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Title: Freedom of religion, equality and discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights
Author: Trispiotis, I.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 479X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis proposes a theory of interpretation of the right to freedom of religion or belief under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It investigates the normative relationship between the right to freedom of religion and the values of liberty and equality, as well as the doctrinal implications of that relationship for the connections between the right to freedom of religion and other rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination. This is a combined normative and doctrinal project. The central normative claim is that the right to freedom of religion is justified on the abstract principle of equal respect for our personal responsibility to assess and choose ethical values for ourselves, authentically and independently from the coercive interference of others. The thesis argues that this principle is the moral bedrock of the rights to freedom of religion and freedom from religious discrimination, and that the moral fusion of the two rights explains their interchangeable use in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Moreover, this thesis argues that the relationship between freedom of religion and equal respect is better explained through a reasonblocking account of the right, according to which the permissibility of state limitations on the right depends on the nature of the justification that must be given for them, not solely on their consequences examined independently of that justification. Compared to interest-based accounts, it is argued that a reason-blocking interpretation of the right better fits significant parts of the jurisprudence of the ECtHR and is ultimately more conducive to distinguishing which kinds of state interference with our choice and expression of ethical values are justifiable. Finally, this thesis applies this interpretation to various current legal problems: the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom from religious discrimination as well as between religious discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination; the wearing of religious symbols, including the full-face veil, in public; and the regulation of blasphemous forms of expression. Whereas the theory developed in this thesis explains the relevant case law in many of those areas, certain other parts of the jurisprudence of the ECtHR seem to deviate from the proposed theory. In these cases this thesis not only shows why the proposed theory advances a more attractive and more specific account of the scope of the right to freedom of religion, but, importantly, it also shows why that interpretation better fits the principles underlying the jurisprudence of the ECtHR across a number of rights that involve public expressive dimensions, including respect for private life and freedom of expression. So, despite the fact that in certain cases the ECtHR has reached different outcomes to those that the normative theory defended here would point to, overall this thesis aims to show that tracking the normative justification of religious freedom to a more general right to equal respect for ethical responsibility consolidates religious freedom into a more general theory of rights which could be conducive to a more coherent interpretation of the Convention.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available