Law and religion round-up – 11th June

A week dominated by the last gasp of the General Election campaign and the same-sex marriage vote in the Scottish Episcopal Synod…

You’re joking – not another one?

The UK finally struggled to the polls after what seemed an interminable campaign. After the Brexit referendum, every commentator seemed to be an expert on constitutional law; after Thursday’s vote, it’s now time for “hung parliament” expertise, to which we would look towards the Commons Library Briefings here. In brief:

“Hung Parliaments may result in formal coalition agreements, or government by a minority administration by way of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement. If no party or group of parties is able to form a government, a further general election might be triggered under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. It is possible that over the lifetime of a Parliament, two or more of these options might occur”. Continue reading

Churches, hustings and the General Election: updated

Campaigning by charities during elections and referendums is governed by Part VI (Controls relating to third party national election campaigns) Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which must be read in conjunction with Part 2 (Non-party campaigning etc) Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. The 2014 Act was clearly intended to operate in conjunction with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011; and the fact that its operation has been suspended to allow for a snap General Election on 9 June has rather confused the issue. But be that as it may, the rules in relation to pre-Election campaigning have now kicked in and churches, faith-groups and others need to be very careful about observing them: Greenpeace was fined £30,000 for refusing to register as a third-party campaigning organisation under the 2014 Act in the run-up to the 2015 election. Continue reading

Campaigning by charities (and Churches) during elections

It has been confirmed that so-called “purdah”, the pre-election period during which there are restrictions on contacts with civil servants and campaigning by charities – which include religious charities, whether they are registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales or not – will begin tomorrow: Saturday 22 April. Continue reading

Monks’ charitable status challenged

Today, BBC Devon carried the story “Strip ‘violent wine’ monks of charity status, say secularists“; this states: “monks who make Buckfast tonic wine linked to violent crime in Scotland should be stripped of charitable status…The National Secular Society says the beverage made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon is harmful. Buckfast Abbey Trust does not pay tax on the income because it is a charity, which the society claims is an;abuse of the charitable system'”. Continue reading

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

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

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