Protection of Property Rights of Legal Persons of Religious Associations in the System of Human Rights

Artykuł dostępny na stronie Wydawnictwa Wyższej Szkoły Gospodarki Euroregionalnej im. Alcide De Gasperi tutaj.

Full text: Protection of Property Rights of Legal Persons of Religious Associations in the System of Human Rights

1. Introduction

The aim of this article is to present the possibilities of protection of property rights of legal persons of religious associations, for example protection of parishes from unequal treatment in the system of human rights. On the surface it seems that the system of human rights does not refer to the protection of rights of entities other than individual persons, but in fact it is not so. Sometimes this system also protects the rights of legal persons, which will be presented below.

The analysis conducted in the article indicates the normative framework of human rights as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which allow one to identify the relevant protective measures provided on the basis of this normative ground. The system of human rights, as a system of international agreements, allows one to indicate a hierarchically correct interpretation of lower-order legal standards, including national standards.

It also allows to indicate effective human rights that provide factual and not false protection. This is essential, as sometimes it happens that legal persons are treated differently by the state and its bodies only because they have been established by religious associations.

Therefore the article is an attempt to present an assessment of such unequal treatment, but on the basis of the system of human rights, which will be possible thanks to the analysis of the case of law of the ECtHR. It will allow to find a balance in and a correct interpretation of national regulations, as well as to find any possible effective complaints in proceedings before the Court in Strasbourg.

6. Conclusions

In the light of the analysis of international law on human rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, it is obvious that religious associations and their legal persons are entitled to the protection of the human right to property.

The system of human rights prohibits the different treatment of property rights only because the entitled entities are religious associations or legal persons of these religious associations. It is similar when the legal person of a religious association appoints a company or does not have a majority of shares or stocks.

Such unequal treatment violates human rights at three levels. First, protection of freedom of conscience and religion – Article 9 ECHR, second, human right to respect for property – Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR, and third, prohibition of discrimination – Article 14 ECHR. Of course, unequal treatment, in fact discriminatory, will only be treated as such on the basis of these three standards. An independent indication of Article 9 ECHR as the source of protection will be difficult despite the formal possibility, and the complaint about the violation of the Convention is definitely strengthened by connecting it with Article 14 ECHR, along with Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. However, it is not possible to invoke separate protection of each of these human rights.

Thus, due to the content of the right to freedom of conscience and religion, the autonomy of associations and the state, and the fact that legal persons of religious associations and the associations themselves have legal personality, so also the right to incur liabilities and acquire rights, it is clear that this can only happen on the same terms that apply to other entities, under the human right to respect for property.

The second effective means of protection will be limiting the rights of religious associations and legal persons of religious associations to „respect for property”. This protection is independent of religious freedom and is limited to the exclusive protection of property rights. Its impact will be similarly strengthened if it is combined with the prohibition of discrimination due to property issues. The prohibition of discrimination itself should only be exceptionally applied as an autonomous protective provision due to the limited practice of applying Article 14 ECHR independently by the Strasbourg Court.


The chapter presents normative possibilities of protecting property rights Legal Persons of Religious Associations against discrimination. The discussed protection stems from the human rights system. It seems that the system of human rights protection does not apply to non-human entities, although at times it does protect the rights of legal persons. Research analysis of the human rights norms and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg allow determining the – important protective elements defined in the human rights system. Three scopes of protection may be differentiated: protection of freedom of conscience and religion – Art. 9 of the ECHR; a person’s right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions – art. 1 Protocol 1 to the ECHR; prohibition of discrimination – art. 14 ECHR.

Keywords: Legal Persons of Religious Associations, – property rights, freedom of conscience and religion.