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The Hague Correct in Dismissal of Civil Servant with Religious Objections

by our Editors in History & Politics , 26 april 2016


The Central Board of Appeal decided that the city of The Hague was in its rights to fire Wim Pijl, a civil servant with religious objections. The verdict disappoints Mr. Pijl. The Central Board of Appeal is the highest authority on the rights of civil servants, the sharing of pension rights, and civil administration. The verdict of the Central Board of Appeal is the final verdict in this case.

The Central Board basis its decision on the policy that is implemented by the city of The Hague, which aims to increase the social acceptance of homosexuality and fight discrimination. The attitude of Wim Pijl as a civil servant with religious objections was irreconcilable with the policy of the city, and the exemplary role the city wants to fulfil.

This case was about a special registrar who profiled himself as a civil servant with religious objections in an interview with a national newspaper. In the interview, he said that he would not perform marriages of same-sex couples. This attitude is irreconcilable with the city's policy. The Central Board is of the opinion that a stalemate was the result of this, justifying his dismissal.

The civil servant with religious objections was already active as a special registrar when the new policy of the city of The Hague was implemented. This policy only applies to newly appointed civil servants with religious objection, and not to those who were already employed by the city. The Central Board, however, is of the opinion that this does not mean that the dismissal was illegal. For the assessment of an impasse in the labour relation it is not required that this impasse is the direct result of implemented policies. The bench of Mayor and Aldermen is free to take a position at any time and at this specific point in time of the employment. And that is precisely what they did.

The position of the bench of Mayor and Aldermen in The Hague is also in accordance with current legislation. After his dismissal, the Civil Code and the Equal Treatment Act were changed. This law change dictates that municipalities are free not to keep civil servants with religious objections on, or hire other civil servants with similar objections.

In the verdict, the Central Board refers to the decree of January 15, 2013 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case Ewaida versus the United Kingdom. Here, the ECHR ruled that the dismissal of Lillian Ladele, a British civil servant with religious objections, was not a violation of said in articles 9 (Freedom of Thought, Conscious and Religion) and 14 (Ban on Discrimination) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Court was of the opinion that in the national legal system as well, there is no legal impediment that would prevent the city dismissing the civil servant. The Central Board endorses this.

In newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad Mr Pijl states that he is disappointed by the ruling, especially because he had taken courage during the hearing on January 14. According to Mr Pijl, one of the members of the Central Board truly tried to imagine himself in his situation as a marriage registrar with religious objections. Sietse Voogt called the verdict ‘a missed opportunity’ on behalf of the trade union, the Reformative Social Union (RMU). According to Mr Voogt, the Central Board ‘did not give the matter an intrinsic’ review. The current legislation is ‘wrongly found applicable’ by the Court.
 



 







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