Journal Special Issue: European Court of Human Rights and minority religions

Religion, State and Society, 2017, 45 (3-4)

This contribution introduces a collection of studies focused on engagements of religious minorities with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Setting out first the global importance of the ECtHR as a standard setter in the protection of the rights of religious minorities, the text goes on to introduce the ten contributions that together make up the present special issue on the European Court of Human Rights and Religious Minorities. Beyond briefly summarising the contexts of the special issue, this contribution indicates that the first part of the special issue entails critical assessments of some of the Court’s case law dealing with religious minority claims (exploring on their clarity and consistency – or lack thereof – and controversiality), and that the second part offers insight into the grassroots level impact of the Court’s case law on religious minority claims. It explains how each of these contributions deepens our understanding of the ECtHR in its approach to and impact on religious minorities. And it introduces the fact that, rather uniquely, this collection of texts offers a rare vantage point on the ‘circle of life’ of the Court’s case law on religious minorities.

The texts that emanate from the Grassrootsmobilise research programme are available online; their titles are presented below as links to the full texts:

Effie Fokas & James T. Richardson

  • The principled slope: religious freedom and the European Court of Human Rights

Melanie Adrian

  • The freedom to wear religious clothing in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights: an appraisal in the light of states’ positive obligations

Marcella Ferri

  • Human rights and religions: ‘living together’ or dying apart? A critical assessment of the dissenting opinion in S.A.S. v. France and the notion of ‘living together’

Christos Tsevas

  • Militant or pluralist secularism? The European Court of Human Rights facing religious diversity

Roberta Medda-Windischer

  • Update on Jehovah’s Witness cases before the European Court of Human Rights: implications of a surprising partnership

James T. Richardson

Effie Fokas

Margarita Markoviti

Alberta Giorgi & Pasquale Annicchino

Mihai Popa & Liviu Andreescu

Ceren Ozgul

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God’s Advocates

Effie Fokas

eds. Jeroen Temperman and András Koltay, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression: Comparative, Theoretical and Historical Reflections after the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, (2017) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 389-410

‘God’s advocates’ refers to a broad range of actors who individually and together form a support system for the existence and application of the blasphemy laws in Greece. Specifically, their aim is to purge the offences against God, Christianity, the Greek Orthodox Church, and against the religious sentiments of individuals, from the Greek public square. They are assisted in this by certain corners of the political and judicial class. This chapter describes the work of God’s advocates while presenting some of the most important cases in which the blasphemy laws have been applied in a number of fronts of Greek social and cultural life. The text then examines the subsequent political (and notably not legal) mobilization of activists and artists working both at the national and international level towards the abolishment of these laws.  Navigating between a highly active effort from amongst the ranks of the Orthodox Church and the multilevel forces in the campaign against the laws, the chapter brings to life the current volatile battle in the Greek political scene over the decriminalization of blasphemy, and offers insight into the indeterminateness of that battle’s outcome.

Available here:


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Kokkinakis at the Grassroots Level

Effie Fokas

Religion & Human Rights, 2017, 12(2-3), 210-222

This contribution considers the impact of Kokkinakis at the grassroots level: to what extent do grassroots level actors know about the case of Kokkinakis and see in it an opportunity to further their own religion-related rights claims? To what extent has the case inspired social actors such as rights activists, cause lawyers or faith group members to mobilise for their own religion-related rights, whether in court, in the halls of government, or in the streets? Has Kokkinakis left a mark on the individual citizen with concerns to do with religious freedoms? These questions are addressed through empirical research conducted on the indirect effects of ECtHR religion-related case law, including Kokkinakis, at the grassroots level in Greece.

Download: Fokas – Religion & Human Rights 2017

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European Religious Freedoms Norms as a Challenge to Orthodox Churches

Effie Fokas

eds. Kristina Stoeckl, Ingeborg Gabriel and Aristotle Papanikolaou, Political Theologies in Orthodox Christianity: Common Challenges – Divergent Positions, (2017) New York: Bloomsbury, 75-96

The emerging European institutional framework for religious freedom forms an important aspect of the political and societal context in which Orthodox Churches must function – regardless of the extent to which the latter are aware of this or accepting of this fact. Though this institutional framework engages states directly and less so churches, because of the close links between the two in majority Orthodox countries, the potential impact for churches is extensive. This contribution explores the European institutional framework for religious freedom, based on particular articles of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as on specific cases in the religious freedom jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and examines the extent to which both the latter impact upon Orthodox churches in any distinct sense.

Available here:

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Religious Pluralism and Education in Greece

Recent post by Dr. Effie Fokas, Principal Investigator, GRASSROOTSMOBILISE, and Dr. Margarita Markoviti, Postdoctoral Researcher, GRASSROOTSMOBILISE, in the LSE Hellenic Observatory’s blog on ‘Religious Pluralism and Education in Greece’, following their presentation on the same topic at the Hellenic Observatory on February 21, 2017:
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Comparative Susceptibility and Differential Effects on the Two European Courts: A Study of Grasstops Mobilizations around Religion

Effie Fokas

Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 2016, 5(3), 541-574

‘Grasstops mobilizations’ in the context of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union refers to legal and political mobilization carried out by cause lawyers, NGOs, religious, secularist and humanist organizations, political figures and national governments, and by transnational networks which may develop within and between the above groups, depending on their stakes in a given issue. In the domain of religion, such grasstops mobilizations may seek to influence what religion-related issues get placed on a court’s agenda and the climate within which the Court takes its decisions on the latter; they are forces at the European and transnational levels potentially influencing the Court’s engagements with and ultimate handling of religion-related cases. This article draws on interviews carried out with various actors engaged with or impacted by mobilizations around the European courts to yield special insight into who mobilizes, for what reasons and to what effects, and into the conditions under which particular political, religious, or NGO actors are influential. Based upon the latter research as well as examination of certain structural differences between the two courts rendering them differently ‘open’ to various pressures, this contribution considers the comparative susceptibility of the two courts to such mobilizations.

Download: Fokas – OJLR 2016

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D come Donne, D come Dio (D for Women, D for God)

Eds. Alberta Giorgi and Stefania Palmisano, (2016) Milan: Mimesis

The interest in the theme „Women, Religion, Gender Relations” has gained particular resonance since the mid-90s in Europe and, more recently, even in Italy, developing beyond the disciplinary boundaries of sociology of religion and of gender studies. Three factors have contributed, in particular, to the re-emergence of this interest in the academy and its resonance in the public sphere: migration and the pluralisation of the religious field; the increasing role of controversies around religion-related issues and involving women’s bodies; and the complex negotiation of boundaries between the private and the public sphere. What is the role of women in religion? What are the forms of – and the interconnections between – religious and female agency? What is the role of religion in the public sphere? How religious rights and female rights are discussed in the political debate? What is the impact of the transformations of religion upon the individual religious experiences?

Available here [in Italian]:

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Religion and local politics in Southern Europe: a research agenda

Alberta Giorgi and Xabier Itçaina

Religion, State and Society, 2016, Vol. 44, No. 3, 276-295

This article brings to a conclusion the series of three special sections published in 2015 and 2016 by Religion, State and Society on ‘Religion and local politics in southern Europe’. We set up a research agenda on the interactions between religion and local politics in Southern Europe. In doing so, we focus on the localisation of religion, including religious debates, and on the impact of the recent economic crisis. More specifically, we address the local as a contested concept, the multilevel governance of religion as a scalar opportunity structure – in relation to the transnational dimension of religious actors – the effects of such changes in the welfare landscape and the impact of the economic crisis on the activities and strategies of religious actors in Southern Europe. Our research agenda focuses on the interactions between two main dimensions: the territorial impact of political and economic changes, and the multiscalar schemes of territorial governance.

Available here:

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Winning in the Parliament, Losing in the Courts – Catholic Bio-politics in different venues: The Case Of Italy

Alberta Giorgi

Estudos de Religião, 2016, Vol. 30, No. 1, 11-27

The catholic bio-politics, in recent years, addressed a variety of issues. In this contribution I focus specifically on assisted reproduction and stem cell research in order to analyse the Catholic neo-feminist discourse, and the complex interplay of discursive arenas. Namely, I focus the attention on the reconfiguration of religious discourse in terms of attention to feminism and gender rights, on the one side, and discursive opportunity structures in terms of venues’ opportunities and constraints on the other. The analysis underlined two main elements. First of all, in relation to the process of judicialization of politics, the analysis pointed out the different opportunities and constraints characterizing the different venues. Namely, judicialization of politics and venue shopping are not favourable the same way for all the actors. Second, a neo-conservative frame of revolutionary maternity gained large room in the Italian political sphere, and it is likely to gain even more resonance in light of the current debate on surrogacy, related to the never-ending discussion on the forms of regulation of same-sex couples in Italy.

Download: Giorgi – Estudos de Religião 2016

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