Tuesday, May 24, 2022

European Court Upholds Custody Order Barring Father From Involving Daughter In Jehovah's Witness Practices

In T.C. v. Italy, (ECHR, May 19, 2022), the European Court of Human Rights in a 5-2 Chamber Judgment upheld an Italian court's order in a custody case in which an 8-year old's mother who was a nominal Catholic, and who had the daughter enrolled in catechism classes, objected to the girl's father involving her in his Jehovah's Witness religion.  The court ordered the father to refrain from actively involving the daughter in his religion. The European Court rejected the father's argument that the Italian court's order disproportionately interfered with his right to family life and his freedom of religion.  The European Court said in part:

[I]n the present case the domestic courts ... had regard above all to the child’s interests. The child’s interests lay primarily in the need to maintain and promote her development in an open and peaceful environment, reconciling as far as possible the rights and convictions of each of her parents.

... [I]nvolving E.[the daughter]  in the applicant’s religious practices would destabilise her in that she would be induced to abandon her Roman Catholic religious habits.... 

... [T[he contested measure had little influence on the applicant’s religious practices and was in any event aimed solely at resolving the conflict arising from the opposition between the two parents’ educational concepts, with a view to safeguarding the child’s best interests.

The Court also published a summary of its decision. Law & Religion UK has more on the decision.