In the footsteps of the Kokkinakis judgment the ECtHR turned Article 9 into a vehicle wherein restrictions of religious liberty in the name of peaceful coexistence in a plural society are woven into the fabric of human rights analysis. In practice this means that the jurisprudence of the Court assists member states in maintaining legal rules and practices that favor historically dominant churches or majorities to the detriment of unpopular or non-traditional religious minorities. Recently the ECtHR appears to have adjusted the intellectual framework of its approach to religious freedom under Article 9 by invoking the requirement of state neutrality and impartiality alongside the duty to preserve religious pluralism. Case by case, the duty of neutrality has become a source of obligations, such as the prohibition of arbitrary state action or the prohibition of coercion in matters of conscience. In addition, the Court started to infuse cautiously the requirement of state neutrality with elements familiar from its non-discrimination jurisprudence and premises drawn from the principle of the rule of law under other Convention rights.
About the author
Renata Uitz – Professor, Chair of the Comparative Constitutional Law Program of the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.
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