The Supreme Administrative Court has examined whether a municipality’s decision not to accept the wearing of headscarves and similar articles of clothing in the municipality’s pre-schools and compulsory schools is contrary to law or other statute.
A number of members of the municipality appealed the decision, arguing that it contravened the freedom of religion in both the Instrument of Government and the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as anti-discrimination legislation and school legislation.
The Supreme Administrative Court stated that the freedom of religion, as expressed in the Instrument of Government, has a narrow definition and only protects the right to practice one's religion. Different expressions of religious affiliation, such as the wearing of headscarves and similar articles of clothing, are instead covered by the protection of the freedom of expression. Wearing such clothing may thereby be limited in accordance with what is applicable to interference with that freedom. A basic condition for restricting the freedom of expression is that it is implemented according to law.
The decision expresses what the municipality deems is to be applied within the pre-school and compulsory school area and how these activities shall regard the wearing of the articles of clothing in issue. The decision may thus be deemed to have actual effects on individuals and consequently constitute a restriction on the freedom of expression. In order for the restriction to be permissible, it must be supported by law. There is no such legal support in national law and for that reason alone the decision is to be overturned.
Read the judgment here: