Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief
Daphne Romney QC
The European Background
1. The European Union Council Directive 2000/78EC established a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. Paragraphs 1 and 4 of the recital to that Directive cite the fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights and the universal right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as informing the Directive. The purposes of the Directive are to protect the fundamental rights set out in the EC Treaty (paragraph 1) and equality before the law (paragraph 4). Paragraphs 11 and 12 state that discrimination based on religion may undermine the objectives of the EC Treaty, in particular the attainment of a high level of social protection economic and social cohesion and solidarity; and, to that end, any direct or indirect discrimination based on religion or belief should be prohibited throughout the community. Paragraphs 23 and 24 recognise that, in very limited circumstances, a characteristic related to religion can constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement where the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.
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