Law, Religion and the School
Handbook on Law and Religion, Silvio Ferrari (Ed), Routledge 2014, Pp 259-270
19 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2015
Date Written: October 2, 2013
As the very presence of religion in the public sphere is being questioned, the issue of religion at school often revolves around the extent to which the State may be allowed to endorse a particular expression of faith in a public school setting. This chapter focuses on the guidance provided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on this question. On the basis of recent ECtHR cases on religious education, several underlying assumptions will be unraveled: a welcome indication that there is no right not to be exposed to beliefs other than one’s own but also a more debatable suggestion that secular views are inherently more neutral than religious views. It will be argued that the requirements of neutrality are hereby crudely and narrowly construed. By contrast, the case-law on religious symbols in state schools may be praised as a signal that religion may have a place at school. However the strong emphasis on the margin of appreciation granted to member States in those areas is not convincing. Looking ahead, the article will advocate a more robust proportionality test which weights the aims sought by Member States against the interferences caused as a result with individual rights.
Keywords: religion in the public sphere, education, Lautsi, indoctrination, article 9 ECHR, religious education, Folgero
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