High Court of NI refuses to review absence of same-sex marriage

The High Court in Belfast has dismissed two cases challenging Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage. According to media reports, O’Hara J said that it was for the Northern Ireland Assembly rather than for the judiciary to decide social policy: Continue reading

Australian Royal Commission recommends lifting seal of confessional

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published its final recommendations on Criminal Justice. One is of particular interest: the section entitled Failure to report offence recommends “the introduction of a new criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context (recommendation 33)”. In particular, it proposes that clergy should no longer be permitted to refuse to disclose offending on the grounds that they came by the information in the course of a confession:

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Law and religion round-up – 13th August

Blasphemy in Ireland, flying spaghetti in Germany, silly hats in Canada – just a typical week…

Ireland’s blasphemy laws “least restrictive in the world”? Possibly, but…

The Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom 2017 noted that

“many countries in Western Europe, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy, retain legislation on blasphemy, defamation of religion, or ‘anti-religious remarks’, though these laws are seldom enforced. In one promising development, Ireland’s coalition government announced in May 2016 its intention to hold a referendum on the removal of its blasphemy law” [212].

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Baggage-handling, pastoring and sexual orientation: Houston

Colin Houston worked for Swissport as a baggage-handler at Belfast International Airport. He is also a heterosexual Christian pastor who disapproves of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. He was dismissed in September 2016 following a series of incidents [6]. He took his case to a Fair Employment Tribunal, claiming direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation on grounds of sexual orientation and/or religious belief/political opinion [28(1)]. Continue reading

Limits on preaching in a prison chapel: Trayhorn

Background

In Trayhorn v The Secretary of State for Justice (Religion or Belief Discrimination) [2017] UKEAT 0304/16/0108, Mr Trayhorn was a gardener/horticulturalist at HM Prison Littlehey, which houses a large number of sex offenders and young offenders. He has also been an ordained Pentecostal minister since 2009. At a Pentecostal service in the prison chapel on 31 May 2014, he spoke to a congregation of prisoners about homosexuality as sinful, quoting from 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11.

There had been a previous complaint by the LGBT coordinator in February 2014 about Mr Trayhorn’s comments during a service on 8 February 2014. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th August

A week that saw everything from an important ruling on the scope of the Guidance on the Prevent Duty to mistaken identity in a Cardiff pub..

Prevent

The Prevent Duty, under which “specified authorities” – includiing schools and colleges – must show “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”, is somewhat controversial. Supporters insist that it is fundamentally about safeguarding students against all forms of extremism, while critics argue that Prevent predominantly targets – and stigmatises – Muslim communities. Continue reading