Manifesting religious belief: a matter of religious freedom, religious discrimination, or freedom of expression?

Author/s: Julie Maher, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Thesis
Year: 2014
Category: Religious Law
Institution: University of Oxford

Abstract: This thesis asks how manifestation of religious belief by religious individuals can best be protected in English law. It is particularly concerned with the protection available to religious individuals in the public sphere. This thesis assesses the current state of protection under religious freedom and religious discrimination models, before considering the potential for increasing protection by reconceptualising the right to manifest religious belief as an aspect of freedom of expression. This thesis asks whether the practical and conceptual limitations of a religious freedom model, and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in particular, can be overcome by reliance on alternative modes of protection, namely religious discrimination protections in domestic, Convention, and EU law, or through litigating religious manifestation claims as freedom of expression cases under Article 10 of the ECHR. The difficulty of communicating the harm in being denied the ability to manifest religious beliefs publicly is a key limitation of both religious freedom and religious discrimination models. Similarly, this thesis highlights the difficulty in assessing what weight should be attributed to such religious harm within a proportionality exercise balancing the rights of religious individuals with the rights and interests of other parties. The analysis in this thesis draws primarily upon the sources of law which shape domestic English law in this area, namely the ECHR and European Union law. However, this thesis also considers foreign precedent and case law from the United States in particular. This thesis contends that no one model can address the range of cases where manifestation of religious beliefs arise, and that litigants should be able to draw from religious freedom, religious discrimination, and freedom of expression protections depending on the nature of their case.

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