Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights holds hearing on right of religious groups to make employment decisions based on religious affiliation

Posted on | January 31, 2013 by Stefan Kirchner |

On wednesday, 30 January, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held a hearing in a case concerning the right of churches to choose employees based on religious affiliation. A school had fired a teacher for demoninational religious studies (which is a regular subject at schools in many European countries, with the notable exceptions of France and Turkey) for violating basic rules of the denomination in question. Last year, the Court had decided that a law which allows the school to do so was compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Spanish applicant, a former, now married, Catholic priest, appealed to the Grand Chamber, claiming violations of his right to private life (which is rather far reaching under the European Convention on Human Rights) and his right to free speech.
Although a decision by the Grand Chamber is not expected for some time, the case follows a string of cases, notably against Germany, in which the European Court of Human Rights held that religious groups can require key employees to be loyal to central tenets of the faith in question. In so far the balancing of rights employed by the Court went in favour of the religious groups as opposed to the rights of the employee. This is particularly so if the employee in question holds an exposed, or public, position.

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Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.

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