ROME — The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, has criticized an anti-homophobia bill being debated in the Italian parliament, calling it more of a “manifesto” than a law.
The draft legislation, introduced by Alessandro Zan, an openly gay parliamentarian and LGBT activist, which would ban hate speech and force all schools to mark a national day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, has come under fire for its vague language that critics insist can be used to stifle free speech.
In a recent interview, Archbishop Paglia noted that the proposed law is redundant, since effective anti-discrimination legislation is already in force in Italy, Crux reported Wednesday.
“I think that in the ordinary Italian legal system, there is already everything that is needed to firmly combat any form of discrimination,” the archbishop asserted. “Everything is already there.”
Paglia insisted that unjust discrimination must be fought, but the proposed legislation is not the right instrument.
“The law as I’ve read and studied it is poorly done,” he said. “It identifies a problem but doesn’t help to resolve it.”
“It’s more of a manifesto, and as a manifesto, it’s fine, but if you have to translate it into legislative language, it must be precisely written,” he added.
In his critique of the bill, Paglia said that as it is written, the text poses “a serious risk of threatening freedom of expression and of thought as well as discrimination against the religious sentiment of a large portion of the Italian people.”
In mid-June, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered a message to the Italian Foreign Ministry indicating problems with the Zan bill, asserting that the document’s language was sufficiently vague to cause concern that anyone defending traditional man-woman marriage could be prosecuted for hate speech.
Zan and his supporters replied by insisting that the Vatican has nothing to worry about because the bill does not seek to deny freedom of expression.
In response to criticism that he was meddling in Italian politics, Cardinal Parolin responded that he was not attempting to interfere in the legislative process but merely sought to highlight problems with the draft law as it was written.
Cesare Mirabelli, former president of Italy’s constitutional court, has come out in support of the Vatican’s concerns, insisting that the Holy See was wise to point out possible problems while there was still a chance to amend or reject the bill.
Mirabelli also expressed his agreement that the bill’s wording is too vague and leaves an “ample margin for interpretation,” while insisting that the imposition of gender theory in schools is wrong-headed.
“I think that in Catholic schools it is one thing to teach respect for all human persons, whatever their sexual orientation; it is another thing to ‘force’ teaching in favor of gender theory,” he said.
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, has come out in favor of the Zan bill, saying she has joined “a campaign for a battle that I consider more than fair.”
Mussolini posted a photo on social media showing her with “Zan Bill” written on the palm of her hand and has dressed in a flamboyant costume with rainbow colors in support of the legislation.