What rights? What freedoms?

May 8th, 2014 8:43 am

Mirjam Meindl, Clemens Brilla

This workshop was led at the WSCF-E conference this Mozaik is following up. It was run by MirjamMeindl, Clemens Brilla,Mirjam has provided us with a written version of the workshop that you can try out with your SCM or any other group.

Participants: 3 to 10

Materials: Flipchart, copy of the case for each participant

Duration: Depends on how many cases are discussed and on how long you give the participants time to discuss 

Short descriptionThe participants take the role of judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and are confronted with a case and some questions related to it. These are questions of principle which have been discussed and answered by the ECHR. Just like in a real court the participants have to debate these questions, formulate an answer for them,vote on it and, in case of dissent, form a dissenting opinion.


Short Introduction on the tools needed for this workshop:

The participants are introduced to Article 9 ECHR:

Article 9 –Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought,conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to
change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private,to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching,practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by
law AND are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public
order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Furthermore the participants are given the testing scheme the ECHR uses when discussing their cases – you might want to write it on the flip chart so everyone has it in front of them:

1. Has there been an infringement of the right of freedom of religion and non-religious beliefs?
2. Is the infringement legal? (Look at Art 9 paragraph 2 –it explains under which circumstances the infringement
can be justified)
3. Is the state’s court within its margin of appreciation?(Is the interdiction disproportional to the goal the state wants to achieve? Eg.: is it disproportional to forbid someone to wear a burka/ a cross if the states goal is to protect public order)


The case-studies


Leyla is a medical student at the University of Bursa. Shecomes from a traditional family of practicing Muslims
and she considers it her religious duty to wear the Islamic headscarf.

She wore the Islamic headscarf during the four years she spent studying there, until a circular was issued. It is said that students wearing the Islamic headscarf are not to be admitted to courses, lectures or tutorials. Twice, when she wanted to attend class or to write an exam she was sent away.

Leyla went to the European Court of Human Rightsand claimed that these measures were against Art 9 of the Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom.

1.) Shall students be allowed to wear religious symbols in
universities in secular countries?
2.) Are students wearing a headscarf a threat to secular
state order?
3.) Are students wearing headscarfs a threat to the
religious freedom of female students who do not want to
wear a headscarf?
4.) Is the headscarf a symbol of the oppression of woman?


Mrs. SoileLautsi was a citizen of Finland as well as of Italy.Her sons went to school in AbanoTerme. In this school
a crucifix was fixed to the wall in each classroom.Mrs. Lautsi was a member of the Union of Atheists and Agnostics and she felt, that by the presence of the crucifix in classroom her sons would be educated in a school environment marked by a particular religion.She felt, that the school should be a neutral space concerning religion to prevent a certain religion beingimposed on staff and students. She asked the crucifixes to be removed, but the school refused. In front of the ECHR she claimed a violation of Art 9.

1.) Is there a difference between a cross and a crucifix?
2.) Is a cross necessarily a religious symbol?
3.) Is a state obliged to neutrality towards confessions?
4.) Does a crucifix on the wall influence pupils?

After the discussions participants give their own sentence you can shortly explain the sentence of the ECHR and the dissenting opinion.The goal is not for the participants to guess the sentence of the court but to discuss the topic – as the ECHR’s sentences are considered quite inconsistent by many lawyers (at least by the Austrians that I met) there is no right or wrong answer.

For further reading: www.echr.coe.int You can find the mentioned cases and many more on this page. Especially look at the section Press – Factsheets –Religion and clothing


World Student Christian Federation – Europe
Strada della Pozzata 12
38123, Trento, Italy
+39 329 2099274 IBAN: IT85T0503401801000000000417 BIC: BAPPIT21179
Subscribe using RSS


The work of WSCF-Europe is financially supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.

This website reflects the views only of the author, and the donors cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.