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Full Access Securing Freedom whilst Enhancing Competence: The “Knowledge about Christianity, Religions and Life Stances” Subject and the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

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Securing Freedom whilst Enhancing Competence: The “Knowledge about Christianity, Religions and Life Stances” Subject and the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

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In an attempt to accommodate the increasing religious and cultural diversity in European societies, religious instruction in public schools is being rearranged across Europe. However, the issue is sensitive owing to the societal matters involved, such as multiculturalism, minority issues, nationalism, and citizenship. A crucial question is how religious instruction can be organized in public (state-funded) schools so as to conform to fundamental human rights. The European Court of Human Rights has also recently dealt in Folgerø and Others v. Norway with an ambitious attempt to introduce compulsory non-confessional religious instruction in public schools with the aim of enhancing dialogue and cultural understanding and take into account the future status of children as adult members of both national and international societies. Dividing children into separate study groups according to their faith had been dismissed as a form of segregation and parallel multiculturalism. This article focuses on Folgerø and Others v. Norway. What is at stake in the argumentation before the European Court of Human Rights, and how does it reason concerning religion and life-views, religious freedom and the aims of religious instruction in public schools? Based on this analysis, the article discusses what it means that a conflict over what constitutes adequate religious instruction is brought to a legal forum and the consequences this has for what will be understood as acceptable instruction.

Affiliations: 1: Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research, Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, the University of Helsinki Finland

10.1163/187103211X543644
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In an attempt to accommodate the increasing religious and cultural diversity in European societies, religious instruction in public schools is being rearranged across Europe. However, the issue is sensitive owing to the societal matters involved, such as multiculturalism, minority issues, nationalism, and citizenship. A crucial question is how religious instruction can be organized in public (state-funded) schools so as to conform to fundamental human rights. The European Court of Human Rights has also recently dealt in Folgerø and Others v. Norway with an ambitious attempt to introduce compulsory non-confessional religious instruction in public schools with the aim of enhancing dialogue and cultural understanding and take into account the future status of children as adult members of both national and international societies. Dividing children into separate study groups according to their faith had been dismissed as a form of segregation and parallel multiculturalism. This article focuses on Folgerø and Others v. Norway. What is at stake in the argumentation before the European Court of Human Rights, and how does it reason concerning religion and life-views, religious freedom and the aims of religious instruction in public schools? Based on this analysis, the article discusses what it means that a conflict over what constitutes adequate religious instruction is brought to a legal forum and the consequences this has for what will be understood as acceptable instruction.

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/content/journals/10.1163/187103211x543644
2011-01-01
2016-12-08

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