EU: Freedom of belief includes freedom not to reveal belief

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was formally sworn in, taking an oath according to the Greek Orthodox faith.

Panayote Dimitras (founder of the Humanist Union of Greece) and some of his colleagues in the Greek Helsinki Monitor (affiliated to the International Helsinki Federation) have won a case against Greece at the European Court of Human Rights.

In their work under the Helsinki process, they frequently have to make depositions or give evidence in court.  Despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion or belief, Greek law requires that as a default they have to take an oath according to the Greek Orthodox faith or else to justify their wish to take a different oath or to affirm by revealing their adherence to another belief or their lack of belief.

The Strasbourg Court has again in this case underlined that freedom of religion or belief includes “the right of the individual not to be obliged to manifest his religion or his religious beliefs and not be obliged to act in such a way that such convictions or their lack can be deduced. In the eyes of the Court, state authorities have no right to intervene in the field of freedom of conscience of the individual and to seek his religious beliefs, or to force him to express his beliefs about the divinity” (judgement, para. 28).

The Court therefore found against Greece and ordered the government to pay costs.

European Humanist Federation | 30th December 2011


One Response to EU: Freedom of belief includes freedom not to reveal belief

  1. Andy

    A few years ago, when applying for probate regarding my late mother’s estate, I was asked by a solicitor to ‘Swear by Almighty God’ while holding a bible. When I questioned why we still had this archaic ritual he said ‘Is it a problem to swear on the Bible? If it is I’ll have to redo the paperwork etc.’ I told him possibly flippantly, that as I thought all of this fake religious observance was rather silly and out of date, that I’d be quite happy to swear on the Beano, or any other publication, if that made things easy. Possibly swearing an oath on the Beano would have made more sense as that publication held more enjoyment and meaning in my youth than I ever got from the Christian/Jewish book of myths and fables.
    Nevertheless I feel it is a serious point that we should no longer be required to pay lip service by faking religious affiliation. Let the religious oaths be available on request for those who feel a desperate need for them, but surely it should now be an all-encompassing, non religious text which is presented as the default wording for an oath in a court or other legal situation.

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