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Editor's choiceReligious Freedom and Equality in the European Union: Unclear Paths Ahead

Religious Freedom and Equality in the European Union: Unclear Paths Ahead

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Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

Madrid. Santiago Cañamares Arribas, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law at the Complutense University of Madrid, delivered a thought-provoking analysis of religious freedom and equality in the European Union at the recent travelling seminar organized by the Association of Ecclesiastical Law Professors.

In this recent lecture Prof. Cañamares Arribas, a distinguished scholar in the field of religious freedom, shared his profound insights on the intricate relationship between religion and the legal framework of the European Union. The event, which marks a significant moment in the academic and personal convergence of Madrid’s universities and beyond, highlighted the evolving dynamics of religious freedom within the EU.

Prof. Cañamares Arribas began his address by expressing gratitude to the association for reigniting the tradition of such meaningful seminars, a practice once common when he was part of the Department of Ecclesiastical Law.

The crux of Prof. Cañamares Arribas’s presentation revolved around his recent research and publication on the role of religion in the European Union, a topic that has occupied his scholarly pursuits for years. He pointed out a paradox within the EU’s approach to religious freedom and equality. “While the EU legislator shows a commitment to religious freedom and equality through specific norms and exceptions for religious reasons, this commitment does not seem to be mirrored in the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU),” he observed.

Prof. Cañamares Arribas critically analyzed the CJEU’s restrictive interpretation of religious freedom, contrasting it with the broader allowances within EU legislation. He cited the recent “Commune d’Ans” case as a prime example, where a Belgian court’s question led to a ruling that has sparked further debate on the EU’s stance on religious symbols in employment settings.

The seminar delved into two major unresolved issues within EU law: the distinction (or lack thereof) between religion and personal convictions as objects of protection, and the autonomy of member states in defining their relationship with religious confessions. Prof. Cañamares Arribas highlighted the EU’s foundational economic focus but emphasized the importance of not overlooking the social and personal dimensions, including religious freedom and equality.

Furthermore, Prof. Cañamares Arribas critiqued the EU’s potential endorsement of laicism, questioning whether it aligns with the fundamental rights and values the Union purports to uphold. He referenced the “Refah Partisi v. Turkey” case by the European Court of Human Rights to illustrate the potential conflicts between certain models of state-religion relationships and the protection of fundamental rights.

Prof. Cañamares Arribas called for a more nuanced understanding and application of religious freedom and equality within the EU. He suggested that through mutual learning between the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the contributions of Advocates General, there is room for optimism and improvement in how the EU navigates the complex terrain of religion and law.

The seminar not only provided a platform for academic discussion but also shed light on the ongoing challenges and opportunities for enhancing religious freedom and equality in the European Union. As the EU continues to evolve, the insights shared by Prof. Santiago Cañamares Arribas will undoubtedly contribute to the broader conversation on how best to balance these fundamental rights within its legal framework.

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