European Union nations promote religious freedom globally while discriminating inside their own borders against Muslims, Jews and those who express religious convictions concerning marriage and family issues, according to a new report.
Restrictions on religious clothing and ritual slaughter, for example, are among pressures driving Jews and Muslims to emigrate from the EU to other nations, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported Monday.
The six-page brief from the USCIRF, an independent panel, cited examples across the continent of religious practices banned or curtailed by legislation.
In the Netherlands, Muslim women say they have “increasingly avoided public places” since the passage of a 2019 law prohibiting face covering clothing such as burqas and niqabs on public transportation and in schools and government buildings, among other places.
Belgium’s ban on “wearing clothes that completely hide the face” has been supported by the European Court of Human Rights — a body not connected with the EU — and by the Belgian Constitutional Court, which affirmed the ban’s application in universities, the paper noted.
Jews and Muslims in nine EU member states face “some level of restrictions” on religious slaughter practices, USCIRF said. Both religions require a quick method of slaughter without stunning or anesthetizing animals, but the various laws either ban halal or kosher slaughtering methods, or severely restrict same.
Both the Church of Scientology and Jehovah’s Witnesses have drawn scrutiny from French and German governments or businesses, causing difficulties for individuals and congregations. A 2023 law in France allows authorities to infiltrate groups by impersonating delivery persons, remotely access electronic communications or plant recording devices in vehicles and private or public places. French violators of the “anti-sect” law can face up to seven years in prison and a one million Euro ($1.068 million) fine.
According to USCIRF, “sect filters” must be signed by recipients of government grants or potential employees attesting they are not connected to the Church of Scientology. In 2021, an administrative court in Baden-Württemberg ruled in favor of an airport security electrical engineer because the individual was a Scientologist, the paper indicated.
In Finland, prosecutors continue to seek the conviction of lawmaker Paivi Räsänen, an evangelical Christian charged with “hate speech” after she quoted Bible verses condemning homosexuality in a Twitter post and published a booklet with the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Dioceses of Finland supporting traditional views of marriage and gender.
A spokesperson for the European Union in Brussels did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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