CJEU Cases C-157/15 Achbita and C-188/15 Bougnaoui: Following in the footsteps of the European Court of Human Rights or moving away?*

Abstract

On 14 March 2017 the Court of Justice of the EU delivered its judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui, analyzing, for the first time, something formerly in the realm of interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights: the relationship between the employees' right to manifest religion in the work place and the employers' desire for a certain understanding of corporate neutrality.

The current article will show that the CJEU judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui depart from the established ECtHR analysis of limitations on fundamental rights by failing to properly assess the necessity and proportionality of the interdiction on religious symbols, generally setting a weak threshold for limitations on religious manifestations. The present research will also inquire whether such differing standards will, in the long term, lead to a fragmentation and a weakening of the protection of freedom of religion or belief in Europe.

Key words: religious symbols, freedom of religion, neutrality, European Court of Human Rights, Court of Justice of the EU

* Parts of the current article have been published online, Does 'neutrality' trump religious freedom? ( Völkerrechtsblog 2017), https://voelkerrechtsblog.org/cjeu-cases-c-15715-achbita-and-c-18815-bougnaoui/

1. Introduction

On 14 March 2017 the Court of Justice of the EU delivered its judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui, analyzing, for the first time, something formerly in the realm of interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights: the relationship between the employees' right to manifest religion in the work place and the employers' desire for a certain understanding of corporate neutrality. While upholding the banning of visible displays of any political, philosophical or religious symbols in the workplace, the judgments raise important questions regarding the interplay between the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights in securing and protecting freedom of religion or belief.

2. Background of the Judgments

2.1. Facts of the Case

The two cases that were decided jointly by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) are Samira Achbita and Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v. G4S Secure Solutions NV [1] and Asma Bougnaoui, Association de defense des droits de l'homme (ADDH) v. Micropole Univers SA . [2] Both were submitted to the CJEU through the preliminary reference procedure, in accordance with Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

The first case (Achbita) was referred by the Hof van Cassatie (Court of Cassation) in Belgium and concerns a Muslim woman who worked as a receptionist for G4S, a security company. At the time when Ms Achbita joined G4S, the company had an unwritten rule which prohibited employees from wearing conspicuous political, philosophical or religious signs in the workplace. When Ms Achbita informed her employer that she wanted to start wearing an Islamic headscarf, she was dismissed. The Belgian Court of Cassation asked the CJEU whether the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf (as provided in a general rule of a private undertaking) amounts to direct discrimination under Directive 2000/78//EC. [3]

The second case (Bougnaoui) concerns a female Muslim who was working as a French IT consultant, and who was requested to remove her headscarf when a customer complained. When Ms Bougnaoui refused to comply, she was dismissed. The French Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation), which heard the case, asked the CJEU whether 'the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer's services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf may be considered a "genuine and determining occupational requirement"' within the meaning of Directive 2000/78//EC.

Both applicants challenged their dismissal, which they considered to be discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief contrary to Directive 2000/78//EC. The relevant provision for these cases is Article 4 (1) of Directive 2000/78//EC, which states that:

Notwithstanding Article 2 (1) and 2 (2), Member States may provide that a difference of treatment which is based on a characteristic related to any of the grounds referred to in Article 1 shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of the particular occupational activities concerned or of the context in which they are carried out, such a characteristic constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.'

From a legal perspective, the issues that the applicants put forward are similar, but slightly different. The Belgian Court asked whether there is discrimination, within the meaning of Directive 2000/78//EC, when an employee is dismissed because of the personal display of religious clothing when there is a well-established corporate rule that prohibits employees from wearing any political, philosophical and religious symbols in the workplace in the name of  'neutrality'. Conversely, the French Court asked whether the request of a client to no longer have services provided by an employee wearing the Islamic headscarf is a genuine and determining occupational requirement under Article 4 (1) of Directive 2000/78//EC. The cases were heard jointly on 15 March 2016.

2.2. Opinions of the Advocates General

The opinion of the two AGs in the cases (AG Kokott and AG Sharpston) urged the Court to take two different routes in the interpretation of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in the workplace, [4] while also highlighting the importance of the case:

'the Court is expected to give a landmark decision the impact of which could extend beyond the specific context of the main proceedings and be ground-breaking in the world of work throughout the European Union, at least so far as the private sector is concerned. [5]

AG Sharpston outlined that EU law could provide more protection in the context of Directive 2000/78//EC:

'In the context of direct discrimination, the protection given by EU law is stronger. Here, interference with a right granted under the ECHR may still always be justified on the ground that it pursues a legitimate aim and is proportionate. In contrast, under the EU legislation, however, derogations are permitted only in so far as the measure in question specifically provides for them. [6]

AG Sharpston favoured a heightened protection of FoRB in the context of EU non-discrimination law, through an effective interpretation of norms. Interestingly, AG Sharpston tackled the relationship between the protection offered to FoRB by the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), respectively. While AG Sharpston admitted that there could be 'a wholly legitimate' [7] difference in interpretation between the two courts, with the CJEU going further in human rights protection, she did not substantiate whether this could lead to a fragmentation of legal norms and State obligations. Conversely, AG Kokott stressed a more limited interpretation of anti-discrimination provisions based on religion or belief under EU law, highlighting that the latter does not involve 'immutable physical features or personal characteristics, such as gender, age, or sexual orientation, [but] rather…modes of construct based on a subjective decision or conviction.' [8]

Both AGs interpreted the value of religion and religious manifestations.

AG Kokott considered that religion is different compared to other characteristics mainly because:

'the practice of religion is not so much an unalterable fact as an aspect of an individual's private life and one, moreover, over which the employees concerned can choose to exert an influence…an employee may be expected to moderate the exercise of his religion in the workplace. [9]

Conversely, AG Sharpston in Bougnaoui stated that for believers, religious identity and the possibility to manifest it is an 'integral part of that person's very being…it would be entirely wrong to suppose that, whereas one's sex and skin colour accompany one everywhere, somehow one's religion does not.' [10]

2.3. The CJEU Judgments

The CJEU judgments rightly highlighted that 'the concept of religion must be interpreted as covering both the fact of having religious belief and the freedom of persons to manifest that belief in public.' When dealing with the assessment of whether limiting religious manifestations amounts to direct or indirect discrimination, the judgments suffer from a number of significant flaws.

Under Directive 2000/78//EC, direct discrimination occurs where one person is treated less favourably than another is or would be treated in a comparable way, on the ground of religion or belief. Such a difference of treatment is allowed in two very limited exceptions: a genuine and determining occupational requirement, and regarding a number of occupational activities within churches and ethos-based organisations.

Meanwhile, indirect discrimination focuses on the effects which an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would have, so as to put persons having a particular religion or belief at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons. Such indirect discrimination could be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, if the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

The CJEU judgment regarding Ms Achbita found that it does not constitute 'direct discrimination' if a firm has a well-established internal rule banning the wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign. In so doing, the firm equally limits the manifestation of all beliefs without distinction. In dismissing a claim of direct discrimination, the CJEU noted that there was no information showing that Ms Achbita was treated differently from other employees. The CJEU then proceeded to assess a claim of indirect discrimination and stated that while an internal rule which prohibits the conspicuous wearing of religious symbols does not constitute direct discrimination, it may amount to indirect discrimination if 'it is established that the apparently neutral obligation it imposes results, in fact, in persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage.' [11]

Regarding Ms Bougnaoui, the CJEU noted that it was not clear, based on the reference to the CJEU, whether there had been a difference of treatment based either directly or indirectly on religion or belief:

'It is therefore for the French Court of Cassation to ascertain whether Ms Bougnaoui's dismissal was based on non-compliance with an internal rule prohibiting the visible wearing of signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs. If that is the case, it is for that court to determine whether the conditions set out in the judgment in G4S Secure Solutions are satisfied, that is to say, whether the difference of treatment, arising from an apparently neutral internal rule that is likely to result, in fact, in certain persons being put at a particular disadvantage, is objectively justified by the pursuit of a policy of neutrality, and whether it is appropriate and necessary. 

The CJEU went on to generally assert that a characteristic related to FoRB can constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement only 'in very limited circumstances.' Therefore, the CJEU held in both cases that, while the employees' dismissal for wearing Islamic headscarves could constitute indirect discrimination, it could be justified on the basis of the employer's desire for a certain understanding of corporate neutrality, provided that the means of achieving such neutrality are appropriate and necessary. Whether the measures limiting FoRB were actually 'appropriate and necessary' was left to the referring court to determine.

3. European Landscape on FoRB

The judgments handed down by the CJEU must be assessed in the larger European legal framework regarding FoRB, which is composed of two main layers: the EU and the Council of Europe (CoE).

FoRB is recognized and protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a binding CoE convention aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms within the CoE Member States' jurisdictions. [12] Article 9 (1) states that everyone has 'the right (…) either alone, or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching practice and observance.' Freedom to manifest one's religion or belief is an essential part of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, since not being able to bear witness in words and deeds makes void the legal protection of the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The ECtHR, which has long-standing jurisprudence on the matter, has robustly reasoned that religious symbols (either in the form of religious garments or objects) constitute a manifestation of freedom of religion or belief and are worthy of protection. [13] However, this protection can be limited on specific grounds: 'public safety and order, health, morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.' [14]

At the EU level, explicit protection for FoRB exists in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU Charter), [15] which contains many of the same rights as the ECHR. The EU Charter became legally binding on all EU Member States when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in 2009, blurring the lines between the judicial competence of the ECtHR and the CJEU in the area of human rights protection.

Specifically related to FoRB, the EU Charter provides that:

'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. [16]

In joined cases Y and Z, [17] the CJEU considered the scope of protection for freedom of thought, conscience and religion under European Union law. The Advocate General gave an opinion on the understanding of Article 9 of the European Convention and outlined that it is of the utmost importance that believers can manifest religious belief and that if the so-called 'core area' of religious belief were comprised only of 'private conscience', it would render any protections for 'the external manifestation of that freedom' effectively 'meaningless'. [18]

Additionally, according to Article 6 (3) of the Treaty on the European Union, the EU Charter shall be interpreted with 'due regard' to the Explanations related to the Charter. Regarding Article 10, the Explanations aim at clarifying the relationship between FoRB, as enshrined in the EU Charter, on the one hand, and as enshrined in the ECHR, on the other hand.

'The right guaranteed in paragraph 1 corresponds to the right guaranteed on Article 9 ECHR and, in accordance with Article 52 (3) of the Charter, has the same meaning and scope. [19]

It would, however, be improper to speak only about 'equivalent protection' between the rights enshrined in the ECHR and the ones in the EU Charter, since according to the last part of Article 52 (3) of the EU Charter, EU law can afford a more extensive protection than the ECHR. This can be done, inter alia, through the preliminary reference procedure.

In other words, the protection of the same right (covered by the ECHR and the EU Charter) needs to be at least equivalent, but it could be more extensive in the EU context. This interplay opens the door to considerations of multiple standards. For example: in a fictitious case, X v. France, the ECtHR recognises explicitly the need to protect conscience rights of the medical profession, but only related to euthanasia. The CJEU is duly seized with a preliminary ruling reference regarding medical staff, based on religious grounds, in the context of all life ending medical procedures. If the Charter is to be read in line with the ECHR (and presumably with its jurisprudence), corroborated with the possibility of the CJEU to offer a more extensive protection (as per Article 52 (3) of the EU Charter), then the following scenario becomes a real possibility: the CJEU could interpret conscientious objection as a fundamental right to be secured and protected not only with regard to euthanasia, but in all cases which imply an irresolvable moral conflict between the employer's requirements and an employee's deepest beliefs. Essentially, such a judgment would make France be bound by two different interpretations of freedom of conscience, applying two different thresholds: one requiring the protection of conscientious objection only regarding euthanasia (ECtHR interpretation), while the other covering all life-ending medical procedures (CJEU).

Although one might argue that an extensive protection of human rights is welcome, beneficial per se, and thus not problematic, the procedural and substantive complications stemming from such different interpretations are obvious. If after the CJEU judgment, the ECtHR is seized with a similar matter, then the ECtHR is put in the position to review, and possibly even contradict, the CJEU judgment.

One layer of legal complexity is added by the legal effects of ECtHR and CJEU judgments. ECtHR judgments are binding only between the parties involved. According to Article 46 (1) of the ECHR, 'The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.' While the ECtHR judgments have undoubtedly a persuasive and interpretative value on all Member States of the CoE, they are not binding per se. Conversely, the CJEU judgments coming from the preliminary reference procedure, as in Achbita and Bougnaoui, are legally binding across all 28 EU Member States. [20] CJEU decisions have binding force not only on the national court on whose initiative the reference was made, but also on all of the national courts of all Member States.

Against this background, the CJEU referral in Achbita and Bougnaoui opens deep questions related to the competition and interplay between these two top courts, absent the perspective of EU accession to the ECHR. [21]

In the context of manifestations of FoRB, the ECtHR has traditionally been the court to deal with the issue of the wearing or display of religious symbols in the workplace, in landmark cases such as Șahin v. Turkey, [22] Lautsi v. Italy, [23] Eweida and others v. UK, [24] and Ebrahimian v. France. [25] For the purposes of this paper, we will briefly tackle only two ECtHR cases which are relevant in the context of the recent CJEU judgments.

In Eweida and others v. UK, [26] two of the applicants, Ms Eweida and Ms Chaplin were practicing Christians (Ms Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Ms Chaplin, a geriatrics nurse) who argued that their employers restricted the wearing of visible Christian crosses around their necks during the performance of their working duties. The ECtHR found that there had been a violation of Article 9 in Ms Eweida's case, and no violation of Article 9, taken alone or in conjunction with Article 14, in Ms Chaplin's case. The main reason that Ms Chaplin's application was unsuccessful was the fact that the limitation in her case pursued, in the ECtHR's view, the aim of protecting public health and safety. The ECtHR considered, in this sense, that a) the cross and the chain might cause injury if elderly patients were to pull on them; and b) they create a risk to health and safety and might propagate infections.

This case represents a landmark for religious symbols, since it is the first time that the ECtHR stated, in clear terms, that the manifestation of religious beliefs need not necessarily be an absolute religious mandate. Furthermore, the ECtHR highlighted that a fair balance was not struck:

'On one side of the scales was Ms Eweida's desire to manifest her religious belief. As previously noted, this is a fundamental right: because a healthy democratic society needs to tolerate and sustain pluralism and diversity; but also because of the value to an individual who has made religion a central tenet of his or her life to be able to communicate that belief to others. On the other side of the scales was the employer's wish to project a certain corporate image. The Court considers that, while this aim was undoubtedly legitimate, the domestic courts accorded it too much weight. Ms Eweida's cross was discreet and cannot have detracted from her professional appearance. There was no evidence that the wearing of other, previously authorised, items of religious clothing, such as turbans and hijabs, by other employees, had any negative impact on British Airways' brand or image. Moreover, the fact that the company was able to amend the uniform code to allow for the visible wearing of religious symbolic jewellery demonstrates that the earlier prohibition was not of crucial importance. [27]

The subsequent and more recent case of Ebrahimian v. France [28] dealt with the decision not to renew the employment contract of a hospital social worker who decided to continue wearing the Muslim veil. The ECtHR found that there had been no violation of Article 9, since it fell within the authorities' margin of appreciation to judge whether a religious symbol was ostentatious or not and whether it was incompatible with the requirement of neutrality and the principle of secularism, as enshrined in Article 1 of the French Constitution. [29]

The ECtHR's sometimes inconsistent jurisprudence in respect of religious symbols received criticism, particularly with regard to the heavy reliance on the margin of appreciation, and the artificial distinction between powerful religious symbols and 'passive religious symbols.' [30] It also fuelled the hopes of practitioners and academics that the CJEU would develop a more solid interpretation of freedom of religion and non-discrimination, [31] in what was perceived as the broader context in which the CJEU operates. [32]

4. A Competition between the CJEU and the ECtHR?

In assessing whether the dismissal of employees for wearing an Islamic headscarf could be considered discriminatory, the CJEU not only has to consider the EU law in question, but also the application of Article 9 ECHR and related jurisprudence. Put another way, in Achbita and Bougnaoui the CJEU acted as 'a court interpreting a treaty that contained language from another treaty, which had been interpreted by another court.' [33]

While the ECtHR judgments strive to analyse whether the measure limiting FoRB fulfils a legitimate aim, is proportionate, and necessary, [34] the CJEU preliminary rulings are inherently vaguer on these matters. This is because the reference for a preliminary ruling focuses on issues of interpretation and validity of EU law, leaving it for the referring court to apply the interpretation of EU law to the contested measure and factual situation. This notwithstanding, it is submitted that the CJEU cannot interpret EU law in a legal vacuum, overlooking the basic factual elements of the case.

Nevertheless, this is precisely what the CJEU seems to do in Achbita. When the CJEU turns to the question of necessity, it indicates that the general policy of 'neutrality' concerning symbols, including ones of a religious nature, may be legitimate insofar as it only extends to customer-facing employees. The CJEU however adopts an unhelpful piece of circular reasoning, suggesting that the measure will be necessary if the rule covers 'only G4S workers who interact with customers.' However, that was the reasoning applied to consider the aim to be legitimate, and there is no further examination as to why this measure is proportionate.

Such a corporate policy of so-called neutrality should not give a carte blanche to discriminate. It is always necessary to assess the context in which the policy was adopted, the aim pursued, and the necessity of implementing the measure. In assessing proportionality, an analysis of the measure's impact on the applicant is also necessary, since not all addressees of the measure are impacted in the same way. For example, an atheist is impacted in a minimal way by a company ban on religious symbols. Conversely, for a practicing believer, such a ban has a deep, long-lasting and significant impact, affecting the core of his identity.

Furthermore, the legal analysis should examine whether there were any less restrictive means of achieving the aim in question. The CJEU seems to suggest, through these rulings, that the manifestation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief can be suppressed at the simple will of employers, based on generalized considerations, without deeper scrutiny.

Secondly, the CJEU missed an opportunity to stress the need to accommodate different convictions and beliefs in an increasingly diverse European society. It is the Court's duty to accommodate different convictions and beliefs rather than force a so-called neutrality, which banishes all manifestations of religion or belief. The only hint of an accommodation is found in the Achbita judgment:

'In the present case, so far as concerns the refusal of a worker such as Ms Achbita to give up wearing an Islamic headscarf when carrying out her professional duties for G4S customers, it is for the referring court to ascertain whether, taking into account the inherent constraints to which the undertaking is subject, and without G4S being required to take on an additional burden, it would have been possible for G4S, faced with such a refusal, to offer her a post not involving any visual contact with those customers, instead of dismissing her.

Unfortunately, the standard advanced by the Court is one in which an employer is required to accommodate the employee unless it would impose an 'additional burden', and in a way that presupposes the validity of banishing a religious employee from public view.

The so-called accommodation hinted at by the CJEU is one of the poorest forms of 'accommodation' imaginable, implying that someone exercising their religious freedom could be disqualified from public facing roles. That is perhaps a step beyond the pre-Eweida test, which simply considered any claim vitiated by the fact that an employee could get another job, but is a long way from a legal standard which cherishes and protects religious freedom.

The reasoning adopted by the CJEU judgments goes much further than the wearing of the hijab and could similarly apply to the wearing of the Christian prayer rope around the wrist, or the cross around the neck. The CJEU seems to set a very low threshold to justify what may constitute a restriction on a fundamental freedom, and could ultimately result in a weakening of the protection of employees' FoRB, where 'neutrality' is invoked as a justification. This is at odds with the long-held European goal of creating a diverse and tolerant society, [35] and in the long term, could deter citizens from publicly manifesting their religious beliefs. By placing corporate policies of so-called neutrality above freedom to manifest religion, the CJEU judgments also dash the hope for a robust and consistent protection of freedom of religion.

5. Conclusion

The CJEU judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui depart from the established ECtHR analysis of limitations on fundamental rights by failing to properly assess the necessity and proportionality of the interdiction on religious symbols, generally setting a weak threshold for limitations on religious manifestations.

While the Achbita and Bougnaoui judgments admittedly do not create an irresolvable conflict between the CJEU and the ECtHR, they make it abundantly clear that the Luxembourg Court will delve into what was traditionally the ECtHR remit. Specifically regarding FoRB, there is a pending case before the CJEU which seeks to assess the relationship between the right to manifest religion and the employer's wish to pursue a policy of political, ideological and religious neutrality 'even where the employer thereby seeks to meet the subjective wishes of his customers'. [36]

Thus, the outstanding question for future assessments of areas where the ECtHR has had the judicial leadership, is: will the two courts be able to work seamlessly to safeguard fundamental human rights, or will there be a contradiction and indeed a conflict between them? Additionally, in the case of conflict, will there be a hierarchy of courts or a further fragmentation of human rights in the European landscape?  

Ultimately, even where there is ambiguity in the ECtHR and CJEU jurisprudence, these two top courts have certainly not picked the 'high point' of FoRB protection as its standard - perhaps even the opposite. This has detrimental effects to FoRB protection, since, as the ECHR and CJEU keep battling it out, national courts will find themselves struggling to resolve the different thresholds and standards of protection. 


Bibliography

Monographs

Morten Broberg and Niels Fenger,Preliminary References to the European Court of Justice (2 nd edn, Oxford University Press 2014)

Carolyn Evans, Freedom of Religion under the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2001)

Erica Howard, Law and the Wearing of Religious Symbols (Routledge 2012)

EU legislation

Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation [2000] OJ L303/16

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2000/C 364/01

Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, 2007/C 303/02, Explanation on Article 10

CJEU case law

C-157/15, Samira Achbita and Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v. G4S Secure Solutions NV [2017] ECLI:EU:C:2017:203

C-188/15, Asma Bougnaoui, Association de defense des droits de l'homme (ADDH) v. Micropole Univers SA [2017] ECLI:EU:C:2017:204

Joined Cases C-71/11 and C-99/11 Y and Z [2012] EU:C:2012:518.

C-804/18, WABE e.V., ECLI:EU:C:2019 :182

ECtHR case law

Leyla Şahin v. Turkey [GC], Appl. No. 44774/98 (2005)

Lautsi and others v. Italy [GC], Appl. No. 30814/06 (2011)

Eweida and others v. UK , Appl. Nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10, 36516/10 (2013)

Ebrahimian v. France , Appl. No. 64846/11 (2015)

Eweida and others v. UK , Appl. Nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10, 36516/10 (2013)

Journal Articles

Ronan McCrea, 'Singing from the Same Hymn Sheet? What the Differences between the Strasbourg and Luxembourg Courts Tell Us about Religious Freedom, Non-Discrimination, and the Secular State' (2016) 5 (2) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 183

Eugenia Relaño Pastor, 'Towards Substantive Equality for Religious Believers in the Workplace? Two Supranational European Courts, Two Different Approaches' (2016) 5 (2) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 255

Adina Portaru, 'The "Rights and Freedoms of Others" vs. Religious Manifestation: Who Wins at the ECtHR?' in Wolfgang Benedek et al. (eds) (2015) 15 European Yearbook on Human Rights 367

Articles in edited volumes

Titia Loenen and Lucy Vickers, 'More is Less? Multiple Protection of Human Rights in Europe and the Risks of Erosion of Human Rights Standards' in Morano-Foadi and Vickers (eds), Fundamental Rights in the EU: A Matter for Two Courts (Hart 2015), 159

Adina Portaru, 'Religious Symbols' in Robert Clarke (ed), The 'Conscience of Europe?' (Kairos 2017) 143

Lorcan Price, 'Engaging with the European Court of Human Rights' in Robert Clarke (ed), The 'Conscience of Europe?' (Kairos 2017) 2011

Miscellaneous

Erica Howard (EJIL Talk, 1 August 2016) http://www.ejiltalk.org/headscarves-and-the-court-of-justice-of-the-european-union-two-opposing-opinions/

Rafał Mańko, EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (European Parliament briefing, July 2017), www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/607298/EPRS_BRI(2017)607298_EN.pdf

CJEU press release 'An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination' (CURIA, 14 March 2017) http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/p1_306951/en/

Laurence Wilkinson, 'Luxembourg v Strasbourg: A Human Rights Turf War?' ( The Freedom Blog Euractiv, 21 April 2017) http://freedomofthought.blogactiv.eu/2017/04/21/luxembourg-v-strasbourg-a-human-rights-turf-war/



[1] Case 157/15, Samira Achbita and Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v. G4S Secure Solutions NV [2017] ECLI:EU:C:2017:203 http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?num=C-157/15 accessed 2 April 2018.

[2] Case 188/15, Asma Bougnaoui, Association de defense des droits de l'homme (ADDH) v. Micropole Univers SA [2017] ECLI:EU:C:2017:204 http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&jur=C,T,F&num=C-188/15&td=ALL accessed 2 April 2018

[3] Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation [2000] OJ L303/16.

[5] Achbita (n 1), Opinion of AG Kokott, 6.

[6] Bougnaoui (n 2), Opinion of AG Sharpston, 63.

[7] Bougnaoui (n 6) 64.

[8] Achbita (n 5) 45.

[9] Achbita (n 5) 116.

[10] Bougnaoui (n 6) 118.

[11]   CJEU press release 'An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination' ( CURIA, 14 March 2017) http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/p1_306951/en/ accessed 3 April 2018.

[12] The ECHR's remit goes far beyond the EU's membership to the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe. The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, is the custodian and arbiter of the European Convention on Human Rights, and is called on to determine whether States have violated the Convention in specific circumstances.

[13] For an analysis of how the ECtHR analyzes and protects the wearing of religious symbols, see Adina Portaru, 'Religious Symbols' in Robert Clarke (ed), The 'Conscience of Europe?' (Kairos 2017) 143, and Erica Howard, Law and the Wearing of Religious Symbols (Routledge 2012).

[14] Article 9 (2) ECHR. It is important to note that when the ECHR was drafted, the final draft of Article 9 (2) was the least limited of the proposed articles. See Carolyn Evans, Freedom of Religion under the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2001) 137.

[15] Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2000/C 364/01.

[16] (n 15) Article 10 (1).

[17] Joined Cases C-71/11 and 99/11 Y and Z [2012] EU:C:2012:518.

[18] Y and Z (n 17), Opinion of AG Bot, 46. In its final ruling, the CJEU held that the right to act upon sincerely-held religious or moral beliefs clearly includes public manifestations of those beliefs.

[19] Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, 2007/C 303/02, Explanation on Article 10.

[20] Morten Broberg and Niels Fenger,Preliminary References to the European Court of Justice (2 nd edn, Oxford University Press 2014).

[21] For a brief overview of the process of EU accession to the ECHR, see Rafał Mańko, EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (European Parliament Briefing, July 2017) www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/607298/EPRS_BRI(2017)607298_EN.pdf accessed 10 March 2018.  

[22] Leyla Şahin v. Turkey [GC], Appl. No. 44774/98 (2005).

[23] Lautsi and others v. Italy [GC], Appl. No. 30814/06 (2011).

[24] Eweida and others v. UK , Appl. Nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10, 36516/10 (2013).

[25] Ebrahimian v. France , Appl. No. 64846/11 (2015).

[26] Eweida and others v. UK , Appl. Nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10, 36516/10 (2013).

[27] Eweida (n 26) 94.

[28] (n 25).

[29] A high point of criticism is the deference the ECtHR has played to French conceptions of secularism (laïcité), and the manner in which the ECtHR has used the ground of 'the rights and freedoms of others' to justify limitations on FoRB. See Adina Portaru 'The "Rights and Freedoms of Others" vs. Religious Manifestation: Who Wins at the ECtHR?' in Wolfgang Benedek et al. (eds) (2015) 15 European Yearbook on Human Rights 367 and Lorcan Price who shows that the ECHR rarely finds Article 9 violations against France compared with other Member States, Lorcan Price, 'Engaging with the European Court of Human Rights' in Robert Clarke (ed), The 'Conscience of Europe?' (Kairos 2017) 211.

[30] (n 13).

[31] Titia Loenen and Lucy Vickers, 'More is Less? Multiple Protection of Human Rights in Europe and the Risks of Erosion of Human Rights Standards' in Morano-Foadi and Vickers (eds), Fundamental Rights in the EU: A Matter for Two Courts (Hart 2015), 159. See also the analysis of the two courts in the interpretation of non-discrimination, by Eugenia Relaño Pastor, 'Towards Substantive Equality for Religious Believers in the Workplace? Two Supranational European Courts, Two Different Approaches' (2016) 5 (2) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 255.

[32] The broader context can be seen in at least two points: the protection of the rights of employees of religious bodies, and the question of indirect discrimination on the basis of religion or belief (where the 'group disadvantage' element can make a significant difference in the interpretation of freedom of religion or belief). See, in this sense, Ronan McCrea, 'Singing from the Same Hymn Sheet? What the Differences between the Strasbourg and Luxembourg Courts Tell Us about Religious Freedom, Non-Discrimination, and the Secular State' (2016) 5 (2) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 183.

[33] Laurence Wilkinson, 'Luxembourg v Strasbourg: A Human Rights Turf War?' (The Freedom Blog Euractiv, 21 April 2017) http://freedomofthought.blogactiv.eu/2017/04/21/luxembourg-v-strasbourg-a-human-rights-turf-war/ accessed 15 March 2018.

[34] For example, even in the contentious case S.A.S. v. France, the Strasbourg Court goes through such steps, stating that: 'In view of its impact on the rights of women who wish to wear the full-face veil for religious reasons, a blanket ban on the wearing in public places of clothing designed to conceal the face can be regarded as proportionate only in a context where there is a general threat to public safety'. See S.A.S. v. France, Appl. No. 43834/11 (2014), 139 (emphasis added).

[35] The EU Charter provides that the EU is obliged to respect cultural and religious diversity. See (n 15) Article 22.