Press Release No: Plenary Assembly 5/18
17.01.2018

PRESS RELEASE CONCERNING THE DECISION ON THE PROVISION BANNING STAFF OF THE PRESIDENCY OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS FROM ENGAGING IN POLITICS

The Constitutional Court rejected the requests for annulment of Article 25 of the Law on the Establishment and Duties of the Presidency of Religious Affairs numbered 633 and dated 22 June 1965, which sets out that all staff holding office in the Presidency of Religious Affairs cannot perform the acts and actions prohibited by the Civil Servants Law; nor are they allowed, under any circumstances and either within or outside the scope of their religious duties, to praise and criticize any of the political parties or their attitudes and conducts; and that those who are proven, through investigation, to have committed such acts shall be dismissed from office by the relevant and competent authorities.

Ground for the Requests for Annulment

In the applications lodged with the Constitutional Court, it has been maintained in brief that it is not clearly specified in the provision which acts would constitute “praising and criticizing political parties” on the ground of which staff of the Presidency of the Religious Affairs (“the Presidency”) will be dismissed from office; that it is uncertain whether the ban of praising and criticizing political parties extends to the provincial, district and town organizations, as well as the assembly groups of the local administrative bodies; and that, without having regard to nature and weight of the acts, direct dismissal of the staff praising or criticizing the political parties amounts to a disproportionate sanction. It has been accordingly alleged that Articles 2, 25, 26 and 38 of the Constitution were violated. 

The Contested Provision

The contested provision sets out that all staff holding office in the Presidency of Religious Affairs cannot perform the acts and actions prohibited by the Civil Servants Law; nor are they allowed, under any circumstances and either within or outside the scope of their religious duties, to praise and criticize any of the political parties or their attitudes and conducts; and that those who are proven, through investigation, to have committed such acts shall be dismissed from office by the relevant and competent authorities.

The Constitutional Court’s Assessment

In brief, the Constitutional Court has made the following assessments:

The contested provision, without any distinction, prohibits the Presidency staff “under any circumstances” from praising and criticizing any of the political parties or their attitudes and behaviours. Therefore, the phrase “under any circumstances” specified therein amounts to the absolute ban and means that there is no exception to this provision.

The Presidency of the Religious Affairs is a public institution operating under the Prime Ministry within the general administration in order to perform works concerning the beliefs, worship and moral principles inherent in Islam, to enlighten the public about the religion and to manage the places of worship. By Article 136 of the Constitution, the Presidency is granted a constitutional status, and it is set forth that the Presidency shall exercise its duties, in accordance with the principle of secularism, removed from all political views and ideas. Thereby, regard being had to the secular nature of the State, constitutional significance is attributed to the Presidency’s exclusion from all political views and ideas. The legislator’s taking of certain measures in respect of the Presidency staff for the protection of the democratic and secular State from probable interferences by the Presidency, which operates in order to carry out works concerning the beliefs inherent in Islam, is a requisite of Articles 2 and 136 of the Constitution. In this respect, the provision −by virtue of which the Presidency staff are banned from performing any act in favour of or against a political party or making statements praising and criticizing it and which also prescribes that those who are performing such acts shall be dismissed from office− attains the legitimate aim of securing public order.

Within the scope of its regulatory power, the legislator may introduce certain rights or obligations for civil servants whose employment based on a legal status. In this respect, it may be considered natural to hold the Presidency staff subject to strict professional restrains in terms of their statements and acts either within or outside their religious duties.

Any act performed or any statement made, in favour of or against a political party, either by the Presidency of the Religious Affairs itself or personally by its staff within or outside their religious duties may cast doubt on the impartiality of the Presidency, which is a condition sine qua non for the secular political system prescribed by the Constitution and safeguarded by Article 136. It accordingly appears that taking into account this consideration, the legislator bans the Presidency staff from performing any political activity or making political statement, within or outside their religious duties and under any circumstances, and stipulates that those who are proven, through investigation, to have performed such acts shall be dismissed from office. Given the constitutional status of the Presidency, nature of its duties and public sensitivity to religious issues, it is explicit that the contested provision, which was introduced with a view to ensuring the Presidency staff to abstain from any kind of political activity likely to cast doubt on their impartiality, meets a pressing social need. Therefore, the restriction imposed by virtue of this provision on the freedom of expression is not disproportionate, and nor is it incompatible with the requirements of the democratic social order.

Consequently, the Constitutional Court has found the contested provision not in breach of the Constitution and decided to dismiss the requests for annulment thereof.

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey © 2015
Number of Visitors: