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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Beyond the separation of church and state

I can't say I'm surprised by the current drama over the mention of Christianity in the EU constitution. The plot has thickened in the last few days.

Malta has added its voice to that of new EU members Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in supporting a claim originally made by Italy and Portugal, after Spain's new socialist government withdrew its support for this stand.

This insistence that the EU recognize Europe's Christian traditions in its constitution has already met with firm objections from Britain, France and Germany.

I'm hoping that this issue will bring up new discussions about the separation of church and state in Malta. The current political environment over ideas such as reproductive rights and divorce are clearly driven by a lack of appreciation of the subtleties of the relationship between liberty and religious values, from conservative Maltese politicians.

For me this is one of the good things that Malta's membership in the EU has already brought: the possibility to discuss the rights for free thinking individuals. If the price to pay for this is a mention of the Holy Roman Christian Empire in the EU constitution, so be it! I doubt history needs an EU constitution to serve as a banner for the good, the bad and the ugly that came out of Christianity in the last two millennia.

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