Challenges Related to the Increase of Religious Diversity in the Light of the Judicial Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights


European states responded in different ways to tensions related to the increase in religious diversity, and the restrictions introduced were considered appropriate when they resulted from public security and the need to protect others, especially if the state presented a credible justification. On this occasion, the case-law of the ECHR developed two key concepts for the determination of the presence of religious symbols in public places: a powerful external symbol and an essentially passive symbol. An important achievement of the Tribunal is also the introduction of the concept of “improper proselytism.” Certainly, a further increase in religious diversity in Europe may lead to new areas of controversy, which will then be assessed by the ECHR. However, the existing instruments used by the Court, such as the idea of the Convention as a living document, the theory of the margin of appreciation or the analysis of the existence of the European consensus, enable it to develop its interpretation in this regard.


ECHR judgments and decisions

Members of the Gladani Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 4 Others v. Georgia, No. 71156/01, Chamber judgment of 3.05.2007.

Aktas v. France, No. 43563/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Al-Nashif v. Bulgaria, no. 50963/99, ECHR judgment of 20.6.2002.

Arrowsmith v. The United Kingdom, No. 7050/75, Commission report of 12.10.1978.

Bayrak v. France, No. 14308/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium, No. 37798/13, ECHR judgment of 11.07.2017.

C. v. The United Kingdom, no. 10358/83, Commission decision of 15.12.1983.

Casado Coca v. Spain, No. 15450/89, ECHR judgment of 24.02.1994.

Chassagnou and Others v. France [GC], No. 25088/94, 28331/95 and 28443/95, ECHR judgment of 29.04.1999.

Church of Scientology Moscow v. Russia, No. 18147/02, ECHR judgment of 5.04.2007.

Dakir v. Belgium, No. 4619/12, ECHR judgment of 11.07.2017.

Dogru v. France, No. 27058/05, judgment of the ECHR of 4.12.2008.

El Majjaoui and Stichting Touba Moskee v. the Netherlands, No. 25525/03, ECHR judgment of 20.12.2007.

El Morsli v. France, No. 15585/06, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 4.03.2008.

F. H. v. Sweden, No. 32621/06, ECHR judgment of 20.01.2009.

Gamaleddyn v. France, No.18527/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Ghazal v. France, No. 29134/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Hamidović v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, No. 57792/15, ECHR judgment of 5.12.2017.

Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria [GC], No. 30985/96, ECHR judgment of 26.10.2000.

J. Singh v. France, No. 25463/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Jakóbski v. Poland, No. 18429/06, ECHR judgment of 7.12.2010 r.

Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, No. 302/02, ECHR judgment of 10.06.2010.

Jehovas Zeugen in Österreich v. Austria, No. 27540/05, ECHR judgment of 25.09.2012.

Kalaç v. Turkey, No. 20704/92, ECHR judgment of 23.06.1997.

Kervanci v. France, No. 31645/04, ECHR judgment of 4.12.2008.

Kokkinakis v. Greece, No. 14307/88, ECHR judgment of 25.05.1993.

Lachiri v. Belgium, No. 3413/09, ECHR judgment of 18.09.2018.

Larissis and Others v. Greece, No. 23372/94, 26377/94 and 26378/94, judgement of 24.02.1998.

Leyla Sahin v. Turkey [GC], No. 44774/98, ECHR judgment of 10.11.2005.

Leyla Sahin v. Turkey, No. 44774/98, ECHR judgment of 29.06.2004.

Ligue des Musulmans de Suisse and Others v. Switzerland, No. 66274/09, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 8.07.2011.

Lotter and Lotter v. Bulgaria, no. 39015/97, ECHR judgment of 19.05.2004.

Manoussakis and Others v. Greece, No. 18748/91, ECHR judgment of 26.09.1996.

Milanović v. Serbia, No. 44614/07, ECHR judgment of 14.12.2010.

Nolan and K. v. Russia, no. 2512/04, ECHR judgment of 12.02.2009.

Ouardiri v. Switzerland, No. 65840/09, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 8.07.2011.

Öz v. Germany, no 32168/96, ECHR decision of 3.12.1996.

Perry v. Latvia, no. 30273/03, ECHR judgment of 8.11.2007.

R. Singh v. France, No. 27561/08, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 30.06.2009.

Refah Partisi (The Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], No. 41340/98, 41342/98 and 41244/98, Grand Chamber judgment of 13.02.2003.

Serif v Greece, no. 38178/97, ECHR judgment of 14.12.1999.

Swami Omkarananda and Divine Light Zentrum v. Switzerland, no. 8118/77, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 19.03.1981.

Tepeli and Others v. Turkey (dec.), No. 31876/96, decision on the admissibility of the complaint of 11.09.2001.

United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey [GC], No. 133/1996/752/951 ECHR judgment of 30.01.1998.

Secondary literature

J. Falski: “Zderzenie państwa świeckiego z państwem wyznaniowym. Turecki spór o laickość.” In: Państwo wyznaniowe. Doktryna, prawo i praktyka. Ed. J. Szymanek. Warsaw 2011.

K. Warchalowski: Prawo do wolności myśli, sumienia i religii w Europejskiej Konwencji Praw Człowieka i Podstawowych Wolności. Lublin 2004.

L. Garlicki: Konwencja o Ochronie Praw Człowieka i Podstawowych Wolności. Warsaw 2011, t. 1.

M. Hucal: Wolność sumienia i wyznania w orzecznictwie ETPCz. Warsaw 2012.

M. Kowalski: “Symbole religijne w przestrzeni publicznej — w poszukiwaniu standardów europejskich.” In: Prawne granice wolności sumienia i wyznania. Eds. R. Wieruszewski, M. Wyrzykowski, L. Kondratiewa-Bryzik. Warsaw 2012

Published : 2021-12-31

Michał Hucał 
Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw  Poland

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