Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Federica Botti

  • Credits 6

  • SSD IUS/11

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage (cod. 9237)


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Decent work and economic growth Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Religion is an element that characterizes the Mediterranean basin, which is the cradle of monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Although religious rights play a central role in the system of human rights, religions have often fueled conflicts and inequalities, sometimes representing a real threat to peace and other human rights. This difficulty in combining the various forms of coexistence in the Mediterranean with the role of religions that, on the one hand, stand as repositories of shared values, and on the other, as rigid cultural expressions exclusive and exclusionary, is the subject of the course. By the end of the course, the student: knows how religion has shaped society and political institutions (and vice versa); is capable of understanding the delicate relationship between religion and respect for human rights; and has the critical tools to comprehend the decisive role played by religion in the production of rights processes.

Course contents

The course aims to investigate the interactions between human rights and religious factors in order to understand to what extent they are compatible with each other or whether, otherwise, they are not an obstacle to the development of the other. Particular attention will be paid to the role of religion in its public capacity, not only for the impact it generates on local governance, but also on the European and international ones. Once we have identified the different systems of relations that exist between the State and religious organizations, and how the latter, through intense lobbying activity, become part of the extra-Sate reality, attention will shift to the internal organization and the main precepts of the various religious denominations. Classified by EU law as "trending organizations", religious denominations have long managed to avoid forced processes of secularization. Through the study of specific case law, the course will show that today we are facing a process that goes in the opposite direction. The evolution of State jurisprudential orientations regarding the extent and limits of the prohibitions of discrimination - from gender equality to sex discrimination, just to mention a few examples - goes hand in hand with the profound changes that have affected contemporary intercultural societies in recent years. The effort to conform national jurisprudence to the principles of EU and international law is indicative of an intense interaction between the domestic and supranational systems aimed at creating a law which, at least as far as the protection of fundamental rights is concerned, is as uniform and homogeneous as possible. Obviously, this approach creates many problems regarding religious identity and specificity and, paradoxically, it does not always manage to find room in the folds of the "margin of appreciation" of the European Court of Human Rights.

At the end of the course the student will be in possession of the tools to analyze and understand with a critical spirit the relationship between human rights and religious factor.

The course consists of three parts

The first part is dedicated to the framing of human rights read in the light of the religious phenomenon. The analysis of the systems of relations between State and Churches and of the impact that religious denominations have in supranational law will be the object of careful reflection in order to identify the main critical issues that the conquest of public space by religion brings with it, such as the dangers arising from the ethical State.

The second part is dedicated to an in-depth study of case studies, both practical and of national and supranational jurisprudence, concerning religious freedom and individual conscience and the conflicts that have arisen between the exercise of the latter and other human rights. From the right to proselytize to the question of houses of worship, from religious symbols and the use of religiously characterized clothing to religious dietary freedom; from the right to respect for private life to the right to personal autonomy; from the right to educate children according to one's own religious convictions to the right not to reveal one's own religious or philosophical convictions, etc.

Finally, the third part is dedicated to the issues related to the right not to perform acts contrary to one's religious beliefs. In particular, the role of women in the practice of female genital mutilation will be examined, the cultural/religious aspects that seem to justify its existence will be analyzed, as well as cultural defense, and the tools that have been adopted by international law and the various European and African State systems to combat this controversial practice.


Attending students

The material available on virtuale.unibo (slides, documents, sentences, papers, essays etc.)

Non-attending students

Non-attending students may choose 5 essays at their discretion contained in either Volume 1) or Volume 2):

1) Tensions within and between religions and human rights, (2012) by Johannes A. Van Der Ven and Hans-Georg Ziebertz, vol. 2, Brill, Leiden-Boston

2) Aa.Vv. (2017). The Meaning of ‘Religion’ in Multicultural Societies Law

Or they may choose 5 papers of their choice from the following:

All the bibliography is open access and is available at the following link: Stato, Chiese e pluralismo confessionale, Rivista telematica (https://www.statoechiese.it)

Recommended readings (no open access):

  • Francesco Alicino (2010) “Constitutionalism as a Peaceful ”Site” of Religious Struggles,” Global Jurist: Vol. 10: Iss. 1(Advances), Article 8, pp. 1-34
  • Francesco Alicino (2015) “The road to equality. Same-sex relationships within the European context: the case of Italy”, School of Government, LUISS: Vol. 25, pp. 1-38
  • Francesco Alicino (2017) “Heaven on Earth. Utopia and Religion: Interaction and Reciprocal Influences”, Polis, Vol. V, Nr. 2 (16), pp. 1-13
  • Pasquale Annicchino (2019) Law and International Religious Freedom: The Rise and Decline of the American Model, Routledge
  • W. Cole Durham, Silvio Ferrari, Cristiana Cianitto, Donlu Thayer (eds.). (2012). Law, Religion, Constitution. Freedom of Religion, Equal Treatment, and the Law, Ashgate
  • Silvio Ferrari, Mark Hill, Arif Jaml A; Rossella Bottoni (edited by). (2021). Routledge Handbook of Freedom Religion or Belief. New York: Routledge.
  • Rossella, Bottoni. (2021). Law and Religion in Multicultural Societies, Trento: Università di Trento.

Teaching methods

The course will be based on both lecture and group work by students. Lectures will include readings and examination of sentences, projection of materials, and short documentaries.

Group work in the classroom will consist of breaking down the text of one or more sentences/judgments. The groups of students, during dedicated lessons, will have to study the sentences whose text will be provided by the teacher.

The students will have then to expose in the classroom the result of their work that must necessarily articulate in: a) summarize the "fact", that is the event subject of the decision; b) analyze "in law" the judgment, identifying the rules underlying the decision and then c) demonstrate that they have understood the mechanism of "subsumption of the case" to the general rule and abstract; d) summarize the decision of the judge and his reasons - logical and legal excursus. Particular attention should also be paid to the evolution of jurisprudence in order to grasp the dynamic and innovative aspect of jurisprudence under the legal, historical and social profile.

The group work in the classroom is evaluated by the teacher and is an integral part (30%) of the outcome of the final exam.

The group work is evaluated by the teacher on the basis of: a) the willingness to work in a group and respect for others; b) the ability to expose using an appropriate language; c) the ability to identify the salient parts and the most relevant articles; d) the personal contribution offered by each participant in the group about the ability to develop reasoning and use with a critical spirit the concepts learned during the lessons.

Assessment methods

Attending students

The evaluation of the acquisition of the expected knowledge and skills by the attending students is based on: 1) group work in the classroom (30%); 2) research paper (70% of the final grade). Each student will have to write a short essay/paper (at least 5 pages long) on a topic discussed in class and always agreed upon in advance with the teacher. The essay must be received by the teacher at least five days before the date of the call for which students want to register.

The essay must be in a discursive form and must also include notions learned during the course. The paper will be evaluated by the Professor taking into account:

1) the student's ability to have acquired sufficient knowledge of the course content, correctly applying the concepts learned in class; 2) to be able to identify the principles of law and normative and jurisprudential references; 3) to have acquired adequate legal language; 4) to have developed an ability to reason and a critical spirit.

The final score will result from the sum of the two written tests. The Professor may award extra points (particularly "cum laudem") for proactive participation in class.

Only if the teacher considers the essay/paper insufficient, the student will have to take an oral test, the content of which must be agreed upon beforehand with the teacher.

Non-attending students

Non-attending students will take an oral test on the program dedicated to them. The oral test will consist of three/four questions aimed at assessing: a) the level of knowledge of the bibliography indicated in the section Materials/Bibliography for non-attending students; b) ability to analyze them critically and verbally articulate.

The student's ability to achieve a coherent and complete understanding of the papers/essays identified in the bibliography, to evaluate them critically and to use appropriate language will be evaluated with the highest grade (27-30 with honors). A predominantly mnemonic acquisition of bibliographic content along with gaps and deficiencies in language, critical and/or logical skills will result in grades ranging from good (24-26) to satisfactory (21-23). A low level of bibliographic content knowledge along with gaps and deficiencies in terms of linguistic, critical and/or logical skills will be considered as "barely passing" (18-20) or will result in a failing grade

Non-attending students may arrange a different exam program with the Professor. For this purpose they are requested to contact the teacher in due time before the exam.



Teaching tools

Lectures and class discussions will be held with the support of audio-visual tools (ppt, web, short documentaries).


Students with a disability or specific learning disabilities (DSA) who are requesting academic adjustments or compensatory tools are invited to communicate their needs to the teaching staff in order to properly address them and agree on the appropriate measures with the competent bodies.

Office hours

See the website of Federica Botti