“The Good Shepherd” Trade Union: Human Rights Claims Inside the Romanian Orthodox Church

  • Marius Harosa Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Universității Street, No. 7-9, RO-400091
Keywords: religion and politics, religion and law, religion and social change


How does social change challenge religious institutions? Various institutions dealing with human rights in the European Union increasingly deal with religious issues. This paper analyses one such case. It reports the social and legal changes that lead to the attempts to unionize of a group of thirty-two Romanian Orthodox priests and lay persons which gathered to represent and protect issues regarding labor rights and self-governing. In 2008, the “The Good Shepherd” trade union filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights against the Romanian state and against the Romanian Orthodox Church’s prohibition to unionize, granted under the article 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. We thus analyze some of the changes that occurred in the last decade in the bond between society, the Church and the state which later reflected in some clergy’s initiative to form a trade union. We will focus on the European Union membership, on the increased liberalization and pluralization of the Romanian religious market as well as the country’s delicate economic context. Political and economic transformations of the last decades show how some Orthodox clergy may approach human rights and may now use them to officially challenge hierarchical, traditionalist and professed compact structures such as the Romanian Orthodox Church.