Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reconciliation Between Church and State in the Netherlands

Our Flemish correspondent VH has compiled a report on the strange new respect accorded religion by the Dutch ruling class.

First, translated from Elsevier:

Dutch Senator: Less strict separation of Church and State

By Luc van Kemenade

A secular state — with a strict separation of Church and State — is not sustainable and not desirable, according to CDA [Christian Democrat] senator and former State Secretary of Education Culture and Science, Sophie van Bijsterveld. In addition to the personal, religion also has social and public aspects, and precisely for that reason the ties with the government should be strengthened.


“The government should stay as far away as possible from all religious issues. But it does have a valuable cultural role in preservation of special religious heritage.” So writes the Senator and professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Tilburg in her book Government and Religion. This Friday, Van Bijsterveld will present her book to her fellow party member and Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin.

More involvement

“A call for separation of Church and State is often an irrational platitude,” says Van Bijsterveld. The classic democratic principle, according to the CDA party member, is wrongly shared on a massive scale. Religion plays an important role and has social and public functions. Precisely for that reason, the government should show more involvement, rather than to abstain.

Financial relations

Van Bijsterveld believes that the government should maintain close ties with religious movements, at both the local and national levels. In addition, the provision of financial means should not be shunned.

The government, for example, can play an important role in the preservation of buildings, but also the spiritual care that religious institutions provide should be financed by the State.

VH adds these comments:
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The presentation this week of the book by the Christian Democrat politician Van Bijsterveld is maybe no coincidence. The CDA is seriously moving towards a more religiously-inspired intolerant politics in the wake of the imported and successful Islamic intolerance. The attempt to cripple free speech (by trying to prosecute the cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot and other citizen “dissidents”), the renovation of the Blasphemy Law and the upcoming return of Sunday observance, for instance (closing shops and malls on Sundays — The EU is thinking of the same), show the Christian Democrats are part of the problem the Netherlands has to face.

In the article above, Luc van Kemenade refers in a link to an article by Gerry van der List, published in Elsevier in December 2006. By doing so he highlights the possibility that the Christian Democrats are deliberately moving towards undermining the separation of Church and State.

The article by Gerry van der List:

The State should not interfere with religion

Religion is not at the point of becoming extinct, as the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy correctly maintains. But a relaxed arrangement concerning religion is undesirable.

Scientists often are late to discover things that ordinary people like you and I knew for a long time. For example, the Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid [WRR, “Scientific Council for Government Policy”] published yesterday in the book Believing in the public domain the conclusion that religion is not on the verge of becoming extinct. That will be no surprise to the many millions of believers in The Netherlands and the many billions of religious citizens worldwide.

It is unfortunate that this not-so-spectacular discovery of the WRR is inspiring speculations about possible consequences for public policy. WRR President Wim van de Donk [briefly a member of the Young Socialists of the PVDA but switched to the CDA*] was wondering whether we should not move away form the “rigid normative principle” of the separation of Church and State, and strive for a more “relaxed arrangement concerning religion”.

This is nuts to Job Cohen. At the presentation of the WRR report yesterday, the Amsterdam PvdA [Labour] Mayor explained again how much he supports Islamic foundations, because religion was supposed to have a binding effect.

But that binding effect only applies to the followers of certain religious groups. Islam binds Muslims, but with its opposition to Western principles it actually undermines the very social cohesion of the Netherlands. Furthermore, the support of Mosques legitimizes reprehensible religiously-inspired practices, such as the subordination of women.

By providing privileges to believers, the government chooses sides in philosophical matters. It then asserts that belief is more valuable than unbelief, which implies an unwanted discrimination against unbelievers.

The “rigid” principle of separation of Church and State contributes towards preventing this discrimination and keeps the government from ending up in a hornets’ nest. Especially now that there is the risk of the religious propagandists of the Christen Unie [CU, “Christian Union”] entering the government [they did], this is a principle that should be vigorously defended.

More from VH:

* Note: WRR President Wim van de Donk [CDA], who in his younger years was a member of the Young Socialists of the PvdA [Labour], said about the Sharia:

“You have to learn to look beyond stereotypical images. Think of the Sharia, Islamic law. We are quick to continuously focus on the bad sides of it. A student in Damascus told me recently in a shrill way that we should not close our eyes to that, but that we, as a result of our individualistic fame of mind, do not see that that the Sharia should also be “read” as a text in which is expressed what of real importance in society is, and what really needs to be protected: family, direct relatives, community. In this respect Muslims have a vital tradition from which they can give impetus to the debate.”

Lucaswashier writes in an article on Van de Donk: “That Christians and Muslims have a common agenda is made clear in a comment [by Van de Donk] on the WRR-report “Believing in the public domain”:

“I read in the call for a need for leadership the desire for the working of community and a recognition of solidarity. In the call for leadership hides a call for a solidarity of the citizenry…

“This applies even some cartoonists or bloggers or members of parliament, when they, while making an appeal to a not really correct interpretation of freedom of expression, presume to be able to permit themselves to offend fellow citizens in their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech is never absolute, but in its — above all not to wrongly understood — great importance, has to be balanced by the fact that this freedom needs to be used responsibly towards each other. Press freedom is not pester freedom. We note these days that discussions about drawings that are retailed to be freedom of opinion — but are meant to be offensive representations of what is holy to Muslims — no longer limit themselves within the boundaries of nation-states. This gives a new perspective on the permissible. And perhaps a discussion on the question whether we still are able to deal with things that are sacred, have an eye for it.”


Homophobic Horse said...

They really do live in la-la land.

ɱØяñιηg$ʇðя ©™ said...

Or we live in a loony bin.

dienw said...

This is really cover for the importation of Islam into government policy making: do you really think he means Christianity or Judaism?