NCHR Ruling (III): Guardian Editorial–Religious freedom: Strasbourg's balancing act

Working around such faith-based impulses is certainly awkward. There is no clean divide between religiously rooted and other beliefs, and this is an area where asking questions will not reliably yield intelligible answers because ”“ as case law cited in Tuesday’s judgment puts it ”“ within the sort of supernatural discourses involved “individuals cannot always be expected to express themselves with cogency or precision”. So it is maddening to accommodate consciences that reject values such as gay equality, which are cherished by wider society. And yet, if we are serious ”“ as we must be ”“ about the freedom to believe, we must at least try to reconcile the two.

The big question is how to do so. Jesuitical past judgments about extending protection to such beliefs that “possess an adequate degree of seriousness and importance” are no guide, doing no more than begging the question. So what Strasbourg actually does, and all anyone can sensibly do, is weigh up competing interests and rights.

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