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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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Religion as Seen by the European Authorities. Liberty, Equality and Non-Discrimination within the Council of Europe and the European Union (Gabrielle Caceres)


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Religion as Seen by the European Authorities

Liberty, Equality and Non-Discrimination within the Council of Europe and the European Union

Gabrielle CACERES

Université libre de Bruxelles

The modern era has led the European States to a process of secularization that ultimately gave rise to the redefinition of the place of religion in the public sphere. At the same time, the development of the human rights to freedom of religion (1) and to equality in the field of religious beliefs (2) has allowed a guarantee, within certain limits, to the external manifestations of beliefs. The establishment of these two fundamental rights in the European legal orders made it possible to take into account the diverse beliefs that are likely to be expressed, in spite of a present tendency to privatise religious activities.

On the European level, this judicial protection has primarily developed within the framework of the Council of Europe, which was specifically established with a view to ensuring “the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.1 Only more recently, the European Union – at the outset conceived as an economic and political organisation – has also taken up the task of promoting and guaranteeing fundamental rights, notably freedom and equality in the field of religion or beliefs.2 To this end, the European Union largely referred to the instruments developed within the framework of the Council of Europe, ← 193 | 194 → more specifically the European Convention...

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