Law & Religion UK is intended as a forum for academically-rigorous exploration of the interactions between law and religion, together with the associated human rights issues. We welcome pertinent guest posts and comments on current developments that reflect the views and opinions of their respective authors and meet the General Conditions applying to the site. Those that do not meet these criteria or which are otherwise unidentifiable are unlikely to be published

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington


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The Marriage Pledge – Reaction within the US

The publication of The Marriage Pledge on the First Things web site[1] by the Rev Ephraim Radner and the Rev Christopher Seitz has been widely circulated, and is attracting comment within the United States and elsewhere.  The two Anglican and Episcopal pastors are seeking to encourage priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages as a response to their concerns regarding the changing governmental definition of marriage. Whilst the Pledge is directed at the US, it acknowledges that similar changes are occurring elsewhere, and states, inter alia:

“The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.” Continue reading

Voodoo: religion or trademark? – Think Schuhwerk

Recently, in Think Schuhwerk v OHMI – Müller (VOODOO) [2014] EUECJ T-50/13 [in French], the Court of Justice of the European Union was called on to rule whether or not “VOODOO” could be registered as a Community Trade Mark (CTM).

Which all sounds very boring: but where it becomes interesting for students of law and religion is that the applicant, Think Schuhwerk GmbH, challenged the registration on the grounds, inter alia, that the term “voodoo” was descriptive and would be used to describe a general style of dress – and in doing so it asked the Court to order an expert appraisal of voodoo as a religion. Continue reading

Politics, law and race: the Netherlands, ‘Black Pete’ and Arts. 8 & 9 ECHR

The arrival of St Nicholas is a major event in the run-up to Christmas in the Netherlands and in October 2013 a United Nations adviser[1] caused a storm of protest when she described Zwarte Piet, (a.k.a. “Black Pete”), the “helper” of St Nicholas, as “a throwback to slavery” and suggested that his depiction should be banned. As a consequence, there was a Facebook “Pietitie” (Pete-ition) defending the custom, which attracted more than two million “likes” in only two days[2] and an assurance from a wrong-footed UNESCO that the Santa Claus traditions in the Netherlands would not be investigated for racism.

Against this background, Continue reading

Freedom of association under Art. 11 ECHR: Islam-Ittihad v Azerbaijan


The Islam-Ittihad Association was a non-profit-making NGO active between 1991 and 2003. Under its Charter its main aims included the repair and maintenance of abandoned mosques and other places of worship, organising pilgrimages to Islamic shrines, providing material and moral aid to orphanages, sick and disabled people and the elderly and publishing religious books. It also campaigned against drugs and alcoholism and tried to promote tolerance between different religions.

In January 1998 the members of the Association decided to repair the JumaJuma Mosque mosque in Baku and to raise the issue of the mosque in the media. They further decided to tell the public about alleged unlawfulness of the existing monopoly in organising pilgrimages to Islamic shrines and to provide pilgrims with information about the organisation of their visits. The issue of Juma mosque had been before the ECtHR on a previous occasion, when the First Section ruled the entire complaint inadmissible on grounds of failure to exhaust domestic remedies: see Juma Mosque Congregation & Ors v Azerbaijan 15405/04 [2013] ECHR and our note on Muslims, mosques, registration and dubious goings-on in Azerbaijan. In Islam-Ittihad Association & Ors v Azerbaijan [2014] ECHR 1220, the applicants returned to the matter, but on a rather different tack. Continue reading

Bishops in the Church of England

Following the vote this afternoon at General Synod, the Church of England released the following announcement:

“Legislation on Women Bishops Becomes Law at General Synod

17 November 2014

The General Synod has today enacted the measure enabling women to be ordained as Bishops in the Church of England.

The formal enactment of the legislation – Amending Canon 33 –  followed the vote on final approval by the Synod at its meeting in July of this year. Since that time the legislation has been approved in Parliament and received Royal Assent.

The final legislative requirements took place during a session chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, on the first day of the Synod’s meeting in London. Continue reading

“Wrongful births”, statistics and the law

“Instinctively, the traveller on the Underground would consider that the law of tort has no business to provide legal remedies consequent up upon the birth of a healthy child, which all of us regard as a valuable and good thing”

McFarlane v Tayside Health Board per Lord Steyn

On 18 October 2014 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health, Dr Dan Poulter MP, provided written answers to the questions asked by Mrs Mary Glindon (North Tyneside, Lab) on 9 September:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how much the NHS has paid out for wrongful birth claims in each year between 2003 and 2013; how many successful claims for wrongful birth were made in each year between 2008 and 2012”. [208750]


“To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what the neonatal conditions were that accounted for successful wrongful birth claims between 2003 and 2013”. [208751]

Dr Poulter’s answers, here and here, formed the basis of an article “Compensation culture gone mad. Cash-strapped NHS shells out millions for ‘unwanted’ healthy babies” by Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy at the Christian Medical Fellowshi, (CMF) in The Conservative Woman. This was repeated in MercatorNet as “The UK’s absurd ‘wrongful births’“, and subsequently circulated by Anglican Mainstream, True Anglican Blog and others. Continue reading

Religion and law round up – 16 November

Not much black-letter law this week but quite a few odds & ends: gay cake(?), the seal of the confessional, gender-selective abortion…

“Bake me a cake / As fast as you can”

There were several media reports about what the BBC described as the “Gay cake row” in Northern Ireland. (We should say that the sexual preferences of cakes is a matter beyond the technical scope of this blog but it could have been worse: someone might have dubbed it “Cakegate”.) In short, the proprietors of Ashers Bakery refused to bake a cake bearing the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie; and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is supporting legal action against the bakery for alleged discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and (possibly) on grounds of political opinion. Continue reading