2012, Rights - Religious, Human

Current Approaches of the European Courts to Religious Rights and Freedoms

Current Approaches of the European Courts to Religious Rights and Freedoms

Lucy Vickers

Two Legal Frameworks for Religion in Europe

There are two legal frameworks governing religion and law in Europe.

The First Legal Framework

The first legal framework is article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This consists of: article 9 (1), the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (the forum internum), which is an absolute right under the ECHR and refers to the right to have inner thoughts and beliefs; and article 9 (2), the qualified right to manifest religion (forum externum).

Demonstrating that your right to manifest religion or belief has been restricted involves first showing that the activity in question is, indeed, a manifestation of religion or belief, and second that any restriction does not come within the restrictions provided in article 9(2).

Showing that your activity is a manifestation can be difficult: it means that you must show that it is more than something just motivated by your religion in your particular case. This has led to lots of disputes, including the one before ECHR relating to the Christian cross worn by the BA check-in staff member. Eweida argued that she believed it was necessary to wear the cross, but few Christians agree. Ruling on such questions can lead courts into territory which is probably very inappropriate for them; they end up having to decide what the religion requires, and perhaps unsurprisingly we end up with inconsistent decisions.

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2012, Bulgaria, Rights - Religious, Human, Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights – Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights: Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Effie Fokas

Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (henceforth Court or ECtHR) is the court established by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to enforce the ECHR. The ECHR was adopted by the Council of Europe, whose primary aim is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the European continent, ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe was established in Strasbourg in 1949 by 10 founding countries. Today it has 47 member states; all states in geographic Europe are members except Belarus’ (candidate status since 1993). The ECHR was adopted in 1950 and went into force in 1953. Ratification of the Convention is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe. The Court began operating in 1959. In 2008 it delivered its 10,000th judgment.

The ECHR has 59 articles and a number of protocols amending it. Of these, the most relevant to religious rights and freedoms are article 9, article 14, and article 2 of the first protocol.

Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
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2010, Rights - Religious, Human

Religion in the Public Square: a Muslim Perspective

Religion in the Public Square: a Muslim Perspective

Shenaz Bunglawala

While much of the commentary preceding and subsequent to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK focused on the camps Christian and ‘aggressive secularist’, Muslim reactions to the speeches delivered during his stay have been probed less closely. It’s not that Muslims and the role of Islam in Britain’s public square is of lesser concern to the Catholic community. Dr Azzam of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts was invited by the Catholic Bishops Conference in England and Wales to follow the speech of Lord Jonathan Sacks with reflections of his own at the Pope’s meeting with faith leaders in the UK held at St Mary’s in Twickenham ahead of the Papal address in Westminster.

Interfaith dialogue and interfaith relations are often seen as little more than men in beards conversing with men in hats (and they are almost invariably men), but Pope Benedict’s ruminations on the necessary interaction and interpenetration of the ‘world of reason’ and the ‘world of faith’; on the ‘legitimate role of religion in the public square’; on the ‘ethical foundations’ that inform our political choices and our search for a moral consensus that animates our pluralist political society, and of course, of the right of the faithful to act in accordance with their conscience – in all of these the Pope will have found a willing Muslim audience lending an attentive ear.

Perhaps in no other section of society today has the Durkheimian instrumentalisation of religion in society been more pervasive than in relation to British Muslims in recent years. It often feels that Islam in Britain is treated and viewed less as a religion informing the spiritual yearnings of individuals submitting to One God and abiding by the prophetic example of Muhammad, the seal of the prophets, than as an instrument through which Governments might attain the desired level of social cohesion – whatever that may be and however it may be measured.

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2007, Rights - Religious, Human

Religious Rights, Constitutions and Legislation in the New Europe

Religious Rights, Constitutions and Legislation
in the New Europe

Peter Petkoff

After the Second World War, for the first time an international legal system was designed on entirely secular principles, and this meant that defining religious freedom was a particularly difficult task. We are faced with questions. Is there something about the secular project, at least in the way it was articulated in the post-Second World War legal order, that makes it impossible to talk about religion? Is there something about religion that makes it very difficult to reflect on rights language the way it is phrased in international law?

Religious rights discourse under international law was formed within ‘Cold War’ dynamics. It has framed the current jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as well as the approach of the UN and the OSCE. It is beset by three distinctive sets of problems.

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2007, Rights - Religious, Human, Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights: Moscow Meeting

The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights:
Moscow Meeting, March 2007

Conference of European Churches – Office of Communications Press release No. 07-15/e

23 March 2007 (Slightly edited for layout but not cut – Philip Walters)

Churches Stay Committed to Human Rights

From 20 to 21 March 2007 delegations of experts from the Russian Orthodox Church and from the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met in Moscow to discuss about human rights.

The meeting was organised because the Russian Orthodox Church intends to adopt a basic document on human rights. Preparations for such a document began with the 2006 Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council and subsequent statements from members of the Russian Orthodox Church on human rights. These gave rise to the concern as to whether there is still a common basis for human rights related issues among member churches of CEC.

The most important result of the dialogue meeting in Moscow in this regard, is that the very concept of human rights is not under question. The Russian Orthodox Church wants only to raise some questions with regard to the interpretation of certain human rights, as H.E. Metropolitan Kyrill, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations put it. The Joint Communiqué of the meeting reads:

The two delegations agreed that the result of the present debate on human rights within the Russian Orthodox Church and among European churches will be to strengthen the churches commitment to human rights as laid down, for instance, in the United Nations Bill of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Social Charter as well as in documents of the Follow-Up Conferences of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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2006, Rights - Religious, Human

From Territorial Belonging to Consumer Choice? A Social Context for Human Rights

From Territorial Belonging to Consumer Choice? A Social Context for Human Rights

David Martin

Historically, the voluntaristic notion of religious belonging originated in Western Europe, like habeas corpus, though it first came to fruition in late eighteenth-century North America under the constitutional rubric of ‘free exercise’. In ‘old Europe’ the idea of ‘a free Church in a free state’ came to fruition, and then quite partially, only in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a specific marker provided by the separation of church and state in France in 1905. The earlier acceptance of partial pluralism in Poland-Lithuania and in Transylvania became precarious under the pressures of ethno-religious nationalism.

In practice, relatively free exercise takes two forms: the semi-tolerance of minority communities embodied in the Edict of Nantes in 1598, and the semi-tolerance of personal choice accepted during the English Commonwealth from the 1640s to 1660. The sanctions renewed after 1660 against dissent, Nonconformist or Catholic, were slowly relaxed, though in the Catholic case not abolished until 1829, while in practice the vast expansion of Methodism from 1780-1840 finally institutionalised the voluntary principle. The parallel processes in North America began with state churches in Virginia and in Massachusetts (where establishment ended only in 1830), and effectively crumbled with the arrival of migrants professing many different (if mainly Protestant) faiths, and the open policy towards religious faith adopted in Rhode Island. With the American revolution the cause of toleration rapidly mutated into full formal equality.

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2006, Orthodox Church, Rights - Religious, Human

The Power Struggle in Orthodoxy

The Power Struggle in Orthodoxy

Philip Walters

There are two large issues in the current crisis affecting the Russian Orthodox diocese in Britain. One is the special character the British diocese of Sourozh has developed, which is now at variance with the prevailing mood in the Moscow Patriarchate, under whose jurisdiction the diocese falls. The second issue arises from the first: should the diocese of Sourozh now change its jurisdiction?

While the Moscow Patriarchate spent seven decades preserving its identity against assault in the hostile atheist environment of the Soviet Union, Russian Orthodox jurisdictions of various allegiances developed in Western Europe and the United States. Some, like the British diocese, remained under the jurisdiction of Moscow, but sought to respond creatively to the challenges of being a minority in a pluralist religious environment.

In the words of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, the head of the diocese until his death in 2003:

From the very outset … we Russians have considered that we have been sent to this country to bring Orthodoxy here, that is, to share the most valuable thing we ourselves possess, to give it to anyone at all who feels a need for it. This we have done not violently, nor by proselytism, but by proclaiming it for anyone to hear and by sharing it.

His vision of the Orthodox calling is thus out-going and inclusivist.

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2003, Europe, Rights - Religious, Human

European Religious Exceptionalism

European Religious Exceptionalism

Grace Davie

The traditional theory about modernisation is that it necessarily involves secularisation. In my 1994 book Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging I showed that a decline in churchgoing in Britain was matched by a decline in active membership of political and social organisations, and that what we were seeing in Britain was not so much a decline in belief but a change in the way that belief was expressed. The phenomenon seems to be a general symptom of late modernity. As young people escape from the authority of a church structure they don’t just lose their belief; it simply changes – becoming immanent rather than transcendent for example. And there is some evidence that once the shackles are shaken off people return to ritual. In countries like Poland or Eire, where young people still feel the pressure of church discipline, they tend to rebel; but in other European countries at least some young people (in contrast to their parents) are opting, once again, for church marriages.

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2002, Rights - Religious, Human

Religious Rights and Religious Freedom

Religious Rights and Religious Freedom

Freedom of Religion in the World Today

Kevin Boyle

This is an important time to discuss the subject of religious freedom in the world: it was in the context of religion that the western world (previously largely remote from terrorism, if we exclude these islands) absorbed the horror of the attacks of 11 September in the United States. In the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights we were correct at an early point to label the attacks as crimes against humanity in international law. Militant Islam espoused and executed those attacks and undoubtedly the nexus long evidenced in history of different religions being linked to violence and conflict was reinforced worldwide. The 11 September attacks were carried out in the name of God and in the aftermath it is not the most propitious time to envisage greater religious freedom Indeed under the banner of counter-terrorism we have seen a backlash against various religions, including Islam, in many countries.

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