By Paul Coleman of Alliance Defending Freedom
Voters have a chance to shape the future of international human rights in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament this Thursday through Saturday, May 22-24.
Despite political apathy and historically low voter turn-out, the European Union’s 500 million inhabitants must understand that voting matters. The elections will determine parliament for the next five years, establishing the 750 members and one president who will legislate EU policy with the Council of the EU. The parliament is the only EU body directly voted by EU voters.
Given the overwhelming nature of EU politics, it is natural for many to feel helpless and indifferent. But there are several reasons why voters must become politically engaged and fight for fundamental human rights: religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
First, international organizations are a permanent part of the legal and political landscape. Their budgets and staff continue to grow every year, with new subsidiary institutions being formed. New treaties are frequently signed, and more and more states are becoming members of these international bodies with very few ever leaving.
Second, human dignity is under attack internationally and this demands a response. Opponents of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family, are actively working to advance a progressive agenda undermining these values. In February, the European Parliament passed the Lunacek Report which recommends that EU member states adopt the homosexual legal agenda. The report, also known as the “Roadmap for LGBTI Rights,” prohibits so-called “hate crimes,” “hate speech,” and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. European Dignity Watch, a Brussels-based think-tank, rightly notes that the report jeopardizes freedom of speech, religion, conscience, and parental rights.
Last year, these opponents also introduced a “Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” to the European Parliament to establish abortion as a human right. Commonly called the Estrela Report after its author, MEP Edite Estrela, the document advocated for abortion without restrictions and would have undermined the rights of parents and medical providers with conscience objections. Although the majority of the European Parliament rejected this highly controversial report, liberal activists continue to try to undermine human rights internationally.
Third, international and regional institutions have enormous and increasing influence on national decisions. In 2006, for example, Colombia’s highest court decriminalized abortion in certain circumstances. The court’s 650-page decision cited numerous international documents and opinions from various United Nations bodies.
Recently, the UN recommended that Austria expand its Equal Treatment Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination laws. This amendment would have undermined religious freedom. It was only after a concerted effort from various religious freedom proponents, including Alliance Defending Freedom, that the legislation was dropped. These examples show how international pressure can lead to altering laws and eroding human rights.
Fourth, international and regional organizations promoting abortion and same-sex marriage have multi-million dollar budgets. This money comes from contributions from member states which are provided by taxpayers. Although citizens of a member state may not have voted for these organizations, they are indirectly funding them through their tax dollars. Citizens must acknowledge their responsibility in bankrolling these efforts.
Given these compelling reasons, political apathy is not the answer. If EU citizens remain indifferent, human rights will continue to be eroded; abortion will become a right, family and marriage will be redefined, and religious liberty will be annihilated.
But EU inhabitants can make a difference. The upcoming parliamentary elections give EU citizens the opportunity to make their voices heard. They can become politically engaged and advocate for human rights or they can retreat and surrender. Their response will determine the future of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family worldwide.
Paul Coleman serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom in Vienna, Austria. He is co-author of the new book, ‘The Global Human Rights Landscape: Understanding the International Organizations and the Opportunities for Engagement.’
Alliance Defending Freedom is an international alliance-building legal organization that advocates for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and the family. Alliance Defending Freedom is at the forefront of legal battles in these areas, with more cases before the European Court of Human Rights than any other faith-based legal organization, and involvement in numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Alliance Defending Freedom has an alliance of nearly 2,300 attorneys worldwide. ADF is also accredited with the European Parliament, EU Fundamental Rights Agency, Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, and Organization for American States, and has consultative status with the United Nations.