Muslim asylum-seekers and conversion: A v Switzerland

The ECtHR has concluded that an asylum-seeker who has converted to Christianity will not necessarily face persecution if returned to Iran.

In A v Switzerland [2017] ECHR (no. 60342/16), the applicant, an Iranian, entered Switzerland in 2009 and immediately claimed asylum. He brought three sets of asylum proceedings, all without success. In his second application, he submitted at a hearing that he would be at risk if returned to Iran because he had converted from Islam to Christianity. The authorities doubted, however, that his conversion was genuine and rejected his application. Continue reading

Is a foreign polygamous marriage valid in Ireland? HAH v SAA & Ors

We tend not to encroach into Ireland, but we thought it worth reporting a recent case on the status in Irish law of a polygamous marriage contracted validly in Lebanon.

The background

HAH, the husband, was a recognised refugee and naturalised Irish citizen who had contracted marriages with two women in Lebanon in accordance with Lebanese law. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 12th March

Social media (mis)use in the news, hate-speech – and another round in the saga of The Donald’s Executive Order…

News from Trumpton

Obiter J reports that legal action has been commenced against President Trump’s new Executive Order of 7 March on the entry of certain aliens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The new Order will replace EO 13769 on 16 March. The case is State of Hawai’i and Ismail Elshikh v Donald J Trump & Ors: Mr Elshikh is Imam of the Muslim Association of Hawai’i. It will be heard in the US District Court for the District of Hawai’i: the State’s Second Amended Complaint, seeking an Order invalidating portions of the Executive Order, is available here.

The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that the Attorneys General of the States of Washington and New York had announced that they, too, will challenge it. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is to ask US District Judge Robart to apply his temporary restraining order to the new Order. According to a subsequent report, Oregon and Minnesota will also join the suit when an amended complaint is filed.

Brexit Bill returns to Commons Continue reading

The rights of the unborn: a troubling decision from the [Irish] High Court?

In a cross-post from Human Rights in IrelandMáiréad Enright of Kent Law School analyses some recent judgments on the rights of foetuses under the Irish Constitution.


Does the unborn have rights other than the right to life enshrined in the 8th Amendment?

It is clear that, under Irish law, foetuses cannot have any greater rights than children already born.[1] However, recent cases have raised the prospect that they have some of the same rights and interests as born children. In PP v. HSE,[2] for instance, the High Court referred to the ‘best interests’ of the foetus who has no prospect of survival outside the womb, analogising its position to that of a child on life support. It is not clear that the ‘unborn’ (the entity recognised or created by the 8th Amendment) is, for constitutional purposes, a child like any other. Recently, the courts have been asked to consider whether foetuses carried by Irish citizens have particular rights other than the right to life, which the state should take into account in assessing whether to deport their non-citizen fathers. Another, broader, way of putting this question is to ask whether the unborn’s rights derive exclusively from the 8th Amendment, or whether it may also enjoy rights grounded in other parts of the Constitution. Continue reading

“What colour is the Bible?”: asylum-seekers and immigration officers

Widespread concerns have been expressed about the way immigration officials interrogate asylum-seekers. In this guest post, Michael Ainsworth discusses the particular issue of refugees from Islamic states who claim asylum on grounds of conversion to Christianity.


Can it really be true, as reported, that this is one of the questions asked by immigration officials to test the faith of those who claim Christian conversion as part of their case for asylum? If so, what is the right answer? Perhaps it is ‘brown’, since most bibles provided by Gideons International in places of confinement, as well as hotels, are this colour – though some are red, and some are blue. We are not told: but if this is the extent of interrogators’ knowledge of the Christian faith, they know less than those they are questioning, and who may have come through a life-changing experience in which printed texts play little part – though a number I have met read their multi-coloured bibles assiduously, and sensibly (concentrating on the gospels, rather than starting with Genesis 1). Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 14th August

Professor Alexis Jay agreed to chair the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Jehovah’s Witnesses failed to head off the Charity Commission’s  inquiry into their safeguarding practices – and we discovered the identity of …

… The Minister for Faith and Integration

Readers may be as interested as we were to learn that the faith portfolio in the new Government has been given to Lord (Nick) Bourne of Aberystwyth. A barrister and former Professor of Law at Swansea, he was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Wales Office in May 2015 and, additionally, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government on 17 July 2016, where his responsibilities include faith and integration, community cohesion and racial equality. We came across the information about his appointment entirely by accident, in a report in Jewish News.

Charity Commission inquiry into Jehovah’s Witnesses to proceed

On Friday, Third Sector (£) reported that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Great Britain cannot prevent the Charity Commission from opening a statutory inquiry into the charity’s safeguarding practices, after the Court of Appeal had refused in Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Britain & Ors v The Charity Commission [2016] EWCA Civ 154 to set aside the Commission’s decision to open the inquiry. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 19th June

 A week in which everything else paled into insignificance in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP and the massacre at Orlando…

“Out-of-school” education

As we have noted previously, the Government has been blowing hot and cold on the issue of inspecting education – broadly defined – outside the school system. Ministers had at first given assurances that they did not intend that Ofsted should start regulating Sunday schools, summer camps and intensive choir rehearsals. It then appeared that the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill was going to include provisions – unspecified – on the inspection of out-of-school education settings. However, in reply to a Question in the Lords from Lord Mawhinney, Lord Nash (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education) seems to have clarified the situation: Continue reading