In the past six years, the legal area has further evolved, not the least through judicial decisions that often spark wider public attention and provoke heated debates. The issues arising from religion and belief are particularly complex and dependant on the social and cultural background of each country. The number of legal disputes is growing and possibly increasing multiculturalism, conflicts between the competing fundamental rights and historical sectarian conflicts all play a role in this.
It is important to remember that the EU protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief is incomplete. The EU law (Framework Directive) specifically prohibits differential treatment based on religion only in the area of employment (including vocational training). Other well-known areas from the EU directive prohibiting racial and ethnic discrimination (education, healthcare, provision of goods and services) are not covered. This gap should already have been closed by the proposed Horizontal Directive . The legislative work however has been stalled since 2008 and it seems to be difficult to find agreement across EU Member States. However, most of the Member States adopted complex national anti-discrimination law and exceeded the mandatory requirements stemming from EU law.
The aim of this publication is to provide the legal background and details about the case law concerning discrimination on the ground of religion and belief. It should assist those working with anti-discrimination law, from equality bodies to legal professionals and NGOs.
The opening chapter describes a general legal framework including EU law, the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nation’s International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Discrimination. Importantly, the report underlines that at the EU level there continues to be a gap in protection against discrimination on the ground of religion and belief, with only employment and occupation covered, given the delay in adopting the ‘Horizontal Directive’ proposed in 2008. The report underlines the importance of intersectional discrimination experienced by religious minorities, involving other grounds such as gender or race and ethnic origin. Such intersections can be used to tackle some of the cases that would otherwise fall outside the scope of legal protection.
The following chapters cover the areas of employment, education, provision of goods and services, manifestation of religion and belief in public and public administration and state functions. Each chapter delves into the legal framework specific for that area and presents major court rulings (ECtHR, CJEU, national judiciary) and equality bodies’ decisions.
Other highlights from those chapters include the following:
An accessible word version can be downloaded here:
Faith in Equality: Religion and Belief in Europe (2017)
P.27 of the report refers to CJEU Case C-414/16 Vera Egenberger v Evangelisches Werk fur Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V as a pending case. The CJEU published its judgement on 17 April 2018 and finds that the requirement of religious affiliation for a post within the Church must be amenable to effective judicial review. That requirement must be necessary and objectively dictated, having regard to the ethos of the church, by the nature of the occupational activity concerned or the circumstances in which it is carried out, and must comply with the principle of proportionality.
Equinet Perspective 2015 – A Growing Agenda: The Work of Equality Bodies on the Ground of Religion or Belief
A Growing Agenda: The Work of Equality Bodies on the Ground of Religion or Belief (2015)
Les organismes de promotion de l’égalité face aux discriminations fondées sur la religion ou les convictions
Equinet Seminar 2015 – A question of faith: Religion and Belief in the work of equality bodies