Ann Power-Forde, Freedom of Religion and ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ in the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights

Ann Power-Forde, Freedom of Religion and ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ in the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights, Ox. J Law Religion (2016) 5 (3)

Through its jurisprudence on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, the European Court of Human Rights has a limited but identifiable role to play in the fostering of tolerance and respect within an increasingly culturally diverse Europe. This article examines how it discharges that role. Through a consideration of its case law on religious freedom, the author establishes that the Court’s traditional stance has been, for the most part, to adopt a ‘hands-off’ approach to alleged breaches of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights either through a series of inadmissibility decisions or by way of judgments finding no violation. For a time, the Court appeared to be departing from its traditional stance and made progress towards providing qualified protection for religious ‘practitioners’ through its implicit endorsement of the doctrine of ‘reasonable accommodation’. However, such progress as was made was short lived. Its most recent jurisprudence not only cements its traditional position as manifested in the educational context, but extends it to the entire public sector.

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