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Arrowsmith v. United Kingdom (Application No.7050/75), Comm. Rep 1978, 19 DR 5

Facts: The applicant is a pacifist who was trying to urge soldiers not to go to Northern Ireland. Whilst the applicant could prove her pacifist beliefs, she could not prove that the 'practice' of handing out flyers to soldiers urging them not to go to Northern Ireland was a legitimate manifestation of her beliefs and not just an act motivated by her beliefs.

Complaint: the applicant claimed a violation of her freedom of belief under article 9.

Holding: the Commission accepted that Article 9 of the ECHR covered the applicant's beliefs and that distributing leaflets did not constitute a "practice" of pacifism, but rather political opposition to a particular government policy. There was no exemption for the applicant's situation and she was not permitted to distribute her leaflets.

Reasoning: the Court draws a distinction between acts which are merely "motivated or influenced by a religion or belief" and the relevant act required by Article 9(1) being to "manifest" the belief in a "practice". The test focuses upon whether a particular manifestation is necessary in order for someone to practice his or her religion (in which case an exemption is available), as opposed to situations in which the behavior in question is simply inspired by religious motives or beliefs (in which case an exemption is unavailable).   Not every act which is motivated or influenced by a belief will suffice to be a "manifestation". In the present case there was no "manifestation" of belief because of the mismatch between the belief (pacifism) and the views being expressed in the leaflets distributed (which "did not express pacifist views").  

 

 

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