Directions in Religious Pluralism in Europe: Mobilizations in the Shadow of European Court of Human Rights Religious Freedom Jurisprudence

Effie Fokas

Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 2015, Vol. 4, No. 1, 54–74

Over the past 20 years the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has evolved into a conspicuous, often contentious, force in the multilevel battles over the place of religion in the European public sphere. In the light of scholarly debates questioning the direct effects of courts on the issues they address, this article explores how the nature and extent of European juridical influence on religious pluralism are better understood through developments taking place ‘in the shadow’ of the Court.

Specifically, what is the aftermath of the Court’s religion jurisprudence in terms of its applications at the grassroots level? And how might legal and political elites operating at the national and international levels influence the Court’s engagement with religion?

These questions are important because ECtHR case law will shape, to a large extent, both local and national case law and—less conspicuously but no less importantly—grassroots-level developments in the promotion of or resistance to religious pluralism, which will, in turn, influence the future of the ECtHR caseload.

Download: Fokas – OJLR 2015

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Sociology at the intersection between law and religion

Effie Fokas

ed. Silvio Ferrari, Routledge Handbook of Law and Religion, (2015) Abingdon: Routledge, 59-74

Intersections between law and religion are increasingly permeating the public sphere. A brief consideration of the ‘controversial issues’ section of the present volume serves as a reminder of religion-related issues regulated by laws, on the one hand, and mobilising mass publics – religious and secular alike – on the other. In all these cases at some level we find a disconnect between the workings of the laws and the workings of the societies in which these laws operate. It is at precisely this point that sociology as a discipline can bridge the gap.

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Banal, Benign or Pernicious? Religion and National Identity from the Perspective of Religious Minorities in Greece

Effie Fokas

New Diversities, 2015, Vol. 17, No. 1, 47-62

Intersections between religion and law are increasingly permeating the public sphere. From burqa bans to same-sex marriage, a strong relationship between religion and national identity (whether ‘negative’, as in the French case, or ‘positive’ as in the Greek case), can often be found as a central factor therein. Based on empirical research conducted on pluralism and religious freedom in Greece and other majority Orthodox countries, this article seeks to locate the religion-national identity link within the grey area at the intersection between religion and law. The voices of religious minority groups illustrate the blurred lines between the benign and the pernicious in banal manifestations of the religion-national identity link in the Greek context. Against the backdrop of the Greek example, the article then navigates through normative debates about whether and how limitations to the freedoms of religious minorities, in cases where these limitations are linked to the relationship between religion and national identity, can be effectively redressed.

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Grassrootsmobilise Meeting on Religion and Education


16 – 19 November 2015

Istanbul, Turkey

Organiser: ELIAMEP

The Grassrootsmobilise team met in Istanbul between the 16th and 19th November 2015 to discuss the progress of their research. They had the honour of being joined by Dr. Riza Turmen, Professor Marco Ventura, Dr. Jeroen Temperman and Dr. Katayoun Alidadi, as well as by Advisory Board Members Professor Marie-Claire Foblets, Professor Haldun Gülalp and Professor Javier Martínez-Torrón.

Discussions were centered on the postdoctoral researchers’ current research focus, religion and education in the shadow of the ECtHR, and the related articles they are in the process of completing for a journal special issue. The group also explored the next stages of the research, namely references to the Court’s religion-related case law in mass media and in high courts in our four country cases.

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#2 Greece – 19th Annual Conference of ILGA-Europe: October 28-31 2015, Athens, Greece. LGBTI Rights, Religion and the European Court of Human Rights

By Margarita Markoviti

ILGA logo

Between 28 and 31 October 2015, the 19th Annual Conference of ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) took place in Athens, Greece, under the theme “Many Voices, One Movement – Together, mobilized for a just society”. Five members of the Grassrootsmobilise team including the principal researcher, had the opportunity to attend the gathering of LGTBI activists from around the world.

Created in 1978, ILGA is an international non-governmental umbrella organization that brings together over 400 organizations from 45 European countries. ILGA-Europe was established as a separate region of ILGA and an independent legal entity in 1996. The two main pillars of ILGA-Europe’s work are: (1) advocating for human rights and equality for LGTBI people at the European level before organizations such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and (2) strengthening the European LGBTI movement by providing training and support to its member organizations and other LGTBI groups on advocacy, fundraising and strategic communications.

The objective of the annual conference in Athens (last year’s was held in Riga, Latvia) was to bring together activists, policy makers, representatives of institutions and other allies in order to discuss current developments across the continent, to learn and share experiences and knowledge, to strategize and to plan joint work. The local host of the conference was OLKE (Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece) – a non-governmental organization founded in Athens in 2004 with the aims to combat discrimination and protect human rights of LGBTI people in Greece.  The conference entailed a series of events: from plenary sessions and panels, which were open to all participants and included thematic discussions about the European LGBTI movement and its political work, to workshops focusing on particular topics, self-organized meetings for any groups of people who wished to meet together to discuss any subject of mutual interests and, finally, consultations – a new addition to the ILGA-Europe conference, where experts on various topics offered one-on-one consultations in their area of expertise.

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#1 Italy – Torino Spiritualità

By Alberta Giorgi


Explaining Torino Spiritualità (TS) is not an easy task. It is a festival which takes place each year in Turin at the end of September: “Five days of meetings, dialogues and lectures that will help us to grow together through debates between consciences and the crossing of faiths, cultures and religions from all over the world”, reads the website. But, of course, TS extends beyond the days of the festival itself: the association ‘Amici di TS’ (Friends of TS), which now counts more than 2000 people, for example, organizes meetings, trips, and reflections during the whole year, based on the theme of the annual edition. One of the most interesting spin-offs of the Festival is the Scuola di Otium (School of Leisure), which aims to underline the importance of leisure and relaxation – the current edition focuses on ‘Mindfulness’. TS is not a Festival of Religions or religiosity, nor a Secular Festival of Philosophy or a Festival of Dialogue. It is all of the above and something more – a place for exploring the many forms of contemporary spirituality.

Let’s start from the beginning. In 2002 Gabriele Vacis and Roberto Tarasco created a play, Domande a Dio. Domande agli uomini. (Questions to God. Questions for men), performed at the Teatro Stabile of Turin. Three years later, in 2005, thanks to Antonella Parigi, at the time co-founder and director of the Holden School (a school of storytelling and performing arts based in Turin), Gabriele Vacis, Roberto Tarasco and Giorgio Vasta gathered as a Committee for the organization of a more structured Festival, with a Scientific Committee, the support of the local institutions and a number of sponsors. Thus, during its second edition, in 2005, the Festival addressed four main topics, Fondamenti e Fondamentalismi (Fundamentals and Fundamentalism), In che cosa crede chi non crede (In what does he who doesn’t believe believe?), Le nuove moralità (New moralities), and Credere e lavorare nel mondo laico (To believe and work in the secular world). The Festival included meetings, conferences, movies and performances, which took place in various locations, and invited, as speakers, writers, philosophers, scholars and representatives of various religions (among the many names were Amos Oz, Tariq Ramadan, Gianni Vattimo, Gilles Kepel, Serge Latouche and Zygmunt Bauman). The following year Parigi founded the Circolo dei Lettori (Readers’ Group) responsible for planning the Festival. Then, in 2008, the association of Friends of TS was founded. The Festival’s echo was far-reaching, and in 2014 Parigi was appointed Commissioner for the Cultural Activities (and tourism) of the Turin municipality, thus leaving the organization of the festival; the current director is Maurizia Rebola. Starting from this current 2015 edition, the students attending the courses ‘History of Religions’ and ‘Sociology of Religions’ at the University of Turin are writing a blog on the Festival (hosted by the Readers’ Group website).

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Balancing the autonomy of religious institutions with the right to a private and family life? A commentary on Fernández Martínez v. Spain

Panagiota Emmanouilidou

ELIAMEP Briefing Notes, 2014, No. 32

On 12 June 2014, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter the ECtHR or the Court) delivered its final and long-awaited judgment in Fernández Martínez v. Spain. The case concerns the non-renewal of the contract of a religion teacher by the Spanish State, because his personal status, as a married priest, was considered incompatible with the principles of the Catholic Church. Released a few days before another ECtHR judgment on a controversial religion issue, the French burqa ban, the present case raises important questions regarding the balance between two fundamental rights, the right to autonomy of religious institutions and the right to a private and family life of an individual.

Download: Emmanouilidou – ELIAMEP 2014

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Participation of Grassrootsmobilise Researchers in ILGA Annual Conference

28-31 October 2015

ILGA Annual Conference, Divani Caravel Hotel, Athens, Greece

Based on the theme ‘Many voices, One movement – Together, mobilised for a just society’, ILGA Europe (the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), an international non-governmental umbrella organisation bringing together over 400 organisations from 45 European countries, held its Annual conference in Athens from the 28th to the 31st October. The four-day programme offered the numerous participants an array of interesting panels and plenaries. The Grassrootsmobilise researchers from Greece, Italy and Romania took this opportunity to present their proposed research questions on ‘Grassroots Mobilisations at the Intersection of Religion with LGBT Rights’ via a small discussion event on the evening of Thursday, 29th October. Here the researchers introduced the key debates in each country context studied around LGBT rights that also tend to mobilise religious interest groups, such as civil unions and same-sex marriage, and gender and sex education. They then opened up the discussion to hear the views of the audience about their different national experiences on issues that are found at the intersection of religion and LGBT rights and on the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the promotion of the audience’s interests.

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