Is Symbolic Religious Establishment Permitted Within the European Convention? A Legal, Political, and Pragmatic Perspective

R. Pierik*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article discusses the role of the European Court of Human Rights in regulating the symbolic establishment of religion by the Convention States in their public sphere. The analysis starts from the rather controversial Lautsi decisions and distinguishes three perspectives on such cases. The legal perspective focuses on the way the Court would usually answer a legal question underlying a controversial subject as an interpretation of the Convention and Protocols understood as the living instrument it is today. The political perspective focuses on the preferred solution of the democratic majority in the relevant the Convention State, which is sometimes diametrically opposed to the Court's assessment. The pragmatic perspective explains how the Court deals with such clashes. In controversial cases, the Court sometimes is critical of the state for violating Convention rights, but remains, as a supranational court, critically dependent on the sufficient support of these states. This implies that the Court is sometimes forced to act pragmatically. To maintain the overall stability of the Convention system of human rights protection, the Court is sometimes required to make legally suboptimal decisions in specific controversial cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-144
Number of pages23
JournalOxford Journal of Law and Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

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