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France

Articles in the Current Debates section concerning the religion in the workplace topic for France :

  • 16 October 2013 : Jehovah’s Witnesses chaplains must be approved for prisons

The Council of State was called upon to quash several legal disputes relating to refusals to accept representatives from the Jehovah’s Witnesses as prison chaplains. The prison administration based its refusal on the insufficient number of detainees claiming to belong to this confession. The administrative courts and administrative courts of appeal involved had already condemned this reasoning (see Current Debates, 30 May 2011).

The Council of State confirmed the solution adopted by the original trial judges. Indeed, it recalled that detainees’ freedom of opinion, conscience and religion is guaranteed and that they “may exercise the religion of their choice, in accordance with the suitable conditions for organising the premises, within solely the limits imposed by security and good order in the institution”. The provisions of the Code of Penal Procedure require that prison authorities, “insofar as premises allow and within solely the limits imposed by security and good order in the institution, allow for the organisation of worship in establishments ; that solely facilitating common law visits by representatives of the faith could not satisfy these obligations ; that Paragraph 2 of no. 29 of the European Prison Rules, of which the minister avails himself and which is, moreover, without real legal scope, simply recommends making the number of approved chaplains proportional to the number of faithful, but has neither as its aim nor as its result for refusals of approval to be justified by low numbers of worshippers”.

The Council of State has also stated that nothing stops a chaplain being appointed who agrees to carry out such activity on a voluntary basis.

For further information :
- CE, 16 Oct. 2013, Garde des Sceaux, ministre de la justice et des libertés c/ m. n…et autres (in French)

  • 30 May 2011 : Jehovah’s Witnesses chaplains must be approved for prisons

Several appeals have been lodged with the administrative courts against the refusal of prison authorities to grant the status of prison chaplain to ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, for the first time, an administrative court of appeal has delivered three different verdicts on the matter.
On 30 May 2011, the Administrative Appeal Court in Paris summoned the prison administration to conduct, within two months, a review of applications for approval by Jehovah’s witnesses or be fined 100 Euros per day overdue. The court in fact upheld the previous ruling that had annulled the refusal by stating it was not based on grounds of public policy and further found that "no statutory or regulatory conditions determine the designation of a chaplain for a minimum number of inmates likely to seek spiritual assistance ; and that by therefore claiming in a general way - as is obvious from the ministerial appeal - that there were insufficient numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses inmates in order to refuse to issue an authorisation to Mr. A to be a chaplain, the reasoning by the Director of Interregional Prison Services in Paris did not legally justify such a decision".
The Chancellery has announced that it has decided to appeal to the Council of State against the decision.

See the text of décision N° 10PA03618 of 30 May 2011.