Chicago Journal of International Law

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Freedom of religious expression is a fundamental human right that pervades both international and domestic law, yet this right is not absolute. This holds particularly true when one’s religious mandates conflict with the rights of others. This Comment explores this tension in the context of the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice in Samira Achbita v. G4S. The court ruled that an employer can establish a general policy that forbids the wearing of religious symbols and attire in the workplace because it does not constitute direct discrimination. This ruling suggests that a private employer’s right to conduct business according to his or her wishes is equally important, if not more so, to the fundamental right to manifest one’s religious beliefs. Although such policies must be facially neutral to avoid the moniker of discrimination, followers of religions with clothing mandates, such as Muslim women, are affected to a greater degree than followers of religions without such mandates, atheists, and secular individuals. This Comment considers this disparity by analyzing both European Union law and international law generally, suggesting a potential conflict between the two. International law provides broad and rigid protections for the freedom of religious expression, whereas E.U. law has developed a more granular and specific approach. This latter approach may not sufficiently protect freedom of religion as envisioned under international law.