Farmer must remove religious slogan from roof


The Council of State decided last Wednesday that farmer Joop van Ooijen must remove the text “Jezus redt” (Jesus saves) from his roof or else he’ll be fined 15,000 euro.

The welstandscommissie of the municipality of Giessenlanden—a typically Dutch abomination that gets to rule on the beauty of any outdoors construction—had outlawed the Christian slogan before. The Council of State (1531) is the highest court of appeal for administrative decisions, and is formally presided by the non-elected Queen.

Van Ooijen told De Volkskrant he will appeal the decision. According to the council, an appeal is not possible.

Update: As Arnoud Engelfriet points out in the comments, the appeal will likely be at a European level.

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(Public domain photo by Wikipedia user Apdency)


  1. Van Ooijen can file an appeal with the European Court for Human Rights, which is available after all domestic legal remedies have been exercised. He would then argue that his religious speech is being infringed and that the infringement is not absolutely necessary to protect the rights of others (the people that have to watch his message).

  2. Neil says:

    … which is an argument I find convincing and compelling.

    What is the reasoning behind the original ruling that requires him to remove the sign on his own property?

  3. The Council’s verdict leaves in terms of motivation a bit to be desired. According to article 10 of the Human Rights treaty, the government must show three items:
    1) The limitation (of free speech) has a basis in law
    2) The limitation serves a legitimate aim (as enumerated in section 2 of article 10)
    3) The limitation is proportional given the aim, i.e. does not go further than necessary to serve the aim whilst respecting free speech as much as possible. (For example: instead of forbidding a political march one can provide police protection or cordon off an area where the march would be too dangerous.)

    Item 1 is satisfied; the Woningwet (Housing Act) and the Welstandsnota provide a legal basis for the restriction.

    Item 2 is satisfied; the law protects the rights of others (apparently one has the right not to be confronted with large texts on rooftops, or more accurately not to be confronted with ugly buildings).

    Item 3 is arguably satisfied: “Redelijke eisen van welstand kunnen daarbij worden aangemerkt als een belang dat een beperking van het recht op grond van het tweede lid rechtvaardigt.” This basically says that a reasonable beauty restriction (how do you translate welstandseis) can justify a restriction. Correct in itself but the restriction must be shown to be proportional. I do not see an argument on that point.

    The heart of the argument

  4. […] in July we posted about the Council of State which decided that farmer Joop van Ooijen had to remove the text “Jezus redt” (Jesus saves) from his roof or be fined 15,000 euro. (Feel free to read the free legal take on this from Internet […]

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