Is Conscientious Objection in Danger?

10341608_787124681321606_3506444467535812283_nAs the old saying goes, “everything in life has a solution, except for death.” This Spanish proverb sheds some light on how death is viewed in our society, elusive yet inevitable. In proper society, death rarely has a place in conversation. Now is one of those times. Euthanasia has become a pressing issue and a compelling conversation topic.

On Monday, June 17th our European World Youth Alliance team was pleased to co-host a seminar to discuss conscientious objection and how it relates to euthanasia. This topic is especially relevant for all those in Belgium, where our European office is situated, due to the recently passed legislation that has extended legal euthanasia to children. This has effectively removed any age limit on something that had previously only been legally accessible to adults. When legal euthanasia was ushered in 12 years ago, few guessed that it was opening a door for child euthanasia as well.

Andreea Popescu, a lawyer at the European Centre for Law and Justice and a former WYA intern, first gave a presentation on conscientious objection and explained some of the intricacies involved. She began by explaining that freedom of conscience comes directly from human dignity, as it is a natural human right. Ms. Popescu then emphasized the difference between religious objection and conscientious objection. The key difference between the two is that conscientious objection comes from what the individual perceives as objectively good or bad, and not from a higher authority. To clarify this notion, she explained that when it is a matter of conscientious objection, the faith of the individual is not the source of the objection. The religion of the individual is therefore not evident to another person. To further cement the meaning of conscientious objection, Ms. Popescu gave some concrete examples from the European Court of Human Rights to help all the non-lawyers in the room to keep up with such a complex issue.

Then, Ms. Popescu made the point that every law is interpreted in light of some ideology that has shaped convention. Ms. Popescu expounded that at the root of this ideology is not liberalism as people often claim, but cultural Marxism. While Marxism did not directly influence the West, we suffered from a shift in thinking, which facilitated the spreading of what can be called revolutionary ideas. Ms. Popescu made the excellent observation that before a political revolution can take place, there must be a cultural revolution. Also, to have a serious impact, such a revolution must start from the ground up. A fundamental change occurs in everyday language and in the vocabulary used by people. This translates into a stronger focus on political correctness and a divorce between language and truth. One instance of this shift in vocabulary is changing from “a right of” to “a right to.” This change in language has effectively reshaped our way of thinking.

Ms. Popescu finally focused on several courses of action in the European Court of Human Rights in which the case of conscientious objection has been infringed upon or denied. After speaking about rights, she concluded by saying, “Euthanasia is not a right, it is an exception to the right to life.”

By Brigid King, an intern at the WYA Europe Office

Read the press release on the event here.