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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Northern Ireland Assembly rejects same-sex marriage again

This afternoon, 27 April, the Northern Ireland Assembly debated a Private Members’ Business Motion on marriage equality. The motion, in the names of Caitríona Ruane, Sinn Féin MLA for South Down, and others, read as follows:

“That this Assembly welcomes the marriage equality referendum in the south of Ireland; notes that a growing number of parliaments across the world have embraced, and legislated for, marriage equality; respects the rights of the religious institutions to define, observe and practise marriage within their beliefs; and calls on the Executive to legislate for marriage equality for same sex couples so that all citizens will have the same legal entitlement to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations and benefits afforded by the legal institution of marriage.”

The motion was defeated by 49 votes to 47. Sinn Féin, SDLP and five Alliance MLAs supported the motion. The DUP opposed it and the Ulster Unionists were given a free vote on the issue: of 53 Unionists, only four voted in favour. A Petition of Concern had been tabled in advance of the vote, meaning that the motion would require cross-community support from both Unionists and Nationalists in order to pass: in the event, however, it did not come into play. The Hansard and division list are available here.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Northern Ireland Assembly rejects same-sex marriage again" in Law & Religion UK, 27 April 2015, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2015/04/27/northern-ireland-assembly-rejects-same-sex-marriage-again/

Cremation certification: some Anglo-Scottish issues

Last month we posted an item on the Scottish Government’s consultation on burial and cremation law, which Scottish ministers feel is long overdue for reform and updating. The consulation closed on 24 April.

The law surrounding death in Scotland has always been different from the law in England and Wales. Scotland does not have coroners; instead, the Lord Advocate is responsible for investigating any death that requires further explanation and there is a Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit within Crown Office responsible for investigating all sudden, suspicious, accidental and unexplained deaths. Once a death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, the Fiscal has legal responsibility for the deceased’s body, usually until a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) is written by a doctor and given to the nearest relative. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 26th April

“Spiritual influence”, niqabs, burqas, Islamic marriage, breakaway churches and LEGO bricks – the odds and ends of a fairly eventful week… 

Undue “spiritual influence”

In February we noted that the elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, had been accused before an Election Court inquiring into his re-election of securing his victory, inter alia, by bringing undue “spiritual influence” to bear on Muslim electors. On Thursday, in what was by far the biggest religion story of the week, he was found guilty, deposed from office, barred from standing in the new election and ordered to pay £250,000 costs. Next week we will publish a further analysis of the current position on “spiritual influence” as clarified by the Election Commissioner, Richard Mawrey QC.

Lord Neuberger and niqabs

The recent speech to the Criminal Justice Alliance by the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, Fairness in the courts: the best we can do, caused considerable media reaction – see, for example, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Guardian – which may have led some readers to draw the erroneous conclusion that the PSC had said that Muslim women should be allowed to wear niqabs while giving evidence.

In fact, that is not what he said; and on 18 April the Supreme Court issued a clarificatory press release as follows:

Continue reading

“Grave Talk” – then and now

Continuing with the theme of “Funerals, Burials and Churchyards” explored in the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s conference in Bristol last weekend, on 23 April the Portsmouth Diocese reported that the national launch of the Church of England’s initiative Grave Talk will take place within the diocese next month. GraveTalk is: Continue reading

Parochial Fees: Church in Wales

Further to our posts relating to parochial fees in the Church of England, here and here, readers will be interested in the following item from the Highlights of the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, which took place on 15th and 16th April 2015 in Llandrindod Wells:

 “Parochial Fees

One of the recommendations of the Church in Wales Review was that as weddings and funerals are an integral part of a parish priest’s ministry, then no fee should be retained by the cleric in addition to the stipend. Continue reading

“Spiritual influence” and elections updated: Lutfur Rahman found guilty of illegal electoral practices


In February we noted that the elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, had been accused at the Election Court inquiring into his re-election of securing victory, inter alia, by telling Muslims that it was their religious duty to vote for him and that Richard Mawrey QC, the Election Commissioner, had said that priests and imams could be committing the 19th-century offence of “spiritual influence” if they told their supporters that it was forbidden to vote for a certain candidate.

The BBC now reports that Mr Rahman has been found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, barred from standing again and ordered to pay £250,000 in costs. Mr Commissioner Mawrey was satisfied that there had been instances of personation, fraudulent postal voting and the exercise of “undue spiritual influence” on Muslim electors. Continue reading