Paul Scholten Colloquium with Tim Wolff
In jurisdictions where a right to freedom of belief is enshrined in law, especially where this right is partly guaranteed in the form of exemptions, courts (and other officials) must make sure that individuals who invoke it are not being dishonest about what they claim to believe. But determining sincerity in this context is a notoriously delicate matter and there is no consensus about which types of considerations are legitimate.
The first objective of this article is to outline what I take to be the most defensible approach to this issue. The central questions here are: Which types of circumstance raise legitimate doubts about sincerity? And: What evidentiary role should these circumstances play in the judicial fact-finding process? The second objective is more descriptive. Most of the literature focuses on the way American and British courts determine sincerity of belief. In this article I would like to turn the spotlight on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). With respect to Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), the ECtHR is of the opinion that ‘domestic authorities are not justified in casting doubt on the sincerity of the beliefs which an individual claims to hold without supporting their position with solid, cogent evidence.’ Given this strong admonition directed to the member states it would, I believe, be interesting to know when, how, and on the basis of which criteria the ECtHR itself goes about determining sincerity in Article 9 cases (or rather, how the ECtHR supervises the way states perform this task).
For more information please contact Roland Pierik (R.Pierik@uva.nl)