EU Law and Religion : A Study of How the Court of Justice has Adjudicated on Religious Matters in Union Law

Abstract: This study has caught a legal development in the making. The Court of Justice has, over the last ten years, developed a body of case law relating to religious matters in connection to EU law which spans a wide range of subject areas; non-discrimination law, data protection, state aid, animal welfare and slaughter rules. Historically, religion in Europe had strong ties to the nation state. The European Court of Human Rights has, in its interpretation of Article 9 ECHR, upheld European supervision of religious freedom in the contracting states. However, due to the lack of European consensus concerning the relationship between state and religion, the Court of Human Rights has left a wide margin of appreciation to the state. The question this study answers is whether the Court of Justice has left a similar margin of discretion to the Member States in its adjudication on religious matters.By analysing the development over the last ten years, one can discern an EU law on religion which is independent from the Court of Human Rights, and from the Member States. An "EU law on Religion" includes the general principle of religious equality – in Article 21 CFR – and religious freedom – in Article 10 CFR, applied in a uniform way, but also limits of the secular jurisdiction of the Court of Justice and the neutrality of the Union. Although the Union has limited competence in legislating on religious matters in the Member States, it does not hinder Union law from impacting the Member States, since they must organize their relationship to religious matters in conformity with Union law. Article 17(1) TFEU states that the Union shall respect the status of churches and religious organizations under national law, but this article has not been interpreted by the Court of Justice as safeguarding the traditions of the Member States. In contrast, this study advances an understanding of Union law greatly relevant to religion in the Member States.

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