The Secular Court?

Effie Fokas

Working Paper 2, v. 1 November 2016

In posing ‘The secular court?’ as a question, this paper questions whether the judiciary can be considered a force promoting secularism and argues that we cannot speak in terms of clear, mono-directional trends in court-promoted secularism, because of the complex nature of everyday religion in its engagement with the law, and with courts. The argument is supported with examples from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the United States Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Download: Fokas – GRM Working Paper 2016

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#7 Romania – Picking up the white glove: juridical arguments in contentious discourse concerning the legal recognition of same-sex couples in Romania

By Mihai Popa

In a national-level survey carried out last year by a Romanian human rights NGO, 89% of respondents declared to have heard about the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or the Court). A sober reading would interpret such data as meaning that probably 89% of Romanians either have heard of the Strasbourg Court or are embarrassed to admit otherwise. Be that as it may, it is impossible to neglect the fact that the ECtHR has been very visible in the public sphere during the last few years, and the mass media has been an important mediator of messages containing references to the ECtHR. This note begins with an illustration of how this happens. While the very likely high level of awareness about the ECtHR in the country pertains to a variety of topics in relation to which the Court has in time gained visibility (e.g. post-Communist property restitution; the living conditions of detainees in Romanian prisons), my aim in this intervention is to discuss certain trends relevant to my own field research, namely the increased engaging of human rights discourse and arguments by actors from the religious sector of Romanian civil society.

Below, I start by translating a recent heated dialogue in a debate about gay marriage aired on a national television channel on September 20, 2016. The dialogue[1] takes place between an LGBT activist, a conservative journalist who is also an Orthodox theologian, a former humanist activist who is currently a prominently pro-LGBT  Romanian MP, and an actress participating in a nation-wide social mobilization aiming to redefine marriage in the Constitution as being constituted between a man and a woman. The wider national context is one in which (1) the Constitutional Court is currently analyzing the claim of a gay couple (formed by a Romanian and a US citizen) to have their marriage contracted  in Belgium granted legal recognition in Romania; (2) 3 million signatures have been gathered at the initiative of the non-governmental Coalition for the Family in order to organize a referendum on modifying the definition of marriage in the Constitution; (3) a draft law on civil partnerships for heterosexual and same-sex couples has been rejected several times by the Romanian Parliament and is about to come up again on its agenda.

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Grassrootsmobilise presentations on ‘(Dis)locating Religion’ at the ESA Midterm Conference ‘(Dis)locating Europe: Conflicts, challenges and changes’


28-29 October 2016

Brussels, Belgium

Grassrootsmobilise researchers Alberta Giorgi and Margarita Markoviti participated in the European Sociological Association’s (ESA) conference ‘(Dis)locating Europe: Conflicts, challenges and changes’, in the panel they organised on ‘(Dis)locating Religion’. The conference took place on the 28th and 29th October at the Institute for European Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, with much success.

Alberta Giorgi presented on ‘Scalar secularism: Italy and Portugal in comparison’, while Margarita Markoviti discussed ‘The limits of religious diversity in the public sphere: Regulating places of worship in Athens’.

The conference programme is available here.


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