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Atheist Union of Greece’s complaint upheld

Themis mythical Greek Goddess of justice

Greece’s independent Data Protection Authority (HDPA) ruled on Wednesday that keeping records of the religious faith of students and demanding declaration of religious views violate the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU, the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. HDPA said it is also illegal to record their nationality.

The decision follows complaints by an AAI affiliate (Atheist Union of Greece) and the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR).  The complaints (originally made in July 2017 by AUG) had targeted the listing of students’ religious views on end-of-school certificates, on an internal Ministry of Education portal (mySchool) and on declarations non-Christian Orthodox parents must sign to exempt their children from religious classes.

The ruling by the Data Protection Authority is a legally binding administrative act, which means that the government has to comply with it.

More related rulings are expected (both AAI campaigns) about:

  • Printing students’ faith on school certificates is challenged in the country’s higher administrative court, the Council of State.
  • The requirement for parents to reveal their children’s religious views in order to be exempt from attending religious classes, both in the Council of State as well as in the European Court of Human Rights. 

It is worth noting that, while investigating the appeal, the ECtHR consistently used the wording that “every subject taught in a member state’s education system, including religious studies, must convey information and knowledge in an objective, critical and pluralistic way”.

The Ministry has issued an announcement that it will conform its policy to the decisions of the Independent Authorities and the judiciary and that it will wait for the rulings on the above cases. However, An independent authority’s ruling produces its results to third parties right away. According to administrative law, parents can immediately ask for exemption based on the ruling.

Following misinformative reports, the AUG issued another press release describing the case accurately from legal, constitutional and rights law perspectives. It also updated its guidelines to students and parents for the, now simpler, process of exemption from religious classes.

Fotis Frangopoulos

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