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De Jure

On-line version ISSN 2225-7160
Print version ISSN 1466-3597


VAN DER VYVER, Johan D. Sovereignty of ecclesiastical organisations - the case of the Moreleta Park congregation of the dutch reformed church. De Jure (Pretoria) [online]. 2011, vol.44, n.1, pp.1-17. ISSN 2225-7160.

On 23 September 2010 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down unanimous judgments in two similar cases, but reached completely opposite conclusions. Both cases dealt with dismissal of church employees based on aspects of their private lives. In Obst v Allemagne the ECHR ruled that the German Constitutional Court correctly upheld the dismissal of the Public Relations Director of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints due to adultery. On the other hand, the ECHR ruled that the German Constitutional Court violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights when it upheld the dismissal of an organist and choir master of a catholic congregation due to adultery, despite the constitutional guarantee of religious autonomy in the German Basic Law. In South Africa, the Equality Court held that dismissal of an organist due to a homosexual relationship constituted unfair discrimination. While all forms of unfair discrimination must be rejected, legal compulsion may not be the answer to change the prejudices of religious groups. Persuasion should rather be based on ethical arguments, which may hold better results in the long term.

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