EU Commission protecting religious privilege from scrutiny

Humanists complain to European Ombudsman: “EU COMMISSION DEFYING LISBON TREATY”

The European Humanist Federation has accused the European Commission of refusing to comply with the Lisbon Treaty. It has lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman.

Article 17:3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (introduced by the Lisbon Treaty) requires the EU to conduct a ‘regular, open and transparent dialogue’ with ‘philosophical and non-confessional organisations’ no less than with the churches and religious organisations. The Commission has for many years routinely conducted ‘dialogue seminars’ with the two conferences of European bishops.

In March the European Humanist Federation (EHF), the main body representing nonreligious people in Europe, proposed a dialogue seminar for the first time, seeking to discuss the problems arising from religious exemptions in EU directives against discrimination. The Commission refused to discuss the subject. Attempts over the last four months to obtain a shift in the Commission’s position, culminating in a letter to President Barroso himself, have produced no result.

“The Commission is refusing to let the EHF meet the officials who deal with policy on nondiscrimination,” said David Pollock, President of the EHF. “Yet the official in charge is aware of the difficulties, as was clear when he spoke at a recent meeting in the European Parliament. The Commission’s incomprehensible excuse is that we want to talk about religion or philosophy and that this lies outside the Commission’s area of competence. Of course it does – but (as we have pointed out in vain) what we want to discuss is not religion but human rights, equality and non-discrimination, and these lie squarely within the Commission’s competence. Exactly the same problem arose last year over a conference the Commission proposed to subsidise for us, with the result that it was never held.

“For too long,” said Mr Pollock, “we have suffered disdainful treatment from the Commission that stands in marked contrast to their receptive attitude to the churches. It took years of pressure while the Commission organised annual summit meetings with the churches before they created a parallel meeting for non-confessional organisations. “We did not want to make a public complaint but we were left with no other recourse. This is either incompetence by the Commission or, we fear, an attempt to protect religious privilege from scrutiny.”

European Humanist Federation | 19 October 2011


  • David Pollock, President: 0044 20 8800 3542 / 0044 7866 806 932 /
  • Pierre Galand, Vice-President: 0032 4755 58754 /
  • Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty, secretariat: 0032 4841 83535 /


You will find at :

(a) the EHF’s letter to President Barroso, our complaint to the Ombudsman and our previous
correspondence with the Commission

(b) information about the EHF and about the size of the non-religious population in Europe;

(c) details of the exemptions for religion in the EU non-discrimination directives;

(d) evidence of the Commission’s competence in the areas proposed for the dialogue

(e) the source for the Commission official in charge of non-discrimination being aware of the

(f) a link to the website of the relevant Commission office and details of the religious

2 Responses to EU Commission protecting religious privilege from scrutiny


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