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Perry v. Latvia, No. 30273/03, ECtHR (Third section), 8 November 2007

Type Judgment
Case number 30273/03


The provision by which, on the occasion of the renewal of the residence permit, the authorities require an individual not to exercise his office as minister of worship constitutes a breach Article 9 of the ECHR.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR


1. Religious communities traditionally and universally exist in the form of organized structures and respect rules which followers often consider to be of divine origin. Religious ceremonies have sacred significance and value to the faithful when they are performed by ministers of worship who are authorized to do so under these rules. The personality of the ministers is undoubtedly important for any active member of the community and their participation in the life of the latter is therefore a particular manifestation of religion which in itself enjoys the protection of Article 9 of the Convention.

2. When it comes to fundamental rights issues, the law would run counter to the rule of law, one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society enshrined in the Convention, if the discretion granted to the authorities knew no bounds. Consequently, in order to respect the provision of Article 9 § 2 of the Convention, it must define the scope and the methods of exercise of the power with sufficient clarity.
(The applicant was a US citizen evangelical pastor who, having moved to Latvia, had established a religious community. On the occasion of the renewal of his residence permit, the authorities had compelled him not to exercise his office as minister of worship, affirming he was potentially dangerous for the State. The Court observes that, although the applicant was still able to participate in religious services as a simple faithful, the interference with his right to freedom of religion was not "prescribed by law")