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Union française pour la cohésion nationale v. Minister of Education , Arrêt n° 269077 269704 , Conseil d'Etat, 8 octobre 2004 (publication : AJDA 2004 Informations rapides p. 1901)

Facts: the applicant was the association the « Union française pour la cohésion nationale ». It claimed that the decree taken by the French Minister of Education on May 18, 2004 implementing the Law n° 2004-228 of March 15, 2004 violated the freedom of religion and belief of French students. The law proscribed the wearing of any religious signs (Islamic headscarves, the kippah, crosses, jewelry...) manifesting the faith or belief in a particular religion to students and professors (article 1 of the law is now article L. 141-5-1 of the Code of Education).

Holding: the decree of the Minister of the National Education on May 18, 2004 implementing the Law relating to the wearing of religious signs in public schools was legal. Thus the Conseil d'Etat rejected the application by the « Union française pour la cohésion nationale » asking for the cancellation of the decree.

Reasoning: the Minister acted within his powers and did not exceed them when it took the decree. He did not violate the law of March 15, 2004 or article 16 of the Civil Code that forbid any restriction to the human dignity. He only précised and interpreted the Law. Moreover, the Court held that the decree did not violate the European case law (see for example CEDH 29 juin 2004, Leyla Sahin, AJDA 2004, p. 1325), nor article 9 of the European Convention because it aimed at implementing the principle of non-religious nature of the French public schools. Therefore the restriction on the freedom of religion and belief imposed by the decree was justified by a legitimate goal and not disproportionate.

 

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