The Court of Appeal in Antwerp has ruled that a ban on wearing headscarves in two schools in the municipality of Maasmechelen in the Limburg province is justified, on Tuesday.
With its decision, the Antwerp court overturns an earlier decision of the court in Tongeren, which has ruled that 11 girls from the Atheneum Maasland (now GO! Maxwell) and the Nikola Tesla schools, whose parents had started a legal procedure, were allowed to wear their headscarves even though the schools had forbidden it last year, reports De Standaard.
The Tongeren court last year made its decision based on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which imposes the obligation on European countries to allow all their citizens to freely practise their religion.
The schools successfully appealed against that verdict as the Court of Appeal overturned the previous decision and ruled that the ban on all philosophical and religious symbols is necessary for public education.
"Pupils must be able to develop their personalities in a free environment, so that they can form an opinion about their own identity, including religious identity, and that of others. The court believes that the creation of a learning environment, free of philosophical and religious symbols, can contribute to this," the court said, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.
"Such a learning environment will also safeguard all parents' free choice of school. Parents who choose public education can expect their children to be educated in a neutral learning environment, without social pressure, or the attempt to convert people," the court added.
The Brussels Times