Government ministers from around Europe are meeting this week to discuss the progress of a draft EU Directive which may infringe the religious liberty of Christians.
The draft Directive aims to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Protected grounds will include sexual orientation and religion.
Similar laws are already operating in the UK and have caused difficulties for faith-based groups seeking to protect their religious ethos.
Several Roman Catholic adoption agencies are facing the axe unless they break with church teaching and place children with same-sex couples.
If the laws are passed at a European level control of these discrimination laws will pass from Westminster to Brussels, making it more difficult to seek changes in defence of religious liberty.
The draft EU Directive also includes plans to outlaw ‘harassment’ in the provision of goods and services.
The definition of ‘harassment’ could be so broad that moderate explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or other religions may fall foul.
The British Government has in the past shied away from introducing ‘harassment’ laws in this area, precisely because of concerns about how the law may hamper free speech.
When ‘harassment’ laws were introduced in Northern Ireland’s Sexual Orientation Regulations, a High Court judge removed them because, in part, of their potential impact on freedom of expression.
A number of European states have expressed caution about the Directive – which was originally intended only to cover age and disability.
Religion and sexual orientation were added as protected grounds after a campaign was mounted by activist MEPs in the European Parliament.