And, Mr. Kiska, maybe you’d like to speak to this.  Does the U.K. have a 
religious history – a legal history that is, of religious accommodation that’s 
being turned on its head and ignored, or has it been the case in the past that 
such cases haven’t made it to the courts, they haven’t occurred in the society, 
or we’re seeing a new phenomenon that’s entering in a case of first instance in 
the courts?

MR. KISKA:  I’ll briefly address this because I see that Dr. Trigg had some 
comments on it as well.  

I think like much of Europe, religious liberty has been dearly won over the 
centuries.  There’s been a lot of bloodshed over it, and it should be praised 
much higher than it is.  If you look at all the international treaties that 
have come out since World War II, the major treaties, religious liberty is 
always on that list.  

In the United Kingdom, I mean, this phenomenon has really just taken off in the 
past decade or two where they do have a concept – it’s not called reasonable 
accommodation, but it’s only in the sphere of disability.  It hasn’t been 
extended to religious liberty or any other part of society.  

So these cases really coming before the courts employment tribunals, the 
Supreme Court, they are cases of first instance, and they began to develop once 
the so-called sexual orientation regulations of 2007 were legislated.  Now, 
they’re the consolidated version of the – I think it was 2010 version.  

So really this is the first time they’ve gone to Strasburg from the U.K.  So 
we’re going to have these questions determined within the next year or two as 
these four cases at the ECHR on their way to being decided, but there’s other 
cases, the Bull case, which is the bed and breakfast owners I mentioned.  That 
will eventually make its way up to the ECHR as well as several of other of 
these cases.  So the way that the ECHR interprets those will undoubtedly shape 
the way the U.K. courts and the legislature will deal with these issues as well.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you.

MR. TRIGG:  Could I just add to that?  

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Please.

MR. TRIGG:  I mean, there is actually a very good tradition of accommodation.  
They haven’t called it reasonable accommodation, but, for instance, if I could 
just take two examples from what – the 1970s, ’60s, one of Christians 
particularly with objections to abortions, and there’s still an opt-out for 
that.  They’re not for nurses and so on.  So that’s clearly a case of 
accommodation.  And that provides a model for the more recent cases that hasn’t 
been taken up.  

Another good example of a non-Christian cases is of course, Sikhs are very 
reluctant not to wear their turban but to wear – and had to wear a helmet.  
Now, this was an issue about riding motorbikes, for instance, because there was 
law brought in about having to wear a helmet, what about Sikhs?  Well, there 
was a specific opt out written into the law so that Sikhs could continue to 
wear the turban and not a helmet.  And that’s a kind of classic example of 
trying to accommodate.  

And that’s been the tradition in English law until very recently.  I think a 
lot of this trouble arises since 1998, since the European Convention was 
explicitly imported into British law.  And also, now, with the Supreme Court 
being separated from parliament, there’s a built-in – as in the United States, 
a built-in tension between the legislature and the lawmaking, the judiciary.  

And I think there that means that more and more people are going to court to 
get their way when they know they can’t get it through parliament.  And 
sometimes the courts are enforcing things that actually are deeply unpopular, 
but it is changing the way people behave in the country.  

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Is there a general sense in the populous that there might 
be impending problems for religious freedom in the U.K.?

MR. TRIGG:  Well, I mean, I think it’s a big issue and sufficiently big for 
some of the popular press like the Daily Mail to run big headlines about it 
week after week.  I mean, it’s a campaigning issue.  So people feel strongly 
about it certainly.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  I saw one interview recently regarding the four cases 
before the ECHR.  And the interviewer was speaking to a bishop, and asked the 
bishop, are you advocating for special rights for religious people, Christians 
in particular?  Why should they have rights that everyone else doesn’t have?  
And so this mentality that came across was – seemed concerning that the idea of 
religious freedom is becoming a concept of special rights and unequal rights.  

Dr. Trigg, you mentioned in your statement the – I believe it’s the equality 
law.  I may be misquoting it –

MR. TRIGG:  Yes.  Yes.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  – that protects race, sex, and sexual orientation but does 
not protect religion.  Did I understand you correctly?

MR. TRIGG:  And I was particularly talking about the way in which Article 14 of 
the European Convention is administered, because there, it outlaws 
discrimination on any grounds, such as sex, race, color, language, religion.  
But sex – sexual orientation, race, yes, they’re absolute trumps.  

I mean, if you – for instance, Lillian Ladele, the registrar, happens to be of 
West Indian origin.  If she had been able to prove racial discrimination, that 
would have been an open and shut case.  Because she was a Christian, that isn’t 
the problem.  And yet, in law, and according to the European Convention of 
Human Rights, it seems to me that religion is as much a basis as – (inaudible) 
– to her race.  And yet that’s not being applied.  

So that’s why these cases are particularly important, because I know that some 
of the barristers and lawyers representing Lillian Ladele were trying to push 
that actually, saying it’s discrimination on grounds of religion, and that is 
built into the convention.  

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you.  Do either of you want to comment on that?  I 
have several more questions but don’t want to miss having a question from the 
audience if there are any.  Any questions?  

Then I’d like to move to, Dr. Trigg, you were participating in a long-term 
study on the connections between religion and human nature.  I may be 
mischaracterizing this, a long-term study.  But I’d appreciate going into 
detail for the audience.

MR. TRIGG:  Right.  Well, this is in the cognitive science of religion.  I was 
looking at the implications of this but we had a lot of scientists looking at 
it, biologists, anthropologists, psychologists.  

And if I could just summarize, I mean, obviously, in anthropology, you can find 
religion has been universal.  I mean, you can be pretty sure that in any 
society we investigate there was religion, and I’ve heard even atheist 
anthropologists say, yes, we’re sure of that.  I mean, even if you might regret 
it, it’s a fact.  

More interestingly perhaps is research into child’s development.  And you’ll 
find that there’s a lot of research now showing that children find it very easy 
to think in religious terms.  They find it very easy to think about God or the 
god, people surviving death.  

They find it very easy to think in terms of purpose.  If you say why a rock’s 
pointed, they don’t like scientific explanations.  They’ll say so, well, so 
that the birds can’t sit on them or they think in terms of purpose, that will 
give a purpose of explanation, which is incidentally why – I mean, this has 
nothing to do with truth and falsity.  It’s just about how people think, but 
it’s why actually people find it very difficult to accept evolutionary accounts 
in the first place rather if they’re meant to replace purposive accounts.  

But certainly – deep into human nature is this idea that we’re apart from our 
bodies than our bodies, that we can think of us as being apart from our bodies, 
that we see purpose, that we can immediately jump to think of disembodies 
agency, for instance.  I mean, this is all part of all human experience.  If 
you hear something going bump in the night, you wouldn’t just think what’s 
falling of the roof.  You’ll think who’s there.  And if you’re walking through 
a dark forest, there’s a rustle, you think who’s there.  

And there’s a very good reason why we’ve developed like that, because if you 
don’t think that there’s something or somebody there, you might get eaten.  So, 
actually, it’s very much part of human nature to think in terms of agents, and 
if you can’t see somebody, well, it is a disembodied agent.  There’s a spirit 
in the tree moving it. 

So all of this, I mean, it’s a very complicated and long story really, but it 
shows I think deep down in children and in people across cultures and times 
religion is the default option, I mean, religion in all its forms; it’s very 
much undetermined which religion.  Atheism is very sophisticated.  

Atheism is like very complicated theology or even like science.  Science is 
very sophisticated and counterintuitive.  Religion isn’t counterintuitive.  
That’s what they find.  

So, I mean, this does have implications of what we’re talking about here 
because it does mean that religion is here, part of us, whether we don’t want 
it to be or not, whether we think we should grow out of it or not.  It’s still 
part of what it is to be human, and you can’t just brush it aside or say it’s a 
private matter.

MR. FARR:  I would just add those who are – if there are those who are 
interested in more of this topic, we have a standing seminar in our Religious 
Freedom Project on this subject in which Roger and others have participated.  
And we have a number of videos in which we brought together biological 
evolutionists and our evolutionary biologists, I guess that is, and 
philosophers of religion, and physicians, doctors, and others to talk about 
this very issue, the cognitive science of religion.  So if you’re interested, 
go to our web page and you’ll find more.  

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  I’d like to ask just one more question.  And that is 
regarding the Pew Forum study.  We’ve mentioned social hostilities several 
times in this conversation.  How do the Pew Forum study describe social 
hostilities that would they deem to be very high in Germany, France, and the 

MR. FARR:  If you go to the Pew Research on our website, they have a full 
description of their methodology.  But, basically, what they did was compile a 
list of questions having to do with violence against religious people or 
religious arguments, coercive policies, not by government but by private 
agencies of society, by mobs, by other groups that are non-governmental.  

And then they set out to measure these in each country of the world gathering 
together some 20 odd reports on religious freedom and religious restrictions 
that exist around the world, preeminently the annual report of the American – 
of the State Department on International Religious Freedom, but also 
cross-checking with a whole series of international reports.  They coded all of 
this, and they came up with scores – it’s quite transparent, it’s quite 

So if you’re interested, I urge you to go and take a look at their methodology. 
 They’re going to be doing this annually now.  They’ve done three of them and 
they will continue as far as I know into the future.

MR. TRIGG:  Could I just add that just as somebody who lives in the United 
Kingdom, I find it’s slightly odd to find the U.K. ranked below places like 
Burma and Sudan, where people actually lose their lives because of their 
religious beliefs.  And we’re not in that kind of situation yet at all.  So I 
don’t quite know what they’re getting at there.

MR. FARR:  It’s quite shocking.  There’s no doubt about it.  I mean, as I say, 
the U.S. is ranked worse than some countries you wouldn’t think that would be 
the case.  

My response to this is less – I mean, people should take of it what they want, 
but I’m alarmed by the trends as much as I am – you know, it may be that these 
percentages are off and the rankings are not quite properly calibrated, but the 
notion that the birthplace of religious freedom, mainly the West, is now 
turning against it is what is alarming to me.

MR. TRIGG:  And, certainly, I would say that compared with 30 years ago that 
there is a problem.  And this wasn’t a problem 30 years ago in Britain.  

MR. KISKA:  Can I add that, you know, we began this discussion by saying it’s a 
little unusual to talk about the concept of marginalization of Christians in 
the West.  Well the European Parliament has had two such seminars, and already 
in the OSCE in Rome and Vienna had seminars on this as well.  So it is a 
prevailing issue.  

We like to say that, you know, it is the difference between east of Vienna and 
west of Vienna.  East of Vienna, you certainly see real-life persecution, 
people losing their lives because of their religious belief.  Well, those 
countries also have endemic – within them – issues of real rule of law problems 
so that it’s not just targeting religion.  It’s a general base problem of rule 
of law issues, whereas in the West, you see intolerance and discrimination.  
That’s different than persecution.  It’s intolerance.  It’s not persecution.  
But it is very targeted, and it is within the rule of law and enshrined 
unfortunately by courts and legislatures.

MS. HOLLABAUGH (?):  Thank you.  And thank all of you for your time today and 
your insights.  

The information, the statements and as much as else we can put on the website, 
we’ll have available for your use and for our friends in Europe.  Also, we’ll 
try to link to the conferences that were just mentioned by Mr. Kiska so you can 
see the work that’s being done across the pond.  Thank you so much for joining 
us today.