C. v. the United Kingdom (Application No. 10358/83)

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The applicant complains that the absence of any procedure whereby he may effectively invoke the right to manifest his pacifist beliefs by directing a proportion of the tax due from him for peaceful purposes represents a breach of Articles 9 and 13 of the Convention. (...)

Art. 9 primarily protects the sphere of personal beliefs and religious creeds, i. e. the area which is sometimes called the forum internum. In addition, it protects act which are intimately linked to these attitudes, such as acts of worship or devotion which are aspects of practice of a religion or belief in a generally recognised form.

However, in protecting this personal sphere, Article 9 of the Convention does not always guarantee the rights to behave in the public sphere in a way which is dictated by such a belief, for instance by refusing to pay certain taxes because part of the revenue so raised may be applied for military expenditure. The Commission so held in Application No. 7050/75 (Arrowsmith v. United Kingdom 3 E.H.R.R. 218, para. 71, D.R. 19 p. 5) where it stated that 'the term "practice" as employed in Art. 9(1) does not cover each act which is motivated or infuenced by a religion or belief.'

The obligation to pay taxes is a general one which has no specific conscientious implication in itself. Its neutrality in this sense is also illustrated by the fact that no tax payer can influence or determine the purpose for which his or her contributions are applied, once they are collected. Furthermore, the power of taxation is expressly recognised by the Convention system and is ascribed to the State by Article 1, First Protocol.

It follows that Art. 9 does not confer on the applicant the right to refuse on the basis of her conviction to abide by legislation, the operation of which is provided for by the Convention, and which applies neutrally and generally in the public sphere, without impinging on the freedoms guaranteed by Article 9.

If the applicant considers the obligation to contribute through taxation to arms procurement an outrage to his conscience he may advertise his attitude and thereby try to obtain support for it through the democratic process.

The Commission concludes that there has been no interference with the applicant's rights guaranteed by Article 9(1) of the Convention and it follows that this aspect of the applicant's complaint is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27(2) of the Convention.

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Source: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-73635

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