Silver Spring, Maryland, USA ... [ANN] Religious liberty restrictions currently under discussion by the European Parliament are viewed with concern by Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders. Proposals to identify and curtail many religious groups in Europe are a real threat to religious liberty, according to Dr. John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.

"We are concerned about the situation developing in Europe," says Graz. "For the European Parliament to be debating a document identifying ‘dangerous sects’ that includes recognized religious minorities is an alarming development."

Reports in the U.S. press indicate that human rights organizations are also worried about the developments. The Washington Times notes that a number of European countries are compiling anti-sect lists. The German list numbers 800 entries, with Belgium listing 187 and France 172, including Baptists. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has already protested over its name appearing on the Belgian list, which also includes four Catholic organizations, Hasidic Jews, and the YWCA (Young Woman’s Christian Association).

"From this we see religious minorities are only to be tolerated, and this is not true religious liberty," said Graz. "This gives such minorities the impression of being second-class citizens and being on some kind of media or community blacklist. We do not need to go too far back in European history to see what happens when a religious minority was oppressed. Anti-semitism was common through much of Europe just fifty years ago." Graz comes from Europe and holds both Swiss and French citizenship.

This trend in western Europe comes after Russia’s crackdown on religious minorities in the form of a new law, which may be used by other eastern European nations as they develop their legal systems after the fall of communism. Last year’s Budapest Declaration on religious liberty in eastern Europe held out the hope of true religious freedom in this area, but pressure for state control of minority religious groups from majority religions is intense. [Jonathan Gallagher]