Wednesday, February 05, 2003
A Statement of Values - 5th February 2003, 21.07

Arguments over the inclusion of a religious or spiritual clause, stating the values of Europe's Judaeo-Christian heritage, have revealed another historical division within the Convention. On one side are those countries that have a strong history of anti-clerical movements (France, Spain and the Nordic group) which oppose the introduction of such a statement in the proposed Constitution. Other countries with a history of confessional co-operation at state level (Germany, Ireland and Poland) are far more supportive.

The Convention has met to debate this issue with a preparatory clause already publicised by its supporters. It may appear anodyne and innocuous but the clause reproduced below is already enflaming a historical faultline:

"The union values include the values of those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty as well as of those who do not share such a belief but respect these universal values arising from other sources."

Noteworthy in its absence from these reported frictions is the United Kingdom. If Britain signs a European Constitution with a clause that promotes certain values, whether in the name of a God or from a secular foundation, will this have any effect upon the role of the Established Church in our unwritten constitution. Could this be construed as bowing down before the "Popish religion" under the Bill of Rights 1689, and interpreted as any extraterritorial religious authority that includes Catholicism?

This is a question about the impact of such a clause on our unwritten constitution, and does not reflect any anti-Catholic feeling on my part.


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