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The Iona Blog

Another good decision from the European Court of Human Rights

Author: David Quinn
Date: May 22 2012

The European Court of Human Rights issued another very important ruling last week. The decision upholds the right of the Spanish hierarchy to sack teachers of the Catholic religion who flout the teachings of that religion.

If the ruling had gone the other way, the implications would have been far-reaching for obvious reasons. It would have compromised the right of faith-based schools across Europe to employ only those teachers who will not undermine the ethos of the schools that employ them.

While rulings of the ECHR are not binding in Ireland, we do take its decisions seriously when it suits us. For example, the Government has promised to implement the ruling in the ABC vs Ireland case which has very worrying implications for the provision of abortion in Ireland.

If last week's ruling had gone against the Spanish bishops it is very likely that groups in Ireland would now be using it to buttress their argument that Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act be repealed.

This section is the one that allows religious employers not to employ those who they believe will undermine their ethos.

Section 37 is absolutely necessary from a religious freedom point of view for the obvious reason that if your employees are in one way or another undermining your ethos, then there will be very little left of your ethos in short order.

Therefore we have another reason to be thankful to the ECHR. Not all of its rulings are good, but this is another one that was.

The ECHR had become very activist in recent years, but common sense has reigned in the main since it overturned the Lautsi decision against the display of crucifixes in Italian state schools.

May this outbreak of common sense last a long, long time.

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