Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights
Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change a religion or belief, and to manifest a religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society"
Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Court's general approach
General view of ECHR on freedom of religion could be observed in Kokkinakis v. Greece case where the Court held
[they] are is one of the foundations of a 'democratic society' within the meaning of the Convention. In this case the Court held that "A fair balance of personal rights made it necessary to accept that others’ thought should be subject to a minimum of influence, otherwise the result would be a "strange society of silent animals that [would] think but ... not express themselves, that [would] talk but ... not communicate, and that [would] exist but ... not coexist.
It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their concept of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries depends on it. While religious freedom is primarily a matter of individual conscience, it also implies, inter alia, freedom to 'manifest [ones] religion'. Bearing witness in words and deeds is bound up with the existence of religious convictions. According to Article 9, freedom to manifest one's religion is not only exercisable in community with others, 'in public' and within the circle of those faith one shares, but can also be asserted 'alone' and private.
- European Court of Human Rights:
- English national court:
- Murdoch J. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. A guide to the implementation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 2007
- Freedom of religion, a factsheet of ECtHR case law
- The Protections for Religious Rights: Law and Practice, a textbook on Article 9 and international law on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion