Journal Article

Religion in the European Public Square and in European Public Life—Crucifixes in the Classroom?

Dominic McGoldrick

in Human Rights Law Review

Volume 11, issue 3, pages 451-502
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 1461-7781
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1744-1021 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hrlr/ngr024
Religion in the European Public Square and in European Public Life—Crucifixes in the Classroom?

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This article has two central objectives. First, to critique the proper place of religion in the public square of modern European secular societies. Secondly, to critique the proper role of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to freedom of religion. This article addresses ongoing conflicts as to the proper place of religion in European societies. Hitherto those conflicts have largely been the concern of sociologists and theologians. However, there is an increasing jurisprudence at both domestic and European levels that implicates both freedom of religion and the use of religious arguments in the public square. Within the context of that developing jurisprudence I contextualise and explore the judgments of the Chamber and Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Lautsi v Italy—a challenge to the obligatory presence of crucifixes in state schools in Italy. It is submitted that the Grand Chamber’s judgment was of seminal importance as it dealt with major systemic issues. These included the application of the margin of appreciation, the scope for perpetuating national traditions, religious symbolism in the public square, the relationship between secularism and neutrality, and whether perpetuating majority religious traditions necessarily discriminated against newer minority religions.

Keywords: religion in the public square; freedom of religion; secularism; margin of appreciation; discrimination; crucifixes in classrooms; Article 9 European Convention on Human Rights; Article 2 of Protocol 1; Lautsi v Italy

Journal Article.  26752 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration ; Human Rights

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