Wearing My Religion: The European View

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
wearing my religion.
[apologies to R.E.M.]

As surely everyone in Canada will know there’s currently an attempt in Québec to impose a “charter of values” that would restrict the ability of some government employees to wear conspicuous religious symbols. Indeed, there has been discussion of extending to employers the freedom to impose rules excluding the use of conspicuous religious symbols.

In light of this, you might be interested to read “Religious Symbols, Conscience, and the Rights of Others” by Andrew Hambler and Ian Leigh in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, which examines the matter in the European and employer-employee contexts. For a quick overview, take a look at the authors’ post ‘You can’t wear that here’ on the always interesting OUP blog. And if that intrigues you, head on over to the OJLR site where for a limited time (don’t know how long) you can read and download the full journal article.

From the article abstract:

This article considers some of the features of the judgment in Eweida and Others v United Kingdom, which are positive from a religious claimant’s perspective—not least the welcome removal of unhelpful definitional ‘filters’ preventing individuals from making successful Article 9 ECHR applications, and we explore the implications of this for both European and domestic law. . . . We argue that the helpful analysis of a minority judgment correctly conceptualizes the claim as one of individual conscience rather than the right to discriminate against others. To illustrate this point, we propose a ‘reversibility test’ requiring the court to identify which other individuals’ rights would be violated if the religious claimant was accommodated. . . . Finally, we consider the extent to which, after the judgment, a public authority might be compelled to require staff to act in conformity with its non-discriminatory goals.


  1. And interesting that Lady Hale of the Supreme Court commented on the very case discussed, (Nadia EWEIDA and Shirley CHAPLIN v the United Kingdom – 48420/10 [2011] ECHR 738) at a conference at Yale. I get the sense that the Canadian Supreme Court would be more hesitant to engage in this sort of extra-curricular debate.

    Shockingly, she called for tolerance for Christian beliefs