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‘EU court puts ‘neutrality’ above religious freedom claim’

Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in favor of banning religious symbols in the workplace.


LUXEMBOURG – On 14 March 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) upheld the banning of religious symbols in the workplace. As a future consequence, European companies may introduce certain rules to prohibit other religious symbols such as the Christian cross.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between their religion and their profession. A Court claiming to be a champion of human rights should safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief rather than undermining it. Citizen’s deeply held convictions should be reasonably accommodated by their employers,” said Adina Portaru, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels, who wrote a legal analysis of the ruling.

Discrimination not equality

In its ruling, the EU’s top Court affirmed the findings of a Belgian court allowing a company to bar employees who dealt with customers from wearing religious or political symbols. In a related case, the Court decided that a French corporation may have unlawfully discriminated against its employee. The company dismissed the woman because she had refused to remove her headscarf. The Court justified its finding with the absence of a general internal rule banning all religious symbols.

The Court’s ruling is highly problematic.

“The Court’s ruling is highly problematic. It ultimately allows private businesses to implement rules which violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion. It is the Court’s duty to accommodate different convictions and beliefs rather than force a so-called neutrality,” said Portaru.

French version

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