Belief as grounds of discrimination


Conceptual dimensions and risks of discrimination

- Factsheet on the research project -

From the perspectives of both, the constitution as well as European law, the legal concept of belief in an affirmative sense denotes an identity-forming perception of human life and the world which is binding for one's personal life conduct and also shared by a notable number of other people.

As a consequence of the freedom of any religion and belief in a negating sense, also the individual denial of any context of meaning, be it based on a religion or a secular belief, has to be construed as a belief to ensure comprehensive protection against discrimination based on religion or belief. Along these lines, being non-religious is protected by the freedom of belief, too.

The highest structural risk of discrimination for non-confessional people and those being non-religious consists in their not being religious, since they consequently run the risk of being classed as morally inferior due to the social dominance of religious concepts.

The analysis of the jurisdiction and the case documentation reveals that the risks of direct discrimination particularly exist in the fields of ecclesiastical employers and public education (nursery schools, schools, institutions of higher education).

The risks of indirect discrimination result from the German legislation on religion and belief being oriented towards the organisational form of the churches, thus making it difficult for beliefs which are differently organised to receive the same privileges as a religion that is organised like a church.