The conference “Secular Positions in ‘Bioethics‘ — Assessment and Outlook”, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2011, at the University of Barcelona has issued a resolution on “Freedom of conscience – freedom for research.”
Resolution adopted at the conference: Secular Positions in “Bioethics” – Assessment and Outlook
30th September and 1st October 2011, Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona.
Conference sponsored by the International Humanist & Ethical Union (IHEU) (represented by Roger Lepeix), in association with the Francisco Ferrer Foundation (Spain), The Association of Atheists and Freethinkers of Catalonia, La Libre Pensée (FNLP, France), the Centre d’Action Laïque (CAL, Belgium) and the Fédération des Amis de la Morale laïque (FAML, Belgium).
Organised by: Charles Susanne (Belgium) and Michel Godicheau (France).
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE – FREEDOM FOR RESEARCH
We, Freethinkers of Europe, gathered in Barcelona on the 30th September and the 1st October 2011 to take part in a conference on bioethics, reaffirm our commitment to our full freedom of conscience towards our own lives, from the beginning to the end. We note that in many European countries, obstacles are being put in the way of our exercising this freedom of conscience. We do not accept that certain governments align themselves with dogma which is clearly religiously based, set forth as universal truths. It is unacceptable that a religious interpretation of the world is imposed on society as a whole, when the real issue is how to defend and promote a society based on mutual respect.
A religious bias should not impose its own spiritual perception of human dignity on society as a whole.
Freedom of thought was built in Europe against dogmatic authority. As such, we wish to react against the composition of the EGE (European Group on Ethics) which is completely farcical when it comes to ethical research. With the massive presence of theologians, priests and teachers from religious universities (nb. 8 out of its 15 members, one of whom is a Consecrated Virgin!1) the EGE is characterized by a complete lack of balance between philosophical ways of thinking and also between the various scientific, medical and legal bodies. There can be no better demonstration of the alliance of interests at EU level between political and clerical power than the make-up of the EGE itself.
We do not accept that European States, and the European Union itself, are trying to prop up the religious big guns with politically conservative, social and ethical aims, and as a result putting civil peace in danger, the exclusive guarantee of which is the separation of the Church and the State.
Freedom of conscience is always the first freedom to be threatened when there is an alliance between political and clerical powers. This alliance takes control over our lives, based on doctrine imposed on us by a religious hierarchy which is in no way representative and in no way democratic.
Freedom of thought in Europe is therefore in danger. We protest against the dogmatic use of the concept of human dignity, which leads, among other things, to the unwarranted ban on research on embryos, on embryonic stem cells, and on our decisions on life and death. The participants of this conference pursue only one goal, as shown by our work in Barcelona: to shed light on knowledge, all knowledge, so that each citizen can make up his or her own mind, free from all mind control.
We therefore wish to protest against this form of fundamentalism, present in various States, which is brought about by a group of zealots who want to impose on every human being their own non-secular perceptions, based wholly on theological criterion, even on those who do not share their religious beliefs. This has a name, one we thought had disappeared from European vocabulary: totalitarianism.
The participants of this conference seize this opportunity to pay tribute to and express their support for all those who are concerned with these questions, be they health professionals, ethics committees members and those responsible for public policy in one way or another, who defend with courage and insight the principles of this declaration, and the values of freedom that are important to us all.
1. Marie-OJ Thiel (France) Teacher at the University of Strasbourg, Director of the European Centre for Research and Education in Ethics at the University of Strasbourg, PhD in Theology (University of Metz and University of Strasbourg). She belongs to an order of consecrated virgins which has as its mission “to bring the love of God to the heart of the world”.