A diverse society needs to exist under a rule of law that regulates the peaceful coexistence of its people as citizens, and offers a solution when conflicts do arise. The most fundamental of these laws guarantee individual freedoms to (groups of) citizens and establish the mechanisms by which a stable society can be sustained. Chapter one of the Dutch constitution codifies a collection of basic rights and freedoms into law. The articles it contains specify important constitutional guarantees with regard to equality, tolerance, justice, solidarity and sustainability. Tension between basic rights and social cohesion does arise, however. Individual freedoms, taken to their extreme, can infringe on the rights of others.
The question of finding a legal point of balance in such cases is an often recurring legal issue, and it is generally quite hard to strike such a balance. In cases that involve freedom of expression and freedom of religion, for example, a separate ruling is necessary for establishing boundaries in each specific context. Should an elected official be held to a higher standard than a regular civilian? To what extent must the separation of church and state be observed? How much latitude should be granted to a politician, based on his rights as an individual? Is it right to restrict his individual freedoms in the interest of maintaining social stability? Or, conversely, should his position allow him to exercise his freedom of expression unhindered to the end of pursuing relevant issues in a political context? Another example of rights opposing in this manner is the question of when a government is justified in breaching an individual’s right to privacy in the interest of national security.
Here too, satisfactory jurisprudence does not yet exist. Constitutional rights and the way they are applied give rise to myriad questions and debates, and by no means does the law always offer an unambiguous answer.