We have a great success to report in a legally demanding case of constitutional law, which is also explosive in the media:
In a decision of 21 April 2021, the Administrative Court Vienna overturned the decision of the (governmental) department for religious affairs (Kultusamt) of 7 June 2018, with which it had withdrawn the legal personality of the Arabic Religious Community Austria (Arabische Kultusgemeinde Österreich, short AKÖ).
The Administrative Court stated that all formal requirements (number of mosque facilities, worshippers) were fulfilled by the AKÖ.
The Administrative Court based its findings on the confirmation of the Islamic Religious Community Austria (Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich, short IGGÖ), which examined and confirmed the formal requirements according to intra-religious community law.
The decision of the Administrative Court marks the end of a lengthy procedure.
In a press conference on 8 June 2018, the then Minister of the Interior (Kickl), the Federal Chancellor (Kurz) and the State Secretary for Cultural Affairs (Blümel) had announced the “closure” of 7 mosques of the Arabic Religious Community Austria (AKÖ) as a blow against political Islam (link).
On the same day, the Kultusamt issued a decision to cancel the legal personality of the AKÖ. The Kultusamt justified this with
- allegedly questionable sermons in a mosque of the Arabic Religious Community Austria (AKÖ) and
- an allegedly insufficient number of members and mosque facilities, whereby the AKÖ violated the constitution of the IGGÖ.
In a manner questionable under the rule of law, the Kultusamt excluded the suspensive effect of legal remedies in order to give immediate effect to its decision.
Due to our successful appeals against the decision, the Vienna Administrative Court made two decisions:
- The Administrative Court pronounced that the exclusion of the suspensive effect of an appeal was unlawful because there was no “imminent danger” (Administrative Court Vienna, 29 June 2018, VGW-101/014/7659/2018-8).
- The Administrative Court found that the Kultusamt had not complied with the requirements of due process under the Islam Act 2015 and had not given the AKÖ the opportunity to comment on and remedy alleged violations (Administrative Court Vienna, 11 February 2019, VGW-101/V/014/11867/2018-5).
The Kultusamt appealed against the substantive decision of the Vienna Administrative Court with an extraordinary appeal to the Administrative Court (“Amtsrevision”).
The Administrative Court referred the matter back to the Administrative Court. The latter was to examine whether the formal requirements for the existence of the religious community (number of members and mosque facilities) were met (Supreme Administrative Court, 30 January 2020, Ro 2019/10/0026-5).
On 21 April 2021, the Vienna Administrative Court held an oral hearing. At the hearing, the IGGÖ confirmed that, after a new examination, the AKÖ fulfils all formal requirements for legal personality according to the Islam Act 2015.
In the hearing of 21 April 2021, the Administrative Court annulled the original decision of the Kultusamt, which now had to be decided again, as unlawful.
The decision is a great success for our law firm:
- The Administrative Court confirmed the rights within the framework of the autonomy and self-administration of the IGGÖ as an Islamic religious society. The Administrative Court examined the formal prerequisites for the legal personality of the religious community solely on the basis of the IGGÖ’s information about the ability to self-preserve and the existence of the religious community. A more detailed examination by the Administrative Court or the Kultusamt was not carried out.
- The status of the religious communities as parties in proceedings concerning them was confirmed by the Federal Administrative Court and the Administrative Court Vienna.
We are happy to advise on legally demanding and complex matters such as association and religious law!