Law and religion round-up – 23rd April

A week dominated by…

…the General Election, June 2017

On 18 April we published a short post on the announcement by the Prime Minister of her intention to move a motion for an early election in the House of Commons on the following day, under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The House of Commons Library immediately published a helpful short guide to the election, and for anoraks, it answers the question: Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead? vide infra. The House of Commons Library has also produced a briefing on the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

On 12:57 pm on 19 April, the Prime Minister moved “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. [HC Hansard, 19 April Vol 624 Col 681]. After a 90-minute debate, the House divided: Ayes: 522; Noes: 13.  Continue reading

Freedom of speech, the Prevent duty and higher education

S 43 Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (Freedom of speech in universities, polytechnics and colleges) requires “Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government” of further and higher education institutions to “take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured” for staff, students and visiting speakers. The institutions must ensure, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, that use of the premises is not denied to anyone on any ground connected with their beliefs, views, policy or objectives. On the other hand, the Prevent duty in s 26 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 requires specified authorities – including relevant higher education bodies – to have due regard in the exercise of their functions to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. 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

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