Posts Tagged 'Strasbourg France'

How The Arrest Of Evangelists At Oslo’s Independence Day Parade Was Discriminatory

 

I have seen a lot of discrimination up close and personal.  As an attorney, I have represented evangelists for years after they have been threatened with arrest for sharing their faith in public places.  This is amazing considering that there is very little other activity that authorities care about in public places.  You can sale almost anything.  You can play music that borders on obscene, but do not read from a Bible or tell people how to become Christians.

 In Europe this is becoming even truer—Europeans are afraid to confront Muslims and the homosexual community in public places, but it is slowly becoming open season on Christians.

 In Oslo, Norway the discrimination currently seems to be limited only to large gatherings like parades.  Normal days come and go with no arrests.  Let there be a big event, like a Pride Parade or a parade celebrating independence and the rules are suspended.  The rules are not suspended because of any great theory.

 Before the Pride Parade in 2007, Petar Keseljevic and I spoke on the telephone regarding what his rights were in public places in Oslo.  I informed him that he had a right to be in public areas as long as he did not block the ability of people move along the sidewalks.  He should be careful not to block any vehicles.  Finally, he should not speak directly to individuals; rather he should speak to the group as a whole about the principles of eternal life he was sharing.

 For several days before the parade Petar asked local politicians and local police departments if he could get a permit that would allow him to be on the sidewalks during the parade.  He was told repeatedly that no permit was necessary for public speaking in public places. 

 After all, the logic went, Norway is a democratic country.  We permit free speech and religion.

 Yet, when the day in question arrived, Petar was arrested.

 The next year there was no point in asking whether he needed a permit.  So, on Norwegian Independence Day 2008 Petar and Larry Keffer showed up and began to share their faith.

 First they were merely asked to move somewhere away from the Palace of the King and Queen.  They complied, but because this was a day with a large public gathering they were arrested.

 Never mind the fact that one a couple of occasions Petar and Larry were accosted by “standers by.”  Both of these incidents occurred while the police were present, watching the evangelists work.  There were only two arrests—the evangelists.

 The discrimination in question took place when the police decided to target only Christian speech.  We are quickly moving toward a world where anything offensive is not permitted.  At the same time, we are moving toward a world where Christian speech is, by definition, offensive.

 This is a discrimination we cannot live with.  This would mean that only secularism or other, less insistent religions are acceptable.

 The European Convention on Human Rights and Norwegian law guarantee free speech and religious freedom to all people.  Yet, when the message is New Testament Evangelical Christianity those rights are suddenly not guaranteed.

 Not only were Petar and Larry arrested, but the Oslo Criminal Court ruled that they were rightly arrested.  The appeals court agreed, as did the Supreme Court.  Now, their fate is in the hands of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

 This level of discrimination is just beginning for Christians in America and in Europe.  It is deep rooted and the roots are growing deeper as both Continents grow more and more secularized.

 If we are uncomfortable with this level of discrimination we are going to be even less happy with the levels to come.  Eventually, we will be going from discrimination to persecution. 

 Then we really are in trouble!

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Why The European Court Of Human Rights Refuses To Hear The German Home School Cases

            Courts are hard to figure out.  That is true in America; it is even truer in Europe.  One of the problems with the European Court system—especially the international courts—is that they are very politically oriented.  There are a number of reasons for this sensitivity to the politics of the European Union and the Council of Europe.  These reasons lay the foundation for why the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) refuses to hear a variety of cases; the most conspicuous of these cases is the German Home School cases.

 

            There have been literally dozens of home school cases brought to the attention of the ECHR.  The closest the court has come to looking at the cases is the Konrad case where the court issued a couple of pages praising the German courts and their thorough look at the case before the ECHR refused to hear the case.  Typically the court issues a couple of sentences declaring that they do not find an issue worthy of their time.

 

            Upon this pallet we look at the reasons for this consistent refusal to enter into an area of the law that is extremely straightforward.  Parents have the right to control the education of their children guaranteed by the German Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.  Furthermore, both instruments guarantee the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

 

            I have talked with people throughout Europe and Germany seeking answers to the questions of why the Germans fear home schooling so much and why the courts will not provide a fair hearing on the issue.

 

            Here is what I have learned as to the ECHR. 

 

            In the fall of 2000 I was at a reception in Strasbourg, France, the home of the ECHR.  At this reception were members of the European Parliament and justices from the ECHR.  The Clerk of the Court was also present.  During the course of the evening I was able to speak with the lady who was the clerk, she shared with me the greatest fear the court had at the time.

 

            The court, she explained, was fighting to keep its budget in tact from the Council of Europe.  At the time there were budget cuts going throughout the governments of Europe.  Many were declaring that the ECHR had outlived its usefulness and could easily be cut out of the budget.

 

            This fear alone is enough to create tension on the court when decisions are being made involving countries with great political and financial influence in the European Union and the Council of Europe.  Those countries are Germany, France, and England.

 

            These three countries provide the majority of the money to the Union and the Council.  These countries thus wield the most influence.  This is highlighted by the nature of the creation of the court.  The ECHR was established in a post World War II world where the greatest fears were human rights violations.  At the same time, the Soviet Union was creating political tension in Europe and the West wanted to show that they were champions of human rights.  Thus, the court was created. 

 

With the power to dry up the budget of the court and the threat, however subtle, to use the power, the countries of greatest influence further politicize the nature of the court.

 

            European courts are much more politically sensitive than our courts.  This sensitivity comes into play when the court is determining which cases to hear and what decision to give once a case has been accepted.

 

            In the case of the German Home School cases the decision is to not even accept the cases.  This keeps the court from coming into direct conflict with the German government on an issue that is extremely critical to them—the issue of home schooling which is primarily Christian based.

 

            Their refusal to accept any of these cases further emboldens German authorities and they have, as a result, declared a war of sorts on home school families in Germany.

 

            I firmly believe that if these cases were coming from former Soviet Bloc countries the court would have already accepted a case and ruled in favor of the parents.  If the court continues to refuse to protect the rights of parents, they will embolden other countries and we will eventually have a case from one of the Soviet Bloc countries on which to test my theory.

Help Me Stand With Larry Keffer

When American missionary Larry Keffer began street evangelism in Oslo, Norway he knew the cost would be great!  He knew that he could be arrested!  He knew that he could find himself in court and possibly even in jail! 

 

He went anyway!  And he shared his faith in public places.  He did this because he knows how important it is to continue to try and reach the world with the Christian faith.  Larry also knows the importance of bringing the Gospel message to Europe—the spiritually dark continent. 

 

In the midst of calmly sharing his message Larry was arrested.  I represented Larry at trial.  He was convicted because the Norwegian police law actually carries more weight than the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  In America Larry might have been arrested, but as soon as we went to court he would have been found not guilty.

 

Now Larry has lost his case at the Norwegian Court of Appeals and we are preparing to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Norway.  From there, if we lose we will go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France in our quest for justice for Larry.

 

Stand with me as I stand with Larry in the courts of Europe.  Together we can make a difference!  Together we can keep the door open for the proclamation of the Gospel in Europe!

 

You can stand with Larry, the IHRG, and me by going to our website.  Your tax deductible gift will help keep the door open for Christians in Europe who are fighting to bring freedom.

American Jurisprudence Under Obama

The photo above shows you the new seat of power in America, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

 

I do not believe in conspiracies—it takes too much human intelligence to carry them off, especially when moving from one generation to the next.  They make for great novels and great movies, but reality is far from conspiracies.

 

            Now that the election is over I think the whole country is in for a rude awakening.  Though there is no conspiracy, we are set for liberals in the government to drag us much further to the left than most of us find comfortable.  I believe we are country just to the right of center—not far to the right.

 

            At the same time, we are country that prides ourselves on our independence.  We are not moved by cries that other countries are not doing things the way we are.  For years now we have lived in a world where we are the lone voice in a variety of matters.  One of the most negative consequences of the Iraq War is not that the rest of the world is not happy with our role in Iraq.  The reality is that the world does not like our power, the Iraq War is just a great way to put a title on the hatred.

 

            I think the most negative consequence of the Iraq War is that from it we have come to believe that we should learn to live according to the dictates of world opinion.  This past election was partly about getting in step with the world.  How many times did Obama tell us that he would restore our favor around the world?

 

            “Restore our favor around the world,” that seems a fairly tall order.  How did we loose our favor?  What was our favor before we lost it?  The fact of the matter is that for decades now Europe has been drifting from God at such a rapid pace that it is probably more accurate to say that they are racing from God.  Europeans have looked at the American world as old fashioned and mind-numbingly moral.

 

            The only way we are going to find Europe aligned with America is for us to move to their view on same-sex marriage, religion, free speech, catering to Islam, and government entitlement programs.  We will only find ourselves the object of European affection if we become part of the European Union, a European State.

 

            In other words, we will find favor in Europe if we surrender our sovereignty to the European Union.  If we become a nation of no consequence in the world we can be seen favorably by the world.  That is hardly what we are accustomed to as a nation.

 

            One of the places where this will show up first in an Obama world is in our courts.  One of the purest powers of the presidency is the appointment of judges to serve lifetime appointments in the federal courts.

 

            In recent years we have Supreme Court Justices who have started turning to our more enlightened brothers in Europe to help them determine the best way to rule in cases of moral consequence like same-sex marriage issues.  They actually ruled against American legal precedence based on the holding of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.  This is particularly troubling because the American Court acknowledged that they were ruling against our law based on the enlightened view of the older culture of Europe.

 

            The federal courts, thus, are surrendering our sovereignty to Europe.  We can expect more of that under Obama.  We should not expect it to be a slow turning, but a rapid turning.

 

            I personally think America being more internationally minded is a good thing.  I do not however, believe that we should surrender our sovereignty to the rest of the world. One of the greatest gifts we offer the world is the gift of freedom; freedom is never found in surrendering your sovereignty.


Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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