Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen & Pedersen v. Denmark

Kjeldsen v. Den., App. No. 5095/71, Eur. Ct. H.R. 6 (1976).
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Appellants were parents of children who had attended Denmark public schools until they were refused exemption from the country’s compulsory sex education lessons. The parents claimed a violation of the right to education under Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) because the alternatives to public education included costly private education or home schooling. The parents also claimed a violation of the right to private and family life under Articles 8 and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under Article 9 of the Convention. A discussion of the history of the School State Act revealed that the law was passed as a result of an increased number of unwanted pregnancies and high numbers of illegal abortions.

The Court held that the compulsory sex education act did not violate applicants’ Article 2 right to education under insofar as that Article did not prevent contracting States from integrating sexual material into the instruction of their compulsory school systems. The Court also found no violation of Articles 8 and 9 of the Convention pursuant to its Article 2 analysis.

"52...The right set out in the second sentence of Article 2 (P1-2) is anadjunct of this fundamental right to education (paragraph 50 above).It is in the discharge of a natural duty towards their children- parents being primarily responsible for the "education and teaching" of their children - that parents may require the State to respect their religious and philosophical convictions. Their right thus corresponds to a responsibility closely linked to the enjoyment and the exercise of the right to education.

On the other hand, "the provisions of the Convention and Protocol must be read as a whole" (above-mentioned judgment of 23 July 1968, ibid.,p. 30, para. 1). Accordingly, the two sentences of Article 2 (P1-2) must be read not only in the light of each other but also, in particular,of Articles 8, 9 and 10 (art. 8, art. 9, art. 10) of the Convention which proclaim the right of everyone, including parents and children,"to respect for his private and family life", to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion", and to "freedom ... to receive and impart information and ideas"."