EGMR: Fortcoming judgment on Thursday 31 October 2019 – Papageorgiou and Others v. Greece (nos. 4762/18 and 6140/18)

The case concerns compulsory religious education in Greek schools.

The applicants are five Greek nationals, parents and children, who live on the small Greek islands of Milos and Sifnos. The first three applicants are Petros Papageorgiou and Ekaterini Berdologlou and their daughter, Maria Rafaella Papageorgiou; the fourth and fifth applicants are Rodopi Anastasiadou and her daughter Smaragda Raviolou.

Under the Greek Constitution and other legislative texts, such as the Law on Education and various ministerial decisions, religious education is mandatory for all schoolchildren at primary and secondary level.

In July 2017 the applicants asked the Supreme Administrative Court to annul two recent ministerial decisions establishing the religious education programme for the 2017/2018 school year. At the time Maria Rafaella Papageorgiou was in the third and final grade of Milos General High School, while Smaragda Raviolou was in the fourth grade of Sifnos primary school.

The applicants asked to have their case examined under an urgent procedure before the start of the new school year but the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed their requests for lack of importance.

Nor did that court ever adjudicate on their case because the initial hearing scheduled kept on being adjourned until September 2018, by which time the school year had already finished.

In their applications the applicants extensively argued that the procedure for exemption from religious classes was contrary to the European Convention.

Before the Strasbourg Court, the applicant parents complain that if they wanted to have their daughters exempted from religious education, they would have had to declare that they were not Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, they complain that the school principal would have had to verify whether their declarations were true and that such declarations were then kept in the school archives. They rely on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life, the home and the correspondence), Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education).

Press release ECHR 359 (2019) 25.10.2019

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