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Role human rights laws versus article 23 flares up

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

APELDOORN – Article 23 of the Dutch constitution, which dates from 1917, remains one of the most debated constitutional topics in the Netherlands. The article restricts the role of government in education in the Netherlands where citizens takes it upon themselves to provide their community with schools based on their worldview, religion or philosophy. The government fully funds education, both the public system as well as those initiated by citizens’ groups (bijzonder onderwijs or special education) within the framework of feasibility standards, which includes such considerations as minimum enrollment and quality criteria. In recent decades, human rights legislation and additional changes to it, have regularly renewed debate over the freedoms special education enjoys. Secular parties argue that human rights principles should apply to these schools but the constitution basically offers the schools non-intervention in the matters that conflict with the school’s basic tenants of faith. The current minister of education, Labour Party thinker Ronald Plasterk, a strong homosexual rights’ advocate, seems very eager to change the status quo. The concern of the schools increased sharply when the minister interfered in the matter of the Emst Christian school which has let a teacher go who entered into a homosexual relationship. Since it concerned a mutual decision, the schools argue, the minister had no business reminding third parties they could take it to the country’s human right tribunal.