Church and State have distinct spheres of responsibility and ought not to interfere in each others functions. They ought, however, to be mutually helpful and it is the Church’s duty to confront the state with the necessity of exercising its responsibilities in a way consistent with the truth of God. It is this obligation which has motivated the consistent opposition of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland to the increasing integration of the United Kingdom with the European Union. The publication of the draft of the proposed European Union Constitution confirms the claims that our nation has been progressively ceding its sovereignty in its own affairs to acentralised European bureaucracy and that successive governments have been deceiving our people as to the implications for the life and character of our nation of the Treaty of Rome and all subsequent European treaties.
It is undoubtedly the case that the implementation of the proposed European Union Constitution, together with the suggested breaking up of the United Kingdom into regions of Europe, will result in the effective control of many areas of British life being transferred from Westminster to Brussels. Articles of the proposed Constitution affirm that “the Constitution, and law adopted by the Union’s Institutions in exercising the competences conferred on it, shall have primacy over the law of member states” and that member states will have competence only within areas not reserved to Brussels. Instead of being only a federation of states, the European Union is assuming the legal status of an all-inclusive state – and, indeed, the character of a state of the most bureaucratic and intrusive kind.
As citizens, many of our people will regret and indeed resent the loss to Brussels of domestic control across wide areas of national life, such as foreign, defence, security, legal, social and economic policy. As Christians, our major concern is the inevitable loss of the Biblical and Protestant constitution of our nation and throne, which, incidentally, has been foundational to the freedoms and values which have characterised our nation. Most probably the move to overturn Acts securing the Protestantism of the throne and constitution, with all the trouble that process might cause the Government, was abandoned in order to let it be brought about in time by the dictates of Europe on the basis of some anti-discrimination law. In a European superstate, Romanism would be the dominant religious and political force. Together with the loss of our dearly-secured and well-established Christian constitution, may come the loss of liberty to exercise Christian responsibilities. Given that the non-accountable judges of Europe ruled unlawful the prosecution by the Crown of a British subject charged with an orgy suited to Sodom on the ground that the Charter of Fundamental Rights upheld the right to private and family life, there is every reason to fear the implications of another European affirmation regarding “prohibition of abuse of rights”: “Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognised in this Charter or at their limitation.”
It is well documented that the various moves towards integration made under the premierships of Harold MacMillan, Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair have all been accompanied by deceiving claims that these moves would have little if any effect upon the sovereign independence of the nation. Even with the text of the proposed Constitution in the public arena, Tony Blair continues to assert that there is no fundamental change – that Britain will keep all the powers it needs to act as a sovereign state and that British courts will not be overruled on what he carefully calls “British decisions”. If, as a Government minister has claimed, the proposed Constitution is indeed a tidying-up process, with no new concessions being made, this only confirms how deluded our people have been as to the implications of the European treaties into which our governments have previously entered.
An editorial in The Scotsman of 25 May 2003 describes this superstate of over 500 million people in 25 countries as “the biggest political union ever created in the history of the world”. It is being built on the same humanistic and autonomous foundations as the tower of Babel and will no doubt be brought to a similar end. This union of nations is man-centred and God-defying. “The rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed” (Ps 2:2). “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Ps 2:4). We should pray that the Lord will graciously deliver our sadly backslidden nation from being involved further in this ungodly conglomeration and in the judgement which will come upon it. As Christian citizens we may feel helpless before the political forces of our day. But God has set His king upon His holy hill of Zion, and in His own time and way He will bring about that union of nations which we long for and which will have His blessing. It is described in Psalm 86:9: “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name”.
Even the secular press is disturbed about British citizens committing suicide at a clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, operated by a group who euphemistically use the name Dignitas. Among them were an English couple: Bob Stokes, a bad epileptic, and his wife, who suffered from multiple sclerosis. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, expressed concern that a couple could die with such ease while suffering from illnesses that did not need to make their lives unbearable. Of course, there should be concern even if the suffering was much less bearable. Thankfully Dignitas is now under investigation by the Zurich public prosecutor’s office.
Euthanasia is already legal in the Netherlands, but a study commissioned by the Dutch government shows that, in 2001, only in 54% of cases of euthanasia (up from 41% in 1996) did doctors fulfil their legal responsibility by reporting their actions. Of particular concern is the finding that in both years doctors ended the life of 900 patients without an explicit request. It should be obvious that the doctor’s duty is to make “all lawful endeavours to preserve” life. That medical staff would follow any other principle is an indication of how far, even in once predominantly Protestant lands, non-Christian presuppositions are the norm.
On the other hand, in Hungary, the Constitutional Court has rejected a petition to legalize euthanasia. In the UK, however, although it may not become law, a private member’s bill was introduced into the House of Lords with a view to legalising assisted suicide, and the circumstances are not restricted to “unbearable suffering”. It is perhaps encouraging to note a survey which showed that nearly three-quarters of doctors would refuse to perform assisted suicide if it became legal. It is significant that a majority of those questioned considered it impossible to set safe limits for euthanasia.Classrooms Under Siege
In a recent feature article with the above title, The Herald reported that “teachers perceive a deterioration in behaviour in the past five years” in Scottish schools. There were descriptions of bad language and violence being used against teachers and a general challenging of their authority. One clear problem is the lack of sanctions available to schools today. Lying behind this is a general decline in respect for authority. Beyond which, of course, lies the fact that, more and more, people are ignoring the authority of God.
Schools themselves, however, are playing their part in this turning away from God. The Herald speaks of a feeling among many in the Scottish Executive that assemblies “should be less Christian and concentrate more on the idea of instilling the belief of a ‘shared community’ in pupils, concentrating on all religions and current affairs”. A minister who sits on the South Ayrshire Education Committee has spoken out on the matter: “I believe it is a determined effort by a group of people to push through their own agenda. This is a determined attempt to marginalise Christianity. It is a politically-correct decision to take Christian worship out of schools in a country where the majority of people is Christian.” There may indeed be questions about the quality of Scottish Christianity today, but the minister’s comments are valid. There can be no doubt that, increasingly, official religion in Britain now amounts to a form of humanism which denies even the possibility that one religion – or any way of thinking apart from its own – may be true. And it denies with special vehemence the proposition that Christianity is true and that therefore every other religion is false.
Concern has also been expressed at the rise in cases of sexually transmitted diseases and the usual cry has gone out for more sex education. But there is one form of sex education which is studiously avoided, although it is revealed in an infallible book. If the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, were to be taught with conviction and with a sense of its divine authority, who knows what effect it might have?