European Court of Human Rights finds in favour of religious freedom

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In a decision welcomed by religious freedom advocates, the European Court of Human Rights has found in favour of the right of a Catholic bishop in Spain who did not renew the contract of a religion teacher after he publicly campaigned in favour of married priests.

In a narrow 9-8 ruling the court decided this the plaintiff’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had not been violated.

It said that his private life in this case was overlapping with his professional life, namely his job as a teacher of the Catholic religion in a State school, and could not be considered strictly private.

It noted: 'In the present case the interaction between private life stricto sensu and professional life is especially striking as the requirements for this kind of specific employment were not only technical skills, but also the ability to be “outstanding in true doctrine, the witness of ... Christian life, and ... teaching ability”... thus establishing a direct link between the person’s conduct in private life and his or her professional activities.'

In Spain, the local bishop is in charge of appointing teachers of the Catholic religion in State schools.

The case is called Fernández-Martínez v. Spain.

The ruling has been welcomed by the Strasbourg-based European Centre for Law and Justice which intervened in the case in support of the Spanish hierarchy.

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