Christianity in the Constitution

The 'push' to finalise the main features of the European Constitution before the German presidency ends in June has once again stumbled. Angela Merkel has announced that it is unlikely there will be a reference to the European Christian heritage in the preamble to the Treaty. Personally, I couldn't be happier.

My reasons are twofold. Firstly, such a reference is irrelevant to a union that is only fifty years old and distinctly multicultural in nature. This Treaty is a modern project, born in the 21st century to revise and reform what is no longer applicable in the post-war Treaty of Rome. It should shape the future of the EU-27, not reflect the past; especially not the distant past.

What is now the EU was born out of a war ravaged continent in the mid-twentieth century. As a result, I see no valid reason why the legal text that binds the EU must make reference to the heritage of a continent that dates back at least three or four hundred years. Our Christian heritage is the Holy Roman Empire and the age of englightement, a time when supranationalism was yet to be invented. Such a reference would strike of backdating the constitution to the middle ages and beyond, as if European union (small 'u') has always been around. That just isn't factually correct. If anything the Christian heritage of Europe, whereby church and state were one and the same institution, was when European wars were at their most bloody and a root cause for many of the problems which we have now begun to emerge from.

Secondly, I find it hypocritical of the EU to justify such suggestions, particularly the Commission. This is an institution that attempts to promote cultural diversity, tolerance and equality day and night. According to Barroso, it is important to recognise the 'human dignity' that is comon across Europe, something that is not at all exclusive to the Christian faith. In fact, the blatant indigntiy that surrounded the horror of the Holocaust probably did more to drive European nations together than a Christian heritage ever did.

Finally, one wonders what difference it would make if a reference to the Christian heritage were put in the Constitution. Personally, I believe with a social policy agenda of respect and diversity, it would have very little impact on policy making if it were included - the two topics simply don't appear compatible. With religion being a very personal affair, you wonder whether to recognise a Christian heritage is actually an attempt to bring Europe closer to the people.

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