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Manifestation of Belief and Religious Symbols at School: Setting Boundaries in English Courts

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Since the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998 on 2 October 2000, state schools as public authorities have been under an obligation to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including the right to manifest ones' religion and beliefs as laid out in Article 9 of the convention. When devising their uniform policies, schools are therefore required to accommodate religious and cultural diversity. However, the extent to which they are required to do so has given rise to much litigation and debate. This article considers some of the theoretical implications underpinning the debate on religious symbols and manifestation of belief at school. It looks at the dilemma between the legal obligation for schools to allow the expression of cultural and religious diversity yet maintain cohesion and protect children from factional pressures related to various belief systems. It examines the extent to which human rights law can help to resolve the issue and looks also at the way the Human Rights Act itself has emerged as a conduit for crises of religious and ethnic identity in contemporary society.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer, School of Law, University of Westminster, London, UK


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