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2010-12-21 - Council of State, City of Charleroi in Wallonia, n. 210.000

Workplace · Belgium · Dress code · Headscarf · School

School internal regulation banning the wearing of Islamic headscarf by teachers

Key facts of the case - A dispute arose in the Wallonian city of Charleroi regarding the wearing of a headscarf by a math teacher (priority temporary math teacher in three schools of the city of Charleroi.)
The legal framework is different in Wallonia; there is a decree of 31 March 1994 concerning the neutrality of community organized education, which includes a duty for leading and education staff to avoid exhibiting a commitment to a certain religious system in front of students.
Once the conflict with the math teacher arose, the city council of Charleroi adopted a school regulation where it interpreted this duty to imply a ban on the wearing of religious, philosophical and political symbols for all teachers and leading staff in its school network (exception for religion teachers during their class hours). The applicant sought after the annulment of the regulation.

Main reasoning of the court - The Council of State held that ‘the State needs to be neutral in a democratic system, because it needs to treat all its citizens equally and not discriminate on the basis of religion. For this reason it is reasonable to expect public civil servants to adhere to a strict neutrality in their contact with citizens. This is essential for the fundamental rights of students and their parents. It cannot be accepted that a civil servant refers to his or her fundamental rights to justify violations of fundamental rights of children and parents.’ The Council also touched upon the relevance of the principle of gender equality when it concerns the topic of Islamic headscarf. In addition, it noted the different legal framework in Flanders: the concept of neutrality defined in the Decree of the French Community differs. It rejected the application.

See the decision: 2010-12-21 - Council of State, City of Charleroi in Wallonia, n. 210.000.