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Sunday, October 24, 2004
An omen of what is to come

Stephen Pollard's Sunday Telegraph column on the effort to stop Mr Buttiglioni becoming a EuroCommissioner is simply excellent. Linking Brussels contempt for popular opinion to the EU Constitution debate, he paints a damning portrait of the future that lies ahead if Britain is to accept this document as her own supreme law.

Mr Buttiglione's crime is to hold views which do not neatly fit into the EU establishment mainstream and to have tried to bring intellectual discourse into a deeply political arena. Asked by a member of the Parliament's Justice Committee whether he regarded homosexuality as a sin, Mr Buttiglione confirmed that he did. He went on to say that traditional marriage allows "women to have children while having the protection of a man".

... Mr Buttligione stressed as he answered the MEP's questions that he made a "Kantian distinction" between his private views and his public policies. As he put it: "Although I may think that homosexuality is a sin, this has no effect on politics, unless I say that homosexuality is a crime. Many things may be considered immoral which should not be prohibited. The state has no right to stick its nose into these things. I believe in freedom, which means not imposing on others what one considers correct."

That difference between private morality and public policy, and the inability of many MEPs and commentators to comprehend such a distinction, is clearly an important issue in itself. But there is a deeper theme raised by Mr Buttiglione's words. To the northern, liberal European mindset - that of the Scandinavian countries, of France and of the UK - his comments are starkly shocking in the bluntness of their moralising.

Yet for much of the EU - to many Italians and Spaniards, to the populations of the new member states and to those of the aspirant countries, for instance - there is nothing in the least bit unusual about his sentiments. To them he would merely have been stating the obvious.

In speaking his mind, Mr Buttiglione demonstrated that there are fundamental splits within the EU.

... Europe is not alone in such divides, of course. The religious fundamentalists who exercise such influence in some US states view the East and West coasts as cesspits of vice. But there is a critical difference. In the US, the people themselves are able to decide how and when their own morality should be applied in government.

If the proposed EU constitution is adopted, it will not matter what Mr Buttiglione, or anyone else, thinks. Most areas of morality and fundamental policy would no longer be amenable to democratic decision making; they are dictated in the text of the constitution. US states will be freer than EU member states to legislate as their populations see fit. US states can decide, for example, whether to have the death penalty. The new EU constitution says: "No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed."

... On Thursday's Question Time on BBC1, Peter Tatchell said that a man with Mr Buttiglione's beliefs could not, "by any reasonable democratic standards", be a Commissioner. A more inverted statement of the truth would be hard to imagine. Neither I nor Mr Tatchell might care for Mr Buttiglione's views but public opinion in many parts of the EU back them fully. It is the attempt to exclude such views from acceptable public discourse that is anti-democratic.

Even many radically liberal activists in the United States believe that their agenda should be put into force by suasion and democracy rather than judicial fiat. But in the European Union, the agenda is arrogantly and unquestioningly pushed through the courts, measures to quash conservative and classically liberal values idly inserted as official treaty provisions alongside fishing quotas.

If anyone doubts this mentality, just gasp at the amazing chutzpah displayed by Matthew Parris in the Sunday Times.

Signor Buttiglione claims that he has been the victim of anti-Christian discrimination. This brings us to the ethical battle. I shall take sides, no doubt demonstrating my own unfitness for the role of Justice Commissioner. I think Signor Buttiglione has indeed been the the victim of anti-Christian discrimination, and that such discrimination is now in order. By "discrimination" I do not mean "disqualification", I mean "subject to special scrutiny".

There are Christians and Christians, as there are Muslims and Muslims, Jews and Jews, Hindus and Hindus. But well within the mainstreams of all four faiths are to be found core beliefs which now lie right outside the mainstream of modern European thought. Let me mention a few. Catholic, evangelical Christian, Orthodox Judaic and Muslim teaching on homosexuality and divorce; much Muslim practice as to the status of women; some Hindu teaching on caste; and Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion are unacceptable and insulting, not only to me but also to the majority of Europeans, and the overwhelming majority of educated Europeans. I do not shrink from according special status to the educated, for they lead thought.

Those thoughtful Catholics who have asked whether members of their church are now effectively banned from holding senior office in the EU have their answer. Yes, Parris says he would accept efforts to 'convince' people that one's duties would not have adverse effect, but it is difficult to imagine a clearer and more forceful statement of this distinction than that quoted above from Buttiglioni - and Parris still demands that the whole Commission be sacked in preference to his appointment going forward.

Just as a few decades ago decent, talented people who happened to be homosexual were regularly hounded from their jobs for private acts that had no bearing on their ability to do that job, capable and diligent religious people of many stripes will now suffer the same discrimination, denied the "special status" granted to those who picked the 'right' faith of secular liberalism and Brussels hegemony.

Where America has the separation of church and state - essentially the Kantian distinction Buttiglioni makes - to work for the EU institutions one cannot even think certain religious thoughts, no matter how much one separates them from their work. The church of Eurofederalist liberalism, and the Eurofederalist state, are to be one and the same.

Matthew Parris is right about one thing: the educated elite do lead thought. In the nineteenth century, they were the primary constituency for eugenics. In the early twentieth century, they flocked to the flag of disarmament and appeasement. Throughout the Cold War, the much lamented shortage of communists was always among working people, not liberal intellectuals. It wasn't the wisdom of the educated elite which saved us from each of these causes, but the common sense of ordinary Britons. Now this class of people - often the very same people - assure us that ancient institutions that define human existence, like marriage and the nation state, can be retro-fitted and replaced without harm. Knowing all this, I too am inclined to regard the well-educated with a certain 'special status'. Where Mr Parris and I differ is that I want my special status to be no more than a personal outlook, not an issue for legal discrimination. But it would be ridiculous for me to deny that the European Union is heading his way and not mine.

If you happen to agree with the dominant worldview of today's political elite, this won't look all that bad - although even those who do might stop to wonder at the sort of continent we'd now have if a century ago prevailing ideas on the role of women and the rights of homosexuals had been enshrined for good in a European Constitution.

But for the rest of us, those who do believe personal faith can answer some moral questions better than secular liberalism, or that marriage does indeed do social good in protecting women and children, or countless other things that may be rare, unusual and just plain different - for example, someone who takes high doses of vitamin tablets or believes in alternative remedies - the institutions and laws of the European Union, and therefore all its member states, will be against you. And there will be almost nothing you can hope to do about it.

Welcome to a federal Europe.

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