“Jewish” by consent – or not? Perelman v Germany

Answer: we shall never know – or, at any rate, this case does not resolve the question.

Background

The applicants, Bluma and Alain Perelman, are French nationals who live in Frankfurt am Main. When they moved there in 2002, they registered their residence with the local authorities and both indicated “Mosaic” in the field for “religion”. A few months later they received a letter from the Frankfurt Jewish community welcoming them as new members – which they refused. The community did not accept their objection and, as a precautionary measure, they resigned their membership with effect from the end of October 2003. The Frankfurt tax office then levied church tax on their income for the period from November 2002 to October 2003 – and they brought an action for a declaration that they had not been members of the Jewish community during that period.

At first instance, the Federal Administrative Court declared that the Perelmans’ membership could not have legal effect. The Federal Constitutional Court quashed the judgment, however, and remitted the case to the Federal Administrative Court which, in a second judgment, dismissed the applicants’ claim. Before the Perelmans lodged their application with the European Court they filed a constitutional complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court – which, crucially, was still pending.

Relying on Article 9 (thought, conscience and religion) and Article 11 (assembly and association), they complained that the domestic courts’ acknowledgement of their membership of the Jewish community of Frankfurt was not based on their consent because they had not declared their willingness to join the Frankfurt Jewish community.

The judgment

In Perelman v Germany [2017] ECHR (no. 32745/17), the Court considered it unnecessary to decide whether, on the facts alleged, there had been a violation of the Convention because the matter could only be dealt with at Strasbourg after all domestic remedies had been exhausted. The Court noted that Mr and Ms Perelman still had a constitutional complaint pending before the Federal Constitutional Court and that such a complaint was an effective and accessible legal remedy. In that situation, it could not rule out the possibility that the Federal Constitutional Court would be prepared to adjudicate the couple’s complaint and re-examine the case. Nor was a constitutional complaint bound to fail solely because the Federal Constitutional Court had already ruled on the same case in a previous constitutional complaint.

The application was therefore inadmissible.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "“Jewish” by consent – or not? Perelman v Germany" in Law & Religion UK, 6 July 2017, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2017/07/06/jewish-by-consent-or-not-perelman-v-germany/

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