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Secular Judges and the Rise of Religious Diversity in Europe: Balancing Between Recognition of Group Identity and Respect of the State Traditions?

12:10-1:45 pm
Room 127, Yale Law School


The Honorable Lech Garlicki
Visiting Professor of Law and Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellow in Global Justice, Yale Law School
Justice, European Court of Human Rights, 2002-2012
Judge, Constitutional Court of Poland, 1993-2001

The Honorable Dieter Grimm
Visiting Professor of Law and Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellow in Global Justice, Yale Law School
Justice, Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, 1987-1999

In contemporary liberal societies, effective governance requires balancing individuals’ concerns with the state’s need to maintain general rules and standards. Disputes over religious liberty set these competing interests into stark relief and pose complex questions to secular judges. The rise of religious diversity in Europe poses new questions to the governments and to the courts at both the national and European levels. Can a democratic state ban the wearing of religious clothes or the practice of some religious rituals? Ought prison staff be required to prepare vegetarian meals for a Buddhist inmate? Should a court postpone its meeting set on Yom Kippur because a Jewish lawyer requests it? Answering these questions demands a consideration not only of how to weigh these competing interests, but also of the extent to which secular authorities should assess religious obligations.

In much of Europe, courts have frequently turned to proportionality analysis to determine what provisions ought be allowed for individuals’ religious liberty, but their decisions express very different outcomes and reasoning. All are welcome to hear from our speakers who as European judges had to deal with some of these cases.

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