The High Court in Belfast has held today, in Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Re Judicial Review  NIQB 96, that the abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is in breach of Article 8 ECHR (private and family life). Continue reading
An astonishingly busy week, dominated by the continuing row over the refusal to screen the Lord’s Prayer advert. But there was other stuff as well…
That cinema advert
Last week we mentioned what we thought was a potential major row over the refusal of leading cinemas to show a 60-second advertisement, based on The Lord’s Prayer, from December 18 as part of the ad reel before Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We were right; and the affair continues to rumble on. Our own view is that, whether or not the refusal to take the ad was a sensible decision (and it probably wasn’t), in strictly legal terms there’s probably no case to answer. But others think differently: see the comments to our post (and Twitter, passim).
Stop press: The Mail on Sunday reports that the Church of England has complained about the decision to the Equality and Human Rights Commission on grounds of discrimination. The report speculates that the EHRC could begin a test case under the Equality Act 2010. We’ll see.
Compare and contrast
In the debate following the Lords question on banning that advert the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Baroness Williams of Trafford, (Con), said:
“My Lords, we have made clear our expectation that all schools should actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs … These are the bedrock of British values and, without them, we cannot expect any young person to play a full part in civic society in this country.”
On the same day, the High Court handed down its judgment in R (Fox & Ors) v Secretary of State for Education  EWHC 3404 (Admin), on which we hope to post a note later this week. Warby J ruled in favour of the three humanist parents and their children who challenged the Government’s relegation of non-religious worldviews in the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. He stated that this conclusion can best be analysed on the basis of an error of law in the Secretary of State’s interpretation of the education statutes . Hmm… Continue reading
Christiane Ebrahimian was a psychiatric social worker on a fixed-term contract at Nanterre Hospital and Social Care Centre. In 2000 the Director of Human Resources told her that, following complaints from patients, her contract would not be renewed because she refused to remove her headgear. He also sent her a written reminder of the Conseil d’État’s opinion of 3 May 2000 that the principles of freedom of conscience, laïcité and neutrality in public services prevented public officials from manifesting their religious beliefs while discharging their functions and that wearing a visible symbol of religious affiliation was a breach of a public official’s duties. Continue reading
A summary of consistory court judgments published during November
- Re St. Peter & St Paul Coleshill  Birmingham Const. Ct: Major reordering.
- Re The Church of the Ascension Hall Green  Birmingham Const Ct: AV equipment.
- Re St. Matthew Stretton  Chester Const. Ct: Reservation of grave by new partner for burial of ashes in existing interment*; and Re St. Matthew Stretton  Chancery Court of York: appeal*.
- Re St. John Knypersley  Lichfield Const. Ct: replacement of pews with chairs.
- Re St. Andrew Shifnal  Lichfield Const. Ct: AV equipment
Links to the full texts of these judgments are given at the end of the following summaries, and are also available on the Ecclesiastical Law Association web site, here. Petitions marked (*) were refused.
The Revd Stephen Trott has tabled a Private Member’s Motion at General Synod, as follows:
“CIVIL PRELIMINARIES TO MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
The Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) to move:
“That this Synod, noting the Registration of Marriages Regulations 2015 and the growing burden and complexity of the legal requirements imposed on members of the clergy who conduct weddings in the Church of England, invite the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward draft legislation to replace ecclesiastical preliminaries to marriage by universal civil preliminaries, such as those which have been in operation in Scotland … when banns were replaced by a Marriage Schedule issued by the civil registrar.”
He has raised the issue before. In a letter to the then Clerk to Synod in 2010, he pointed out that the genesis of the banns system was the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and suggested that it had outlived its usefulness. Continue reading
In last Sunday’s round-up we indicated the potential for a major row over the refusal of leading cinemas to show a 60-second advertisement based on The Lord’s Prayer; this was due to be shown from December 18 2015 as part of the ad reel before Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And verily as prophesied, there was a media storm both supportive and critical, including the comments of the Prime Minister who viewed the ban as “ridiculous”, according to his spokesperson although s/he declined to expand on the PM’s views.
Assisted dying, charities and wills, abortion in Sweden, excavating graves, registering US Muslims – and what looks like developing into a minor cause célèbre
‘Minimally conscious’ MS sufferer to be allowed to die
The BBC reported that the Court of Protection had decided to grant an application to withdraw clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration from a 68-year-old woman in the end stage of multiple sclerosis but in what was described as a minimally-conscious state. The woman’s daughter, who made the application, said that her mother was “completely incapacitated”. Hayden J said that he found himself “contemplating a serious and important development in the evolution of the case law in the absence of opposing arguments” and that he was “instinctively uncomfortable with that situation” .
The judgment has been posted on BAILII: N, Re  EWCOP 76: if and when we get our heads round it, we shall post a note.
Judicial review of DPP’s assisted suicide policy
In contrast to the above, the High Court heard a petition for judicial review of the DPP’s policy on Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide, as amended in October 2014 at the direction of the Supreme Court. Lawyers acting for disability rights campaigners have accused Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, of amending her prosecution policy for assisted dying cases in a flawed and “whimsical” way. Continue reading