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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsIn this video, we will look at the draft Constitution for the European Union, and discussions on the role of religion in this context from the perspective of identity.

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 secondsA constitution is central not only for granting certain civil rights, but also, for the development of a political identity. The philosopher, Etienne Balibar has rightly pointed out that the symbols and the institutional frame are not the superstructure of a political identity, but they are its very core. The Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed in 2007, is not an official Constitution of the European Union since with the Fed referenda on its text in the Netherlands and France in 2005, and the following debates, no agreement could be reached. Although officially entitled Treaty on the Functioning of the Union, the Lisbon Treaty still includes most parts of the earlier document, and can be considered a Constitutional text.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsArticle 2-10 grants everybody the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, which includes the right to change religion and belief, and the freedom either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, practise, and observance. These provisions are along the lines of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and were not disputed. And as we have heard in this lecture this week, they corresponded to the provisions according to German law, for example. Interestingly, however, there was a long debate about whether or not God could and should be explicitly mentioned in the preamble. References were eventually not included.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 secondsBut it reads, "Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious, and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law." In a critical reading, one could remark that with the idea of universal values that sprang from European heritage, the text terminology builds on teleological and euro-centric approaches to history. Regardless of how far wants to take it with these kinds of conclusions here, it is at least understandable that in discussing the role of religion in the EU, and sociologists, like Jose Casanova, perceive secularisation as part of the development of religion itself.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 secondsHe speaks of a de-churching that does not necessarily say anything about how religious or not a society and its politics, in fact, are. And you can hear more about his positions further in the interview that is part of this course. According to a Eurobarometer poll from 2014, as much as 5% of Europeans asked consider religion an important aspect of their values. Human rights, peace, respect for human life were all mentioned by around 40%. That does not mean that religion is not important, and it does not mean that the fact that many refugees coming to Europe now are Muslims does not affect the debate on their treatment.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 secondsWe get back to this case, and we conclude here by referring to what Casanova and many of us rightly ask for, and that is an open and honest debate on the role of religion in Europe, in order to constructively overcome difficulties when dealing with the cases like EU-Turkey relations or the so-called refugee crisis.

European secularism

In this video, Dr Lars Klein looks at the draft constitution of the EU. Is religion present in this document? And if yes, how?

The draft constitution was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands in referenda held in 2005. It was revised and accepted by all member-states in 2007, as the Treaty of Lisbon (which you can read in full here).

Although, after extensive debating, God was not mentioned in the treaty, its preamble does refer to Europe’s ‘religious inheritance’. To what extent does such an abstract reference say anything about religion in Europe?

Every now and then, surveys are held which supposedly measure their respondents’ religiosity. But can religious feelings be fully captured in a survey answer? That is to ask, what value should we attach to these kinds of labels, if we want to understand the role of religion in Europe?

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This video is from the free online course:

European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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