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Manual on the wearing of religious symbols in public areas

Manual on the wearing of religious symbols in public areas

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Published by Council of Europe
This manual explores how the European Convention on Human Rights relates to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It identifies the key concepts which can be found in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and examines the role and responsibilities of both state and citizen.
The central issue addressed is the wearing of religious symbols in public areas. For this purpose, the author first looks at a number of fundamental topics, including the ‘visibility’ of religions and beliefs in the public sphere, and the notion of ‘wearing religious symbols’.

The essential questions policy makers need to ask when addressing issues concerning the wearing of religious symbols are then listed. Finally, the manual seeks to apply these principles and approaches to a number of key areas such as state employment, schools and universities, the private sector and the criminal justice system.
This manual explores how the European Convention on Human Rights relates to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It identifies the key concepts which can be found in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and examines the role and responsibilities of both state and citizen.
The central issue addressed is the wearing of religious symbols in public areas. For this purpose, the author first looks at a number of fundamental topics, including the ‘visibility’ of religions and beliefs in the public sphere, and the notion of ‘wearing religious symbols’.

The essential questions policy makers need to ask when addressing issues concerning the wearing of religious symbols are then listed. Finally, the manual seeks to apply these principles and approaches to a number of key areas such as state employment, schools and universities, the private sector and the criminal justice system.

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Published by: Council of Europe on Oct 25, 2010
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10/25/2010

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I
GeneralIntroduction
Te origins o this Manual lie in the increasing interest andimportance o questions concerning the manner in whichthe reedom o religion and belie is to be enjoyed in Europetoday. Issues concerning religion and belie have arisenin dierent ways at dierent times, reacting to the overallsocial and political context and the responses to this havediered greatly rom one country to another. It is, then,not surprising that as social and political contexts evolve,new questions concerning the enjoyment o the reedomo thought, conscience and religion come to the ore andcall or reection and response. European history is closelyintertwined with evolving patterns o religious and non-re-ligious belie.
Indeed, the system o sovereign states whichcharacterises the composition o modern Europe owes itsorigins to the struggle to separate political governance romreligious governance and aliations. ragically, Europeanhistory is punctuated by many instances o conict betweenollowers o various religious belies, and o persecution byboth the religious and by the non-religious o those whoeither did not share or who rejected the belie systems o the dominant groups within the societies o which theyormed a part.Tere have been a variety o responses to instances o thisnature over time. An early response was to seek to ‘solve’the problem by working towards a situation in which eachpolitical community was religiously heterogeneous – anapproach reected in the Latin maxim ‘cuius regio, eiusreligio’, perhaps more easily understood as the propositionthat the religious belies o the people should be the same asthe religious belies o their rulers. In act, such an approachnegated the very idea o belie or most o the people, since
For an overview see Malcolm Evans,
 Religious Liberty and Interna-tional Law in Europe
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,997, reprinted 2008).
 
I
 
 Manual on the Wearing of Religious Symbols in Public Areas
it meant that their belies depended on the belies o others:i their rulers were to change their belies, the people wouldhave to change theirs as well. Naturally, or those who tooktheir belies seriously this was an impossible state o a-airs and inevitably gave rise to conict. In order to reducetensions, a urther development came about with states rec-ognising the legitimacy o a limited number o belies whichthey would allow to be practised within their territories.However, or as long as the governance o a state was prem-ised upon the primacy o a particular pattern o religiousbelie, this always carried with it the risk o persecutionshould minority belies cease to be tolerated. Moreover, oras long as religious aliation was seen as a marker o ‘be-longing’ to the state itsel, those who chose not to adhere tothe dominant religious tradition(s) would inevitably be seenas presenting a potential threat to the political elites, andeven when they presented no threat at all, were capable o being portrayed as posing a potential threat when it suitedthe interests o those in authority to do so, rendering thempermanently vulnerable.As long ago as the early seventeenth century, however,powerul voices called or a dierent approach. Te inu-ential international jurist, Alberico Gentili, writing shortlybeore the onset o the 30 Years War that tore apart centralEurope and, through the Peace o Westphalia in 648 gavebirth to the modern system o European statehood, arguedthat:
‘Religion is a matter o the mind and o the will, which isalways accompanied by reedom... Religion ought to be ree.(I) truly the proession o a dierent orm o religious belie by their subjects does not harm princes, we are... unjust... i we persecute those who proess another religion than ourown.’
Tis is a plea that still resonates today and which is yet to beully realised. Ever since the triumph o the Enlightenmentas reected in the writings o Locke and in its realisation inthe Revolutions o the late Eighteenth century, the idea thatindividuals should exercise the reedom o thought and o conscience in matters o religion and o belie has becomeincreasingly well established and is now universally ac-knowledged. Te more pressing diculty became how this
2 Alberico Gentili,
 De Iure Belli Libri Tres
, book I, Chapter IX.
 
General Introduction
might be realised in an age which recognised the right o states to regulate their own aairs ree rom pressure romothers.Once again, a variety o approaches were drawn upon.Some states continued the old tradition o entering intotreaty relations which permitted them to exercise a degreeo oversight and even intervention o the manner in whichparticular orms o believers were treated. Others insistedthat the rights o believers continue to be respected whenterritory was transerred rom sovereignty o one state tothat o another. Tese practices came together in the mid tolate nineteenth century when it became increasingly com-mon to require newly constituted states to make commit-ments regarding their treatment o potentially vulnerablegroups at the time o their recognition as members o theinternational community. But how to enorce such com-mitments without embroiling states in strie remained anunsolved challenge. Te beginnings o a solution emergedater the First World War when many o the newly createdor territorially reconfgured states in central and easternEurope entered into a series o undertakings concerningminority populations – including commitments regard-ing their reedom o religion and belies – which were tobe overseen and guaranteed not by other states but bythe international community in the guise o the League o Nations. ragically, these measures proved inadequate toprevent the horrors that culminated in the Second WorldWar but they did lay the oundations or the emergence o the modern system o human rights protection which nowprovides the means and mechanisms or the protection o the rights not just o certain minorities in some countrieswithin Europe, but o all those within the jurisdiction o member states o the Council o Europe. Moreover, whilsthistorically the ocus has been very much on questions con-cerning religion and religious believers, the human rightsramework adopts a dierent approach.Human rights look to the person as a whole and at theirplace in the society o which they orm a part. Tey do notseek to dierentiate one person rom another, or to valueone group – or any one set o belies (religious or other-wise) – more than others. Tey seek to provide a means bywhich to reconcile the various conicting interests whichinevitably exist within any democratic state in which di-erent understandings and dierent points o view co-exist
Humanrightslooktothepersonasawholeandattheirplaceinthesocietyowhichtheyormapart.Theydonotseektodiferentiateonepersonromanother,ortovalueonegroup–oranyonesetobelies(…)–morethanothers.

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