In a ruling made public on February 28, the Spanish Supreme Court voided the Catalan city of Lleida’s 2010 ban on wearing the
burqa in public places, which included a fine of up to 600 euros. The Court held that the city lacked authority to limit constitutional rights such as freedom of religion, which could be curtailed only through Acts of Parliament, and that it had acted beyond the scope of local authority in enacting the law. However, the Court refused to reach the broader question of whether a national law prohibiting the wearing of burqas throughout Spain would be constitutional.
In so holding, the Court rejected the city’s contention that use of the burqa by Muslim women disrupts everyday life, finding no support for this proposition. The Court also rejected the city’s argument that the burqa should be banned because Muslim women are compelled to wear it, speculating that a ban could have the effect of forcing such women to stay at home because they would not be allowed to walk in public without it. Last, the Court contemplated the treatment of this question by other national jurisdictions but found no unanimity. The appeal before the Court was filed by the Watani Association for Liberty and Justice.
(Hat tip to Prof. Nicolas Zambrana Tevar for sending this report.)