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Parental Disputes, Religious Upbringing and Welfare in English Law and the ECHR

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AbstractThis article assesses the position of English law concerning parental disputes about the religious upbringing of children. Despite the strong emphasis on both parents being able to direct their child’s religious upbringing, courts have interpreted the child’s welfare to restrict the exposure of the child to parental religious beliefs or practices in some circumstances: preserving the child’s future choice of religion, the physical integrity of the child, the child’s contact and relationship with both parents, the child’s educational choices, and the child’s relationship with both parents’ religious community. It is suggested that courts should have a wide understanding of welfare and should be wary to prohibit parents teaching their minority beliefs. This article also compares the position of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and suggests that, despite the stronger emphasis by the ECtHR on parental rights, English law is generally not that much at odds with the ECtHR.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, Queen’s University BelfastUK


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