(CN) – Romania violated the free-association rights of clergy in the Romanian Orthodox Church who wanted to unionize, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today (Tuesday).
Founded on April 4, 2008, the Pastorul cel Bun formed when 35 clerics and lay members of the Romanian Orthodox Church gathered to “defend the professional, economic, social and cultural interests of its members, both clerics and lay members, in their dealings with the church hierarchy and the Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs,” according to a court press release.
After a lower court registered the Pastorul cel Bun as a trade union, the Romanian Orthodox Church successfully appealed its formation.
The union complained about the decision to the European Court of Human Rights on Dec. 30, 2008.
In a 5-2 decision, a seven-judge panel found that the union’s free-association rights trumped the Romanian Orthodox Church’s religious-freedom defense. The majority was unconvinced that Romanian courts needed to stop the clergy from unionizing to preserve public order.
“Accordingly, in the absence of a ‘pressing social need’ or of sufficient grounds, a measure as radical as the refusal to register the applicant union had been disproportionate to the aim pursued and therefore not necessary in a democratic society, in breach of Article 11,” the Strausbourg-based court said in statement.
Its verdict is available only in French.
The dissenting judges were Ineta Ziemele of Latvia and Nona Tsotsoria of Georgia.
Romania must pay the union about $13,000 in damages.