In Europe, issues concerning religious freedom are hotly debated. Many courts had to consider cases concerning infringement of religious freedom. This Article will focus on three examples: Headscarves, burqas, and crucifixes. Often, the interests of members of minority religions have lost in European courts and European constitutional courts. This is particularly true considering the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights upheld bans on headscarves for students in universities and public secondary schools, as well as for teachers in public schools. The Court also accepted bans on full-body veils worn in public areas. Finally, mandatory crucifixes in public schools have been deemed to conform to the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights. In all of these cases, the European Court of Human Rights has not adequately construed religious freedom as a strong right.
This is where the work of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde comes in. Böckenförde has thoroughly discussed the proper role of religion in a democratic society. Coming from a theoretical starting point, he developed an understanding of religious freedom as a strong right. He also explained why State neutrality should be understood in terms of open neutrality. Both perspectives help to more fully explain the scope of religious freedom.