Two hundred and fifty evangelical Dutch pastors are under fire after signing a statement affirming basic Christian beliefs about sexuality in December. The Nashville Statement affirms signatories’ adherence to the Bible’s mandates regarding marriage and sexuality. The Netherlands, which is overwhelmingly progressive and secular, is currently exploring whether the pastors who signed the statement violated discrimination laws.
The Nashville Statement, drafted in Tennessee in 2017, reaffirms historic Christian theology reserving marriage to one man and one woman for life. The statement was written by The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is headed by American theologian Denny Burk.
Original signatories of the statement include prominent North American Christian leaders like James Dobson, D.A. Carson, John Piper, and many others. In addition to its biblical definition of marriage, the statement also rejects the notion of gender identity that does not coincide with biological sex. To date, more than 22,000 people have signed the statement.
After its initial release in the United States, the Nashville Statement received a tremendous amount of backlash from left-wing groups, celebrities, and even non-traditional Christian churches. It did not, however, prompt legal ramifications for expressing religious beliefs—a protected right covered explicitly by the First Amendment.
In the Netherlands however, the signing of the statement prompted such significant backlash that the country’s Public Prosecution Service is currently investigating whether the statement violates Dutch discrimination laws. In the Netherlands, current public approval for same-sex marriage is at 90 percent, which is up from 54 percent just 12 years ago in 2006.
Article I of the Dutch constitution states: “Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.” In both this case and other clashes between faithful religious believers and LGBT policies, it seems that government is being forced to pick which side will be discriminated against. So far in such conflicts, Western governments have been largely choosing to privilege LGBT people while discriminating against religious citizens.
The Dutch News referred to the Nashville Statement as an “Anti-Gay Charter.” LGBTQ advocacy groups (LHBTI in the Netherlands) claim the pastors’ choice to adhere to their religion is hateful and discriminatory. Opera singer Francis van Broekhuizen even filed a formal police complaint against one signer, claiming, “The whole pamphlet is a call to renew discrimination against LHBTI people. I feel really hurt and very sad.”
In fact, the Nashville Statement offers no discrimination. Nowhere in the text does it claim any intention to reject or mistreat any person for their personal beliefs and behaviors. It simply states the Christian commands the signers have always affirmed and confirms their resolve to continue preaching those values. In an interview on Dutch television, Burk explained that the Nashville Statement “is really designed for churches and represents the consistent belief of Christians for 2,000 years.”
Attempting and executing legal intervention to suppress religious expression is hardly new for Europeans, however, and Christianity is not alone in its ostracization. On January 1, the Belgian region of Flanders enacted a ban on a specific type of animal slaughter used by both Jews and Muslims. Neighboring region Wallonia will follow with a similar ban in September.
Belgium was preceded in this ban by six other European Nations. Practicing Jewish and Muslim people living in these countries must now import their meat from nations without a ban, an increasingly difficult task with an uncertain future.
Burqa bans have also become increasingly popular throughout Europe. In August, Denmark enacted a ban on full face veils in public places. They followed several other European countries, including the Netherlands, in both partial and full bans of traditional face coverings for Muslim women. Many Muslims have rallied against the bans with support from the United Nations.
Quite simply, religion is no longer in line with the largely left-wing populations and governments of much of Europe. As progressive politics continue to replace spirituality worldwide, it seems unlikely the criminalization of religion will end.