244 Reasonable Accommodation of Religious Claims in Workplaces in Europe? Basic Tensions, Socio-Legal Debates and Decisions

Thursday, June 27, 2013: 2:00 PM-3:45 PM
A1.18D (Oudemanhuispoort)
Liberal-democratic states in Europe are increasingly confronted with claims to accommodate a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices that put pressure on entrenched institutional arrangements and established balancing of conflicting human rights in diverse societal fields. As is well-known, basic human rights contain tensions or conflicts between ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ and between ‘collective’ and ‘individual’ autonomy, more specifically between collective or associational freedoms of religious communities, on the one hand, and individual religious freedoms and other basic rights of individuals, on the other hand. These tensions are unavoidable. For one, collective freedom of religion includes a fair amount of autonomy for Churches and religious organisations that has to be balanced with, and limited by, individual’s basic human rights such as freedom of speech/expression and the right to a non-discriminatory treatment. What makes these matters even more challenging is that the individuals concerned (e.g. minors, dissenters, women, sexual or ethnic minorities) are particularly vulnerable, even within their own (religious) minority groups.

In this panel we want to focus – against the background of broader studies and results of the FP7 RELIGARE project that include family law, public space and state funding of religions and faith-based organisations – on one specific domain, that of labour markets and work organisations. Employment has certainly been one of the areas where the basic tensions described above have played out prominently in various European states. The basic tensions that arise in the workplace are certainly not homogeneous and we need to – at least – distinguish between two ‘clusters’ of situations, whether they arise in the private or public sectors. First, these tensions can be described as religious interests of employees versus interests of other parties (employers, co-workers, customers, general public) and other liberal principles such as non-discrimination (sex and gender equality), the individual religious freedom cluster. Second, there is a clash between collective autonomy (practices of majority or minority religious organisations and associations that are protected by collective religious freedoms, the collective religious freedom cluster) and principles of non-discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and nationality.

In this panel we will compare the situation in this regard in three different states, England, the Netherlands and Denmark. Each country- specific contribution briefly addresses the legal framework, the most relevant (or controversial) court cases, rulings of other relevant judicial bodies, and the opinions and perspectives presented by the interviewees. In addition to that there will also be a comparative paper that looks at other countries involved in the RELIGARE project, such as France, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well.

Julien Jeandesboz
Marcel Maussen
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