The Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), COMECE (the Bishops Conference of the European Community), and the Church of England are calling upon the European Union Parliament to approve a Written Declaration on “on the protection of a work-free Sunday as an essential pillar of the European Social Model and as part of the European cultural heritage.”
In a press release issued February 11, COMECE provided the following rationale for the Declaration. “The economic and financial crises have made us more aware of the fact that not all aspects of life can be subject to market forces. Unrestrained consumption is neither a model for a sustainable economy, nor a healthy concept for human development. Men and women, who work on Sundays, are put at a disadvantage in their social relationships: Their family life, personal development and even health are verifiably affected.”
Describing Sunday rest as a “pillar of the European social model,” churches have called upon a broad-based approach to Sunday rest which would affect all people regardless of religious affiliation. Claiming an errosion of Sunday rest, COMECE claims that “Workers have experienced fragmentation of their private lives, while small and medium-sized enterprises, which cannot afford uninterrupted opening hours have lost ground in the market place.”
Thus, the general applicability of the Sunday rest requirements, regardless of the religious beliefs of the individual citizens, would prevent those who would operate businesses on Sunday from gaining an unfair advantage at the expense of those who rest on Sunday.
In order to be adopted, a majority consisting of 394 members of parliament must approve the measure by May 7, 2009. As of February 2, 59 had signed on. If 394 sign on, it will become an official act of the European Parliament to be adopted by the member states.
The legislation as written does not include provision for those who keep an alternate day of rest, but it could be inferred that this will be addressed by the individualized legislation of the member states.
The proposed Declaration is available online at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+WDECL+P6-DCL-2009-0009+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN