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Dutch church leaders speak out against populist shift


Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician whose Party for Freedom is expected to win the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament in March 15 elections, is pictured in a March 2 photo. Dutch church leaders have signed a petition against the "exploitation of Christianity" by populist politicians in elections, as the Catholic bishops' conference urged voters to back parties "contributing to the common good." (CNS photo/Obin Van Lonkhuijsen, EPA)

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AMSTERDAM (CNS) -- Dutch church leaders have signed a petition against the "exploitation of Christianity" by populist politicians in upcoming parliamentary elections, as the Catholic bishops' conference urged voters to back parties "contributing to the common good."

"Whether votes go to left or right, the church will always steer its own course," said the petition, signed by Bishop Gerard de Korte of Den Bosch, Netherlands, and dozens of Catholic and Protestant theologians and pastors.

"The church isn't a political party, nor is any political party a church. We have a separation between church and state -- since if the two sit together on anyone's lap, we get a political and religious dictatorship which serves, not God or the people, but only those in power."

The petition was circulated before March 15 elections for the 150-seat Dutch lower house, in which the nationalist Party for Freedom, headed by Geert Wilders, is forecast to win most votes.

The petition said it aimed to "send a message" to politicians seeking to "exploit Christian culture," which was in reality "too radical for coalition compromises, too embracing for borders and too demanding for policymakers."

It added that those hoping to "turn the sayings of Jesus into a political program" would "quickly go away screaming."

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