T.C. v. Italy, No. 54032/18, ECtHR (First Section), 19 May 2022
The Strasbourg Court has recently dealt with a case concerning a dispute over a child’s religious upbringing. In the context of the child’s custody proceedings, a disagreement arose between the applicant, a Jehovah’s Witness, and his daughter’s mother, a Roman Catholic, as he kept involving his daughter in his religious practice and worship after their separation, concealing this from the mother and asking his daughter to do the same.
During the national proceeding, the mother complained that the applicant’s behaviour, was contrary to the minor’s interest because the latter was voicing discomfort as he was preventing her from attending ballet classes and taking her along to distribute religious magazines in the streets.
After appointing an expert to assess the impact on the child of such activities, the Livorno District Court ordered the applicant to refrain from actively involving his daughter in the religious services. After his appeal was dismissed by the Florence Court of Appeal, the father lodged a claim to the Court of Cassation, which eventually dismissed his case.
Mainly relying on Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8, read in the light of Article 9, the applicant complained about the domestic courts' decisions, arguing that he had been treated differently from his ex-partner. He pointed out in particular that the decisions had been biased against his religion, giving the impression that it was dangerous and should be avoided, whereas the mother’s
beliefs and practices had not been investigated.
The Strasbourg Court, however, considered that the decisions leading to the District Court order had attempted to focus above all on the child’s interest in growing up in an open and peaceful environment, aiming even at reconciling the rights of the parties, whose custody or visiting rights had not been restricted. Moreover, according to Italian Law, that order was not meant to be final and could be revoked at any time. The Court, therefore, considered that there had been no difference in treatment between the parents on the base of their religious beliefs.
(Comment by Andrea Cesarini)