International Developments on the Freedom of Religion

The past week has been an exciting time for jurisprudence on the freedom of religion. Path breaking developments have taken place across the world with three fascinating judgments delivered by the United States Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Court of India.

United States – Hobby Lobby Ruling

The US Supreme Court in a historic judgment Burwell v Hobby Lobby Store last Monday ruled in a 5-4 majority that corporations are ‘persons’ with the ability to exercise the freedom of religion enabling them to avoid the obligation to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. The petition was filed by a Christian family-run store ‘Hobby Lobby’ which argued that the obligation under the Affordance Care Act was in violation of their Christian faith. The implications of allowing a corporation to exercise the freedom of religion are yet to be seen, but one can be sure that it is definitely not going to end at Hobby Lobby Store.

Full Text Judgment:

New York Times Analysis:

ECHR – French Burqa Ban Upheld

The European Court of Human Rights in S.A.S. v France on 1st July upheld the French ban on wearing the niqab in public in a judgment holding that the conditions for ‘living together’ was a legitimate ground for compromising on the individual’s freedoms.

Full Text:{“itemid”:[“001-145466”]}

ECHR Press Release:

Supreme Court of India – Fatwa Judgment

Finally, the Supreme Court of India in Vishwa Lochan Madan v Union of India held that Fatwas issued by Dar-ul-Qazas have no legal and binding value and are thus incapable of being enforced. It held that any attempt to enforce such fatwas, are consequently illegal. Moreover, the Court ruled that fatwas can only be issued against individuals unless asked by the person or by another having a direct interest in the matter. The petition was filed after a fatwa was issued against a woman who was raped by her father-in-law which stated that the husband and the woman could no longer have sexual relations.

Full Text:


It’s been a week of fascinating judgments. We will be putting up analyses of the judgments in coming days.





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