The programme aims to identify and assess grassroots mobilisations ‘in the shadow of the Court’ with regard to issues of religious freedom. This aim entails engaging with local and national level actors to ascertain, first, the extent to which they are aware of European Court of Human Rights religious freedoms jurisprudence, and second the extent to which they use these decisions in their own efforts to secure rights. The resulting insights will help us to address the question of what is the impact of the Court, if any, on directions in religious pluralism at the grassroots level.
To this end, in-depth qualitative field research is being conducted by five postdoctoral researchers based in the four country case studies of Greece, Italy, Romania and Turkey, and employing a variety of research methods. Semi-structured interview research is conducted with a broad range of social actors, including religious minority actors; religious majority actors; representatives of secular, religious, and other ideological NGOs; “cause lawyers” representing religious freedoms cases; and state representatives dealing with religious freedoms issues. The researchers are also performing a content analysis of literature produced by these groups related to religious freedoms issues in order to trace and assess references to the European Court of Human Rights religious freedoms jurisprudence. Further, a systematic study of mass media is being conducted through a quantitative and qualitative assessment of references to the ECtHR in five selected mainline newspapers in each country case.
In order to allow for greater depth in our research, we have chosen certain issues and themes to serve a common focus for all country case studies, though not to the exclusion of further issues of interest in each country case. The selected common foci are the broadly defined fields of ‘religion and education’ and ‘legal status of religious minorities’. Further, in the Greek, Italian and Romanian case studies there is a shared focus on LGBT-related issues, whilst in the Turkish case the field of conscientious objection serves as a special point of attention. Though focused on the grassroots level, quite early on in the fieldwork our researchers have discovered significant transnational mobilization networks at play in many of the issues under study, revealing interesting linkages between and beyond our selected case studies.