Alevis and religious discrimination: Doğan v Turkey


Alevis are the largest minority religious group in Turkey, with an estimated size of between 10 and 20 million adherents. They draw on Shi’a and Sufi Islam and Anatolian folk traditions and have distinct rituals of their own. From the point of view of the Sunni Muslim majority, it is an open question as to whether Alevism is a distinct religion or merely a (heretical) branch of Islam. The religious status of the Alevis is well beyond the scope of this blog; however, the issue of official discrimination against them has been before the ECtHR on several occasions, most recently in Mansur Yalçın & Ors v Turkey [2014] ECHR 938 (about the content of the mandatory course on religious culture and ethics in schools) and Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v Turkey [2014] ECHR 1346 (about discrimination against Alevi places of worship in the supply of free electricity). The position of Alevis has now come before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR.

The facts

In İzzetin Doğan & Ors v Turkey [2016] ECHR 387 the applicants were 203 Turkish Alevis. In 2005, they petitioned the Prime Minister, complaining that the Religious Affairs Department (RAD) favoured a single school of Islamic thought while disregarding all other faiths, including Alevism. Continue reading

Candles and health & safety

Ensuring the safety of those in church who “work at height”

The photographs in the Daily Mail article “Church candles are snuffed out by ‘elf and safety: Chorister barred from lighting chandelier using 20ft ladder because of insurer’s rules” will be familiar to all those tasked to light the candles before an important service. But to what extent is it necessary for a PCC to raise £7,000 for an electronic winch and pulley system in order that candles on the candelabrum can be lit from the ground, rather from a 20ft ladder? Whilst it is possible that there are other less costly alternatives, we strongly believe that many churches underestimate the hazardous nature of working at height in circumstances such as this, and that appropriate guidance in a church’s health and safety manual would reduce the risk of an incident occurring.

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Suffragan bishops: from selection to ordination & consecration

Following on from our post Bishops: from announcement to installation, it seemed timely to summarize the stages leading to the installation of a suffragan bishop; and, for completeness, those relating to an assistant bishop are included. Pre-Reformation, the term ‘suffragan’ referred to diocesan bishops in relation to their metropolitan, but became to be used additionally to refer to the bishops of such sees in relation to their diocesans.

The open-ended nature of the duties defined in Canon C 20 Of bishops suffragan, below, permits their employment in a number of different roles, and contrasts with the more focused role of the diocesan in Canon C 18 Of diocesan bishops: recent examples of the former are the reorganization within the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales (shortly to be renamed the Diocese of Leeds) and as a result of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure) Regulations 2014. In both circumstances, it has proved convenient to revive a dormant suffragan see. Continue reading

Can the UK leave the ECHR and remain in the European Union?

 The Home Secretary has said that she wants the UK to withdraw from the ECHR and remain a member of the EU. But…

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has argued that the UK should remain in the European Union but leave the European Convention on Human Rights. According to a report in The Guardian, she told a London audience at the weekend:

“The ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this. If we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its Court.

I can already hear certain people saying this means I’m against human rights. But human rights were not invented in 1950, when the Convention was drafted, or in 1998, when it was incorporated into our law through the Human Rights Act … A true British Bill of Rights – decided by Parliament and amended by Parliament – would protect not only the rights set out in the Convention but could include traditional British rights not protected by the ECHR, such as the right to trial by jury.”

Immediate reactions from both camps in the referendum debate seem to have been critical. According to a report in The Guardian, David Davis, Conservative MP and former shadow Home Secretary – and a supporter of Brexit – said that May’s position was “extraordinarily inconsistent”: Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 24th April

A fairly quiet week in which President Obama said that the US wouldn’t bail out the UK if it left the EU. But apart from that and a certain 90th birthday …

Religious objection to filing online

This week saw another ruling by the First-tier Tribunal (Tax) on a refusal on ostensibly religious grounds to file his VAT returns electronically. TJ Allatt rejected the appeal in Harvey (T/A Sun Ice Air Conditioning) v Revenue & Customs (VAT – APPEALS: Other) [2016] UKFTT 266 (TC): we noted it here. So far as we are aware, this is the third such appeal in as many years. You wait all that time for an appeal  against online filing and three come along at once…

Railways and the Church

On Monday, we published a guest post by Michael Ainsworth on the law, railways and religion. It was an offer we wouldn’t dream of refusing and, needless to say, it proved extremely popular, with 550+ page views since publication. Which leads us to wonder, what is it about railways that seems to grab the attention of religious folk, especially (so far as we can see) Anglican clergy?  Continue reading

Religious objections to online filing – again: Harvey v Revenue & Customs

Under Regulation 25 of the Value Added Tax Regulations 1995/2518, VAT returns must normally be filed online. However, under regulation 25A (6)(a), where the Commissioners are satisfied that a person registered for VAT is a practising member of a religious society or order whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic communications, that person is not required to make the returns required by Regulation 25 using an electronic return system.

The facts

In Harvey (T/A Sun Ice Air Conditioning) v Revenue & Customs (VAT – APPEALS: Other) [2016] UKFTT 266 (TC), Mr Harvey had told HMRC in 2012 that, on religious grounds, he did not wish to file his VAT returns electronically. HMRC replied with a request for further details of his religious beliefs and his answer was that “there is only one person who can determin (sic) my religious beliefs and that is me and no other. You are (or other) not qualified to make such a decision on my behalf” [7]. Continue reading

Religious circumcision and parental consent: L & B


In L and B (Children: Specific Issues: temporary leave to remove from the jurisdiction; circumcision) [2016] EWHC 849 (Fam), AB was the father of two boys, L and B, aged 6 and 4¾. Their parents were never legally married, though they went through an Islamic marriage ceremony in January 2009. The relationship broke down in 2012: the father had not formed another relationship but the mother had a new partner with whom she had a two-year-old daughter.

The father had the children to stay on alternate weekends and sought to extend his contact time so as to move towards sharing their care more equally. He also sought permission to remove them temporarily from the jurisdiction of England and Wales, envisaging that they would travel regularly to Algeria in order to benefit from knowing both sides of their extended families and cultures. He offered a formal undertaking to the court to return the children to the jurisdiction at the end of each such period of contact and his sister offered to put in place a bond of £50,000 against him defaulting in his obligation to do so [30 & 31]. Finally, he asked for the court’s permission to allow the children to be circumcised under local or general anaesthetic, Continue reading