Tuesday, November 05, 2019

European Court Criticizes Greece's Procedure For Exemptions From Compulsory Religion Courses

In Papageorgiou and Others v. Greece, (ECHR, Oct. 31, 2019), the European Court of Human Rights in a chamber judgment held that Greece's system of exemptions of children from compulsory religious education classes in public schools violates freedom of education provisions and freedom of thought conscience and religion protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and Protocol Number 1 to the Convention.  Children who are not Orthodox Christians may be excused from the course. The court said in part:
the current system of exemption of children from the religious education course is capable of placing an undue burden on parents with a risk of exposure of sensitive aspects of their private life and that the potential for conflict is likely to deter them from making such a request, especially if they live in a small and religiously compact society, as is the case with the islands of Sifnos and Milos, where the risk of stigmatisation is much higher than in big cities. The applicant parents asserted that they were actually deterred from making such a request not only for fear of revealing that they were not Orthodox Christians in an environment in which the great majority of the population owe allegiance to one particular religion..., but also because, as they pointed out, there was no other course offered to exempted students and they were made to lose school hours just for their declared beliefs.
The Court also issued a Press Release summarizing the decision.