Social work, controversial views and fitness to practise: Ngole

Felix Ngole, a second-year Master’s student on a social work course at Sheffield University, had been excluded from the course by the Faculty of Social Sciences Fitness to Practise [‘FTP’] Committee after comments he posted on Facebook about his personal opposition to same-sex marriage. Before the Administrative Court, he argued that fitness to practise was a matter for the professional social work bodies rather than for the University. In R (Ngole) v University of Sheffield [2017] EWHC 2669 (Admin), however, Rowena Collins Rice, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, rejected his claim. Continue reading

Dismissal for opposition to same-sex adoption: Mr R Page

Is opposition on grounds of conscience to adoption by same-sex couples protected by equality legislation and the ECHR? That was the issue before the Tribunal in Mr R Page v NHS Trust Development Authority [2017] UKET 2302433/2016.

The background

At the time of his appointment as a Non-Executive Director of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership NHS Trust, Mr Page was a lay magistrate. In July 2014, he had sat with two other magistrates as a family panel to consider an adoption application by a same-sex couple. The application was granted by the other two magistrates – a decision from which he dissented. The other magistrates and the clerk of the court complained about him following that case and he was subsequently reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice: a statement was issued by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office dated 30 December 2014 in the following terms:

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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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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

The Prevent Duty, free speech and privacy: Butt

In Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWHC 1930 (Admin), Dr Salman Butt, a British citizen and practising Muslim, challenged the lawfulness of revised Prevent Duty Guidance and the role of the Home Office Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) in collecting and storing personal data. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 23rd July

The week’s news seems to underline the wisdom of the injunction in the Persil advert: Always Keep Away From Children

The Supreme Court

First, though, the big news of the week: Baroness Hale of Richmond will succeed Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury as President of the UK Supreme Court on 2 October. Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lord Justice Briggs will all join the Supreme Court as Justices on the same day.

Sexual orientation and “British Values”

An Orthodox Jewish school in Hackney has failed its third Ofsted inspection because it did not teach its pupils about sexual orientation. The inspectors reported that the pupils at Vishnitz Girls School, who range in age from three to eight,

“are not taught explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation. This restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles. As a result, pupils are not able to gain a full understanding of fundamental British values.” Continue reading

Hate-speech not protected by Article 10 ECHR: Belkacem v Belgium

In a unanimous judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that hate-speech is not protected by the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR.

In Belkacem v Belgium [2017] ECHR No 34367/14 [in French], the applicant had been convicted of various infractions of Article 22 of the Law of 10 May 2007 on combating certain forms of discrimination: in particular, that he had posted videos on YouTube in which he was seen making grossly inflammatory statements about the then Minister of Defence of Belgium [4] and that he had harassed the husband of a Belgian politician after her death by posting a video saying that she would spend eternity in Hell [5]. Continue reading