The European Court of Human Rights and the US Supreme Court case-law on religion in the public space: A comparison

4-6 October 2012

Max Planck Institute of Law and Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany is sponsoring a workshop that aims at comparing the conception of the place of religion in the public space in the case law of the US Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Thematic introduction

The workshop aims at comparing the conception of the place of religion in the public space in the case law of the US Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Until recently, the national character of law and religion and church and state relations and the striking differences between the European and the American system have discouraged experts from engaging in such a comparison. Globalisation of issues related to law and religion and the increasing trans-national response, including Trans-Atlantic judicial dialogue, have stressed the interest of comparing developments in the European and the American case law. At the same time the need has emerged to fill the existing research gap in the area. The workshop has the ambition to stress the potential of a comparison between the Court of Strasbourg and the US Supreme Court case law. Speakers and participants will be asked to map and explore the dynamics and arguments at stake in both courts, in view of benefiting research on the place for religion in the public sphere. The workshop is not meant to stand as an isolated event. Experts will be required to discuss whether and how it will be possible to move forward by means of a structured research project. The discussion will take place on October 6, after the end of the second workshop (Constitutional models on the two sides of the Mediterranean. A comparison).

Partnerships:  Max Planck Institute for Law and Social Anthropology, Religare, Religio West,

Provisional program

Halle, Oct. 4,

09:00

Introduction.  Briefly mapping the topic, reflecting on and explaining the structure of the workshop.

Christopher Kutz, UC Berkeley

The two courts in context. Studying the relation between each court’s case law development on religion and the legal framework and the socio-historical context of the two jurisdictions. Focus on the context is not only due to the need to clarify the conditions for a meaningful comparison: the session also aims at assessing how the two different contexts impact on the way the two Courts deal with the place of religion in the public sphere.

The US Supreme Court in context: Mark Tushnet (Harvard University)

The European Court of Human Rights in context:  Ronan McCrea (University College of London)

Discussion

Halle, Oct. 4

15:00

State supported display of religious symbols. Testing the case law of the two courts in a particularly sensitive area. State-supported display of religious symbols is meant to cover cases where the state imposes or supports the display of religious symbols, this excluding the case of, eg, pupils or teachers who, on their own initiative, want to wear a headscarf or turban.

State supported display of religious symbols. The US case-law:  Peter Danchin (Univ. of Maryland)

State-supported display of religious symbols. The European case-law:  Julie Ringelheim (UCL Louvain)

Discussion

Conclusions. What did the workshop achieve? Where do we move from here? Marco Ventura (KU Leuven)

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