The European Court of Human Rights, established in 1959 as the unit of the Council of Europe, is the judicial authority that resolves individual, legal personality and international problems within the scope of fundamental rights defined in the 'European Convention on Human Rights' and other protocols. Historically, the European Court of Human Rights has taken various decisions that are considered within the scope of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The Court defines in its decision, and in particular, what it can be judged within the context of the religious symbol, from a secular point of view. The court recognized the right to freedom of belief and religion, on the other hand, described this right as a declaration of belief in public. The study was designed with a 'conceptual screening model' approaching religious symbols on the basis of freedom of religion and belief. Although this study seems to be in essence a literature review, conceptual screening differs from the literature review method in that it examines the different aspects of a concept within the scope of different science and disciplines. The purpose of this study is to determine the attitude of the European Court of Human Rights to the religious symbols of schools. As a consequence of this work, the nature and scope of local and forbidden legal initiatives against the growing religious symbolism in European schools over the last years have been determined. However, the place of religion in European educational systems and the "church-state relationship" within the social system is another consequence of this study. This study also specifies that the decisions of the courts should be shaped to express religious beliefs and traditions freely in the public sphere.
Summary: From the European reconstruction era, the presence of religious symbols, in many cases Islamic symbols, has increasingly become a problem in modern Europe, especially in public spaces and especially in public schools. This has led to a large-scale debate and social distinctions about the limits of the concept of religious freedom. At the same time, the fact that the constitutional courts of the countries have declared that the symbols specific to certain cultures can be freely represented by the society have caused new debates. This study is mainly focused on the view of the European legal systems, and in particular the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), on the basis of the religious symbolism and freedom of religion and belief. This study gives places to discussions regarding the use of crosses and other religious symbols in schools in Germany, Italy, and Romania. Moreover, the ambivalent attitude of the local courts and the ECHR against the religious symbols are discussed in the study.
In Europe has a historically shaped state, public and religious institutions. The European States has legislative, executive and judicial institutions evolving over the Greek and Roman Civilizations. Additionally, the nations connected to each other by the concept of common religion and culture constitute European public opinion in general. In Europe, religious institutions have adopted a belief system traditionally shaped in Roman times. Although there are sectarian differences across Europe, the Christianity has generally been adopted. The Catholic church (Vatican), which has played a very dominant role in all social areas since the Middle Ages, has lost this power since the age of illumination. Along with the Enlightenment, European states have begun to adopt the traditional view of secularism, which separates religion and state relations and reduces the influence of religion on state organs. Thus, the dominant religious power over the states has weakened and the church has continued its life in society and the public sphere.
The ECHR, established in 1959 as an organ of the Council of Europe, is tasked with resolving disputes between individuals and legal entities, and between themselves, and with the states, in the exercise of the fundamental rights of various contracts. The ECHR lays down the depletion of domestic legal channels primarily as a condition for application because of the high nature of the court. Plus, the ECHR has adopted a compromise approach to solving the problems. The ECHR clearly states that citizens freely express their freedom of religion, conscience, and belief, while its provisions depend on secularism as well. Some ECHR verdicts reshape the definition of public space in accordance with the principle of ‘secularity’ instead of the ‘neutrality’.
According to Decision 1804 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concerning the state, religion, secularism and human rights, religion is regarded as an important place in European history, but in the practice requires the separation of church and state. Despite this decision, the Council and the Court have not succeeded in recognizing the different views of the member states in matters such as the role of religion in schools. There is a dominant view that the secular states in which the public decision-making processes are based solely on secular debates in the ECHR are in accordance with the principles of liberal European democracy. In the decisions of local courts in Europe, human rights are increasingly being taken into account. In doing so, the courts are failing to determine the ideological nature of secularism. The judgments of the courts result in the suppression of the religious views of individuals by liberal values.
From all the discussions that have been made, it can be determined that the ECHR and, indeed, the local courts and the society are historically more biased towards non-Christian religions and cultures, despite adopting a secular understanding. Besides, it is noteworthy that in many of the countries' public sphere, Islamic religious symbols are mostly restricted. The main reason for these restrictions is thought to be Islamophobia and xenophobia. In European societies and in western societies in general, religious symbols are seen as belonging, and along with the growing Islamophobic and far-right trends, especially Christian symbols are used extensively in public spaces. In addition, it is also possible to ban the use of symbols identified in particular in Islam (such as headscarves) in public sphere and even punish those who use them, in various countries, including France and Austria. Besides, the use of religious symbols in schools should not be regarded as a cultural value alone. Religious symbols are an important part of a religion and concrete indications of its existence in a society. It would be more accurate to see the symbols of Christianity in schools as a means of assimilation rather than as a means of culture.