Monday

15th Apr 2024

God kept out of constitution

Those hoping for an explicit reference to God in the constitution will be disappointed at the long-awaited preamble to the Constitution which was published on Wednesday evening (28 May) and makes no mention of the deity.

The article, penned by Convention president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing himself, says:

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"Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, which, nourished first by the civilisations of Greece and Rome, characterised by spiritual impulse always present in its heritage and later by the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment, has embedded within the life of society its perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law."

This version of the preamble has emerged after strong divisions in the presidium, sources said.

At one stage, members of the presidium were asked by Mr Giscard to prepare individual versions of the preamble - before he came up with a version of his own.

Inevitably, the article does not go far enough for some.

Not far enough

John Bruton, member of the presidium, told the EUobserver that he believes "a greater reference should be made to the fact that many Europeans derive something beyond humanity - this would apply to those who believe in all the major religions".

"The proposal to mention God is made on philosophical grounds, not sectarian ones: it is intended as a guarantee of the fundamental dignity of the human person", says the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

The Vatican had also exerted huge pressure to have a substantial religious reference in the Constitution.

Earlier in the year, Mr Giscard gave an indication of his feelings on the matter when he said that Europeans live in a secular world.

There is no mention of God or religious values in the main body of the text either, as these values cannot be judged in a court of law.

Speculation

Speculation has already started as to whether this will have an effect on the up-coming EU membership referendum in the strongly-Catholic Poland on 7-8 June.

However, for others, it is good news.

"We are very glad a reference to God has been left out, it would have created unnecessary barriers in Europe," Terry Sanderson, vice-president of the UK's National Secular Society, told EUobserver. He added: "Europe has to be secular for it to be really unified."

The Commission is also likely to be satisfied as it called for an article that encompassed all beliefs.

Federalism

"United in an ever close fashion" now appears in the preamble. By way of backroom bargaining, federal, the black word in the UK government's dictionary, has been removed from the body of the treaty in return for having such a reference in the preamble.

However, this is also been seen as a victory for the UK government as it is a watered down version of the "ever closer union" currently in the treaties.

Convention delegates, all 105 of them, will have a chance to debate both issues as part of a general debate on the complete draft version on EU constitution which was published earlier this week.

However, there will be one tricky aspect to the whole debate - keeping the "poetry" that Mr Giscard has managed to achieve in the preamble.

"It has quite a lyrical poetic character," said Mr Bruton, who indicated that the topic will be subject to much debate in the plenary, "we will have to ensure that it still scans properly."

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