Lords Select Committee on Charities publishes its report

The Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, Stronger charities for a stronger society, was published on Sunday 26 March 2017: you can access all the Committee’s documents here. The committee received 184 written submissions and took oral evidence from 52 witnesses. It also visited the Charity Commission and held three roundtable events outside London. As promised by its Chair, Baroness Pitkeathley, it produced one hundred conclusions and recommendations – though in the case of some of them words like “apple pie” and “motherhood” came to mind and I suspect that the people who produced the draft may have struggled slightly to reach the magic number. The Committee made 42 concrete recommendations, some of which are more obviously relevant to religious charities than others.

The recommendations

The most important recommendations for religious charities are as follows: references in brackets are to paragraph numbers in the Report.

Trusteeship, trustee skills and training Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 26th March

A week in which events were totally overshadowed by the attack in Westminster

A thoughtful consideration of those events from an insider’s point of view was presented by the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, in his Yorkshire Post article From a Palace of democracy to an Abbey of prayer, the best and worst of humanity, written just two hours after the end of the lockdown of parliamentarians and others, who had been transferred to Westminster Abbey.

Progress on Brexit

Prior to the Commons consideration of the Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] and the subsequent adjournment and lockdown of the parliamentary estate, a first reading was given to Tim Farron’s Ten Minute Rule Bill, Terms of Withdrawal from the European Union (Referendum). A second reading was scheduled for Friday 12 May – although its chances of becoming law are zero. Continue reading

Registering religious groups: Genov v Bulgaria

The issue of state registration of religious organisations has come up yet again…

The background

In January 2007, in Sofia, seven people decided to set up a new religious association, “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – Sofia, Nadezhda” with Mr Genov as chairman. ISKCON, based in India, had already registered a Bulgarian branch as a religious organisation in 1991 and had re-registered it in March 2003. When Mr Genov applied to the court of first instance to register the new association, the Department for Religious Matters observed that the new association could not be distinguished from the one already registered. In March 2007, the court rejected Mr Genov’s application, finding that the name of the new association resembled that of the existing association, that the constitution was identical and that the stated aim of the new association – to change the organisation of the association that had already been registered – created a risk of schism.

Mr Genov’s subsequent appeal failed. Continue reading

Taking the Queen’s Shilling: the implications for religious freedom of religions being registered as charities

This guest post by Robert Meakin is an abridged version of a forthcoming article in the next edition of Law & Justice and is published here with the kind permission of the Editor, John Duddington. 

Introduction

There have been concerns recently about whether religions might have religious doctrines and practices challenged if they are registered as charities.[1] This article looks at possible grounds to challenge the Charity Commission, including the common law principles of non-justiciability, charity law (the definition of religion and public benefit) and human rights.

Grounds for challenging the Charity Commission’s approach to religious charities

  • The Principle of Non-Justiciability

Continue reading

The Bishop of the River of Hippopotamuses and the Archbishop of Cape Town

In a guest post, David Scrooby, an attorney of the Republic of South Africa, discusses a highly unusual recent case – the first of its kind in over 150 years… 

Introduction

The case of Bishop Mlibo Ngewu v The Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Ten Others [2016] ZAKZPHC 88 is about the first canonical trial of a Bishop in Southern Africa since that of Bishop Colenso in 1864. The judgment of Her Ladyship Sharmaine Balton J, handed down in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on 6 October 2016, may not have the impact of that of the Privy Council in 1865 (to which Colenso appealed) or the canonical depth of that of the South African Labour Court in Cape Town in Church of the Province of Southern Africa, Diocese of Cape Town v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others [2001] ZALC 141. However, the judgment is important in a number of respects. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 19th March

A week dominated by Brexit, ‘First Minister vs Prime Minister’ and the fall-out from the first judgments of the CJEU on religious manifestation… 

Brexit

As expected, on Monday the Commons rejected the Lords amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, the Lords did not insist on their amendments and the bill passed. So after a total of 70 hours of debate, the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent on Thursday. The BBC reports that the Prime Minister is expected to wait until the end of the month formally to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave.

Meanwhile in Scotland… Continue reading

French laïcité and the terrorist attacks

The following editorial by Pierre-Henri Prélot, of the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, appears in the latest Newsletter of ICLARS (the International Center for Law and Religion Studies) and is reproduced here with permission.

The French system of laïcité is often described as being quite intolerant towards religions and thereby reluctant to guarantee their freedom in the public sphere. It is quite a common criticism, and it is regularly expressed by (some) French religious authorities, as well as by foreign observers – who can hardly understand how freedom of religion can constitutionally be granted on the basis of what they consider to be the opposite principle. Continue reading