Balancing secularism with religious freedom: in Lautsi v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights evolved

Edited book (chapter)


Breda, Vito. 2013. "Balancing secularism with religious freedom: in Lautsi v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights evolved." Menuge, Angus (ed.) Legitimizing human rights: secular and religious perspectives. United Kingdom. Ashgate Publishing Limited. pp. 127-142
Chapter Title

Balancing secularism with religious freedom: in Lautsi v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights evolved

Book Chapter CategoryEdited book (chapter)
ERA Publisher ID1202
Book TitleLegitimizing human rights: secular and religious perspectives
Authors
AuthorBreda, Vito
EditorsMenuge, Angus
Page Range127-142
Chapter Number6
Number of Pages16
Year2013
PublisherAshgate Publishing Limited
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISBN9781409450023
Web Address (URL)http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409450023
Abstract

Until recently, the principles of secularism, religious pluralism and state neutrality have been perceived in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as partially overlapping concepts. However, in Lautsi and others v. Italy, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR has – in a landmark decision – qualified the interplay between these ideas. This essay will argue that Lautsi v. Italy signals a turning point in the previous ECtHR jurisprudence, which often associated secularism with the protection of pluralism and democracy.
There are two main consequences of the decision. Firstly, the ECtHR recognised that a state's neutrality cannot be deductively constructed as a logical manifestation of secularism. For instance, in Sahin v. Turkey, the Grand Chamber explicitly embraced the narrative of the Turkish Constitutional Court that allied secularism with a defence of pluralism. Secondly, in Lautsi v. Italy, the ECtHR recognised the epistemic implications of pluralism. Pluralism as a legal concept demands the recognition of diversity and the acceptance of a dialogue that transforms a multitude of legal orders (and a plurality of perceptions of the good life represented by such a multitude), in procedures aimed at accommodating concurring individual rights.
I argue that the recognition of pluralism and the democratic practices that qualify that pluralism should be a point of departure for the jurisprudence of the ECtHR in areas such as the display of religious symbols in classrooms. This approach serves as an alternative to the practice of balancing rights, which greatly restricts the breadth of religious freedom and de jure imposes a monist conception of rational thinking.
The essay will be divided into three sections, preceded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion. The first part will discuss how the antagonistic relationship between theism and secularism in Italy has shaped the issues of religious symbols in the schoolroom. I will argue that concurring views of the significance of symbols have historically been part of Italy's cultural heritage and that there are strong indications that such a democratic dialogue will continue without a definitive solution being reached.
In the second section, I will explain the benefits of accepting pluralism as a criterion for assessing the extent of religious freedom in signatory states. A short third section will suggest a procedure that democratically accommodates concurrent rights.

Keywordshuman rights; ECtHR; secularism; religious pluralism
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020489999. Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified
500405. Religion, society and culture
480410. Legal theory, jurisprudence and legal interpretation
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Byline AffiliationsCardiff University, United Kingdom
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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