True equality respects every person – Bishops’ Conference

Warning against the creation of parallel structures which stifle rights and undermine fundamental rights

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Bishops of Malta and Gozo warned that no legal amendments which have as an aim the support of equality should create structures “which run parallel to the Courts”.

In a statement signed by Archbishop Charles J Scicluna, Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi and Bishop Anton Theuma, they underlined that government needs to be careful not to create such parallel structures since these would “indirectly stifle the rights of others and effectively make it more difficult for persons to safeguard their fundamental rights”.

In their statement, the Bishops referred to the two equality bills currently before parliament. They said that the Church joins all efforts made to eradicate discrimination and promote equality. Re-affirming the accepted precepts that there should be no discrimination on the basis of their race, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, political ideology “or any other characteristic that makes a person unique”, the Bishops added that this is a requirement for the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.  

Freedom of conscience and religion

Referring to declarations reported in the media as well as certain clauses in the Bills, the Bishops expressed concern that these “have serious implications on the freedom of every person”. They pointed out that freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion for all persons living in Malta and Gozo have so far always been safeguarded by the Constitution of Malta, by the European Convention and also by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. “If the Bills are not amended with caution and transparency, they will threaten the fundamental freedom that we have always cherished” warned the Episcopal Conference.

The right of parents to choose their children’s schools

The Bishops made a strong appeal to safeguard the right of parents to choose their children’s schools. The choice of a Church school is made on the basis of its ethos and values. In the same way, pointed out the Bishops, those who lead these schools are chosen to protect these same precepts.“These appointments should not be considered to be discriminatory. This would ensure that we safeguard the right of parents – in itself, a fundamental right – that the education and teaching received by their children are in conformity with their religious and philosophical beliefs” stressed the Bishops.

Church Schools’ ethos

The principles, values and ethos of the school are not only passed on during religion lessons but also through various subjects such as PCSD, history, literature, environmental studies, science, languages and other subjects, as well as during activities held at school and out of the school premises, together with co-curricular activities. The Bishops said that “Educators must be chosen in such a way that they are suitably qualified and equipped to contribute to the growth of the school’s ethos throughout all these subjects and activities. Someone who is indifferent or completely hostile to the school’s ethos cannot accomplish this”.

The right to conscientious objection

The Bishops accepted that the Equality Law should include the right to conscientious objection. This, they said, will ensure that no one is forced to engage in, form part of, promote or participate in activities that go against their conscience, and the principles and values that they embrace.

“It should also be ensured that no structures which run parallel to the Courts of the country are created as whilst declaring that they are promoting equality, these structures will indirectly stifle the rights of others and effectively make it more difficult for persons to safeguard their fundamental rights” affirmed the Bishops.

These principles, concluded the Bishops, can strengthen these Bills in favour of equality and against all discrimination. “They are principles that embrace diversity and not uniformity. True equality respects every person, allows for and celebrates differences and does not eliminate them”.

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