The European Court of Human Rights and Old Versus New Member States: Is There a Double Standard in Religious Freedom Cases?

European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence in the area of religious freedom (Article 9) will be examined with a focus on why there appears to be a double standard operating. The Court seems to allow more of a "margin of appreciation" (autonomy and flexibility) for older members of the Council of Europe concerning issues of religious freedom, whereas it has been quite rigorous in finding violations of religious freedom for newer members of the Council of Europe from Eastern and Central Europe. Several possible explanations for this pattern of case law in the Court will be examined in an effort to understand how Article 9 jurisprudence is developing within the 47 nations of the Council of Europe.

James T. Richardson, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies and Director of the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He also is director of the Judicial Studies graduate degree program for trial judges, a program offered in conjunction with the National Judicial College and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, both of which are headquartered on the University campus. His research focuses mostly on comparative studies of law and religion and on use of expert evidence in legal systems. Recently he has been doing research on treatment of religion and religious groups in judicial systems such as constitutional courts and the European Court of Human Rights. He is the author of many books including Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe (Kluwer, 2004).
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