ECHR Favors Pro-Abortion Protester

See the source image
European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a woman exposing herself in a church while blaspheming Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary as she enacted a symbolic abortion of the Christ Child and who then urinated in front of the church altar was engaging in protected political protest, even though she was not protesting a political institution, but the centuries-old teaching of the Catholic Church. As such, the ECHR threw out her conviction by the state courts and ordered the state to pay her for its “moral damages” legal costs, and expenses.

In December 2013, Eloise Bouton entered the Church of the Madeleine in Paris during a Christmas carol service. She was bare-breasted and covered in pro-abortion slogans. She wore a crown of flowers and a blue veil in mockery of both Christ and the Blessed Mother and commenced to act out a symbolic abortion of Jesus by throwing about ox livers. After this display, she urinated in front of the altar. Bouton was convicted of an illegal sexual display” and received a sentence of one month in prison and a fine. She appealed to France’s high court, which upheld her conviction.

However, on October 13, the ECHR ruled that France’s punishing of Bouton for her protest violated her freedom of expression, even though she wasn’t convicted for expressing her thoughts, she was convicted for an illegal sexual display. The ECHR addressed this: “The Court notes that the applicant’s conviction was based on the characterization of the offense of sexual exhibition. According to the Government, it was not intended to sanction [her] critical ideas and opinions on the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” Even still, that wasn’t good enough. “Nevertheless,” the ECHR ruled, “the Court considers, as it has mentioned above …, that in view of its militant nature, the action of the applicant, who sought to express her political convictions, in line with the positions defended by the Femen movement on whose behalf she was acting, must be regarded as constituting a ‘performance’ falling within the scope of the article.”

So, even though she was not protesting a political institution, but the teachings of the Church, and even though her display clearly was blasphemous and sexually explicit, it is protected speech because of its militant nature and Bouton’s political convictions. In other words, if Bouton had chosen to be less militant, less sexual, and was convicted politically about other issues and against a different institution than the Catholic Church, then perhaps it would have been okay to convict her.

In response to the ECHR’s ruling, the European Center for Law & Justice (ECLJ) issued a statement condemning it and exposing the double standard with which the ECHR employs when it comes to those protesting Christianity and those protesting Islam. In its statement, the ECLJ wrote, “The Court would never have supported such a macabre display if it had taken place in a mosque or in the precincts of a courthouse.  Do the judges in Strasbourg not see that every day in Europe churches are desecrated, burned, statues broken and crosses knocked down? Do they not see the misunderstanding and hatred towards Christ and Christians spreading in society? Do they not see that, more and more, the Court itself is behaving in the image of society?”

Some other examples:

In August 2022, the ECHR rejected the case of an Iranian in Germany who converted to Christianity and applied for asylum in Germany. The German courts rejected his claim for asylum and the ECHR upheld that ruling. The man may face deportation and then persecution if he is forced to return to Iran, where it is illegal to convert to Christianity.

In 2020, the ECHR ruled against two mid-wives who refused to perform abortions because of their Christian faith.

In 2013, the ECHR ruled against Christians who complained that they were being discriminated against by their employers who refused to accommodate their religious beliefs on matters of homosexual unions, even insisting that registrars did not have the right to refuse to participate in same-sex civil unions.

I’m forced to wonder what sort of protest in a Catholic Church about Catholic teaching would be so extreme that it would merit the condemnation of the ECHR. Are Catholics in Europe obliged to tolerate offenses against their faith and their eyes because the ECHR regards the Church’s teaching on abortion as subject for legitimate political protest? If the same protest took place in a mosque, would the ECHR be so protective of Ms. Bouton’s freedom of expression? It’s a legitimate question.

The persecution of Christians takes many forms. Surely, Ms. Bouton forcing herself on the poor parishioners of the Magdeleine Church in Paris does not equal the risk to life and limb too many Christians face daily in countries ruled by Islamic imams or Communist dictators. But that is not to dismiss the reality that, too often, Christians are forced to defend their faith and their sensibilities against those who would trample them under the guise of free expression or equality or compassion or tolerance.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s