Rite of blessing of a classroom according to Orthodox Christian worship, in the presence of a pupil professing a different religious faith. Non-violation of the right of parents to educate their child in accordance with their religious beliefs (Article 2, Protocol No. 1, ECHR) and of the learner's right to religious freedom (Article 9 of the ECHR).
Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 2, Prot. 1, ECHR
1. The second sentence of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 should be read in the light not only of the first sentence of the same Article, but also, in particular, of Article 9 of the Convention, which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom not to belong to a religion, and which imposes on Contracting States a “duty of neutrality and impartiality”. States have responsibility for ensuring, neutrally and impartially, the exercise of various religions, faiths and beliefs. Their role is to help maintain public order, religious harmony and tolerance in a democratic society, particularly between opposing groups. That concerns both relations between believers and non-believers and relations between the adherents of various religions, faiths and beliefs.
2. While the second sentence of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not prevent the Contracting States from imparting through teaching or education information or knowledge of a directly or indirectly religious or philosophical kind, as the setting and planning of the curriculum fall within their competence, it requires the State, in exercising its functions with regard to education and teaching, to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, enabling pupils to develop a critical mind particularly with regard to religion in a calm atmosphere free of any proselytism. The State is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents’ religious and philosophical convictions. That is the limit that the States must not exceed.
3. The Contracting States enjoy a margin of appreciation in their efforts to reconcile exercise of the functions they assume in relation to education and teaching with respect for the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions. That applies to organisation of the school environment and to the setting and planning of the curriculum, and the Court has a duty in principle to respect the Contracting States’ decisions in these matters, including the place they accord to religion, provided that those decisions do not lead to a form of indoctrination.
(In the present case, a ceremony of blessing was performed inside a classroom, officiated by the father of one of the pupils, a minister of the Orthodox Church. In the Court's opinion, however, there would have been no violation of the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs, given the short duration of the rite and its one-off nature. Furthermore, from the mere presence of a pupil at a ceremony such as the one described above, a violation of his right to religious freedom could not be inferred)
With arguments similar to those used in the “Lautsi v. Italy” case, the Court considers that the brevity of the blessing rite and its one-off nature would not allow to find evidence that the learner had undergone a form of indoctrination or coercion.