Law and religion round-up – 28th August

Another fairly quiet week in the UK

…although our thoughts are with victims and survivors of Wednesday’s earthquake in Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche, about 105 km north-east of Rome, which was centred on Amatrice and Accumoli. A mass funeral took place on Saturday for 35 of the 290 people killed in the 6.2-magnitude quake; in Scheggino, a few kilometres up the valley from the earthquake’s epicentre, the choir of St Mary’s, Maldon (UK) sang Choral Evensong, including a setting of the Pie Jesu specially composed over by James Davy (Director of Choristers, Chelmsford Cathedral) in remembrance of the victims of the earthquake.

The “British Bill of Rights” saga grinds on

On Monday, Justice Secretary Liz Truss told presenter Nick Robinson on the Today programme that the Government had not ditched plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights: Continue reading

Sacking clergy the South African way: Fortuin v Church of Christ


In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v EEOC 565 US ____ (2012) the US Supreme Court ruled that there is a “ministerial exception” grounded in the First Amendment that precludes the application of employment protection legislation to claims about the employment relationship between a religious institution and its clergy:

“Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause” [p 3 of the slip opinion].

As we suggested in a recent post, Employment status of clergy: goodbye to the ‘Servant of God’?, the situation in the UK has been more nuanced. Now, along comes a South African case that takes a very different view of clergy employment rights from that espoused by SCOTUS. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 15th May

Not much domestic news this week apart from the continuing saga of the British Bill of Rights, but quite a lot going on elsewhere… 

A British Bill of Rights? Peers say “think again”

On Monday, the EU Justice Sub-Committee of the House of Lords, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, published a report on the Government’s proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new Bill of Rights – and said that there was a forceful case for a Government rethink. It pointed out that:

“The proposals the Secretary of State outlined did not appear to depart significantly from the Human Rights Act—we note in particular that all the rights contained within the ECHR are likely to be affirmed in any British Bill of Rights. His evidence left us unsure why a British Bill of Rights was really necessary.

If a Bill of Rights is not intended to change significantly the protection of human rights in the UK, we recommend the Government give careful thought before proceeding with this policy. As the former Lord Chief Justice Rt Hon Lord Woolf CH told us, the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its replacement by a Bill of Rights would be a constitutional change of the greatest significance” [Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations 2 & 3: our emphasis]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 20th March

Cathedrals in the Budget, Baptists and same-sex weddings, another glitch for “Vatileaks II” – and some sensible thoughts on church & state…

Pemberton v Inwood

Jeremy Pemberton announced that he had been given leave to appeal against the decision of the Employment Tribunal in his discrimination claim. He had been prevented from taking up a new post as Chaplaincy and Bereavement Manage with Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust after the Bishop refused to license him because he had married his partner Laurence Cunnington. A two-day hearing is anticipated later in the year. We posted about the ET decision here.

Sacked magistrate to sue Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th December

The round-up gets longer and longer: some interesting case-law, developments in both parts of Ireland, organ donation in Wales, the Lord’s Prayer again – and a sad end to yet another clerical reputation…

Just how far does anti-discrimination reach? 

Can a corporate body which is a member of an LLP claim to have suffered detriment because of the protected characteristic of an individual who happened to be its principal shareholder and member? An Employment Tribunal said “yes”; and Langstaff J upheld that ruling, dismissing the argument that because only an individual can have a protected characteristic, a corporate body cannot raise a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.

In EAD Solicitors LLP & Ors v Abrams (Age Discrimination) [2015] UKEAT 0054 15 0506 the issue, in essence, was whether or not a corporate body could bring a claim for direct discrimination in respect of detrimental treatment that it claimed to have suffered because of the protected characteristic of someone with whom it was associated. In this particular case the protected characteristic was age; but Langstaff J stated that the issue was a general proposition that did not turn on the particular facts of the case. Continue reading

Clergy discipline and employment rights: Károly Nagy v Hungary


The applicant, Károly Nagy, brought a compensation claim against the Hungarian Reformed Church following his dismissal as minister of Gödöllő parish. Disciplinary proceedings had been brought against him in June 2005 after a local newspaper had reported him as saying that state subsidies to a Calvinist boarding school had been paid unlawfully. He was immediately suspended and eventually dismissed, with effect from 1 May 2006, following a decision by the ecclesiastical courts. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 29th November

An astonishingly busy week, dominated by the continuing row over the refusal to screen the Lord’s Prayer advert. But there was other stuff as well… 

That cinema advert

Last week we mentioned what we thought was a potential major row over the refusal of leading cinemas to show a 60-second advertisement, based on The Lord’s Prayer, from December 18 as part of the ad reel before Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We were right; and the affair continues to rumble on. Our own view is that, whether or not the refusal to take the ad was a sensible decision (and it probably wasn’t), in strictly legal terms there’s probably no case to answer. But others think differently: see the comments to our post (and Twitter, passim).

Stop press: The Mail on Sunday reports that the Church of England has complained about the decision to the Equality and Human Rights Commission on grounds of discrimination. The report speculates that the EHRC could begin a test case under the Equality Act 2010. We’ll see.

Compare and contrast

In the debate following the Lords question on banning that advert the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Baroness Williams of Trafford, (Con), said:

“My Lords, we have made clear our expectation that all schools should actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs … These are the bedrock of British values and, without them, we cannot expect any young person to play a full part in civic society in this country.”

On the same day, the High Court handed down its judgment in R (Fox & Ors) v Secretary of State for Education [2015] EWHC 3404 (Admin), on which we hope to post a note later this week. Warby J ruled in favour of the three humanist parents and their children who challenged the Government’s relegation of non-religious worldviews in the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. He stated that this conclusion can best be analysed on the basis of an error of law in the Secretary of State’s interpretation of the education statutes [76]. Hmm… Continue reading