Denial of State recognition to a pagan religious association meeting eligibility criteria, on grounds incompatible with the State’s duty of neutrality and impartiality.
Art. 14 ECHR
Art. 1 Prot. 12 ECHR
Art. 9 ECHR
1. The applicant association was in a situation similar to that of other non-traditional religious associations which had obtained a positive assessment from the Ministry of Justice. In the present case, it appeared from the statements made by the various members of the Lithuanian Parliamentary Assembly during the debates, as well as from the Government's submissions before the Court, that the refusal to recognise had been largely motivated by arguments relating to the substance of the association's religious convictions. The differential treatment had thus been based on religious grounds.
2. In the present case, the scope of the States' margin of appreciation could not be wider or narrower, depending on the nature of the religious beliefs of the associations seeking recognition. Thus, the difference in treatment of the applicant association compared with that of other religious associations in a similar situation could not be justified by the nature of its faith.In the light of all this, the State authorities had not provided a reasonable and objective justification for treating the applicant differently from other religious associations in a similar situation, and the Members of Parliament who had voted against recognition had not remained neutral and impartial in the exercise of their regulatory powers.
(A non-traditional religious association established under Lithuanian law and comprising several religious communities following the ancient Baltic pagan faith applied for the status of a religious association recognised by the State. However, this recognition did not take place because the Lithuanian Parliamentary Assembly voted against).
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