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

Westminster Law School, Law and Religion Cluster launch: The Place of Religion in Secular Society

In this guest post, Sylvie Bacquet, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Westminster, reports on the launch of the University’s new Law and Religion Cluster.

On Tuesday 28 February 2017, the Westminster Law School celebrated the beginning of a new Law and Religion venture with the launch of the Law and Religion Research Cluster. The Law and Religion Cluster was set up in response to a growing interest in the topic and an appetite for debates from both students and academic staff. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 26th February

Opposite-sex civil partnerships, RE, funny handshakes – and some of the media still don’t understand the difference between Brussels and Strasbourg…

Opposite-sex civil partnerships? Not yet

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their appeal against the Administrative Court’s refusal to review the Government’s policy on the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples: see Steinfeld & Anor v Secretary of State for Education [2017] EWCA Civ 81: we noted the decision here. Continue reading

The EU, tax exemptions for Church schools and the prohibition on State aid

An agreement between Spain and the Vatican dating from before Spain’s accession to the EU provides for various tax exemptions for the Roman Catholic Church. In Congregación de Escuelas Pías Provincia Betania v Ayuntamiento de Getafe C-74/16, the Church, relying on that agreement, seeks repayment of municipal tax amounting to €23,000 levied in respect of building work on La Inmaculada school, near Madrid. The building is used predominantly for compulsory education – which is equivalent to the education provided by State schools and the major part of which is financed by public funds – but it is also used for voluntary education, for which the Church charges a fee. The domestic court asked the CJEU for an opinion on the following question:

“Is the exemption of the Catholic Church from the tax on constructions, installations and works contrary to Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, where the exemption relates to work on buildings intended to be used for economic activities that do not have a strictly religious purpose?” [19]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 12th February

Short form judgments, bats, child abduction and polygamy… 

Short form judgments

The Master of the Rolls has asked his colleagues in the Court of Appeal to issue shorter judgments where there are no issues of law or principle or of wider general significance and where all the relevant facts are set out in the judgment of the court below and are not disputed in the appeal. A Judicial Office spokesman said that in such cases:

“it may be possible to avoid reciting all the facts, the course of the proceedings and the judgments below, and proceed, after a brief introduction, to a statement of the decision on the principal arguments on the appeal and the outcome of the appeal.” Continue reading

National Secular Society report on freedom of and from religion

On 26 December, the National Secular Society published a report, Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change – which we missed at the time. In the Executive Summary, it argues that the purpose of its proposed reforms is not to drive religious people out of public life, but simply to establish a level playing-field for all:

“While we are of course particularly concerned with the privileges afforded to one denomination of Christianity, the Church of England, many of the points we make apply to some degree to other denominations and religions. The iniquity of having the Church of England favoured now could easily be used as a precedent for seats in the legislature to be distributed to other religions too, even more than they are in practice now, which we would see as a serious mistake. The levelling should take place by the withdrawal of any ex officio religious seats in Parliament. Continue reading