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

French laïcité and the terrorist attacks

The following editorial by Pierre-Henri Prélot, of the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, appears in the latest Newsletter of ICLARS (the International Center for Law and Religion Studies) and is reproduced here with permission.

The French system of laïcité is often described as being quite intolerant towards religions and thereby reluctant to guarantee their freedom in the public sphere. It is quite a common criticism, and it is regularly expressed by (some) French religious authorities, as well as by foreign observers – who can hardly understand how freedom of religion can constitutionally be granted on the basis of what they consider to be the opposite principle. Continue reading

Urgent Commons question on CJEU rulings in Achbita and Bougnaoui

Visible Religious Symbols: European Court Ruling

This morning, 15 March, Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con) asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities “if she will make a statement on the recent Court of Justice of the European Union ruling allowing employers to ban workers from wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace”. Following is a quick summary of the most important points.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Caroline Dinenage) replied as follows:

“The Government are completely opposed to discrimination, including on grounds of gender or religion, or both. It is the right of all women to choose how they dress, and we do not believe that the judgments change that. Exactly the same legal protections apply today as applied before the rulings. In both the Achbita case and the Bougnaoui case, the judgment was that there was no direct discrimination, but that there was some discrimination. A rule is directly discriminatory if it treats someone less favourably because of their sex, race, religion or whatever. A rule is indirectly discriminatory if, on the face of it, it treats everyone the same, but some people, because of their race, religion, sex and so on, find it harder to comply than others do. Indirect discrimination may be justifiable if an employer is acting in a proportionate manner to achieve a legitimate aim. Continue reading

The CJEU & hijabs at work: Achbita and Bougnaoui

The CJEU Grand Chamber has handed down preliminary rulings in the Belgian and French hijab cases.

The Court has leaned towards the employer in Achbita but towards the employee in Bougnaoui – reflecting the opinions of the two Advocates General.

Background: Achbita

G4S Secure Solutions NV is a Belgian company that provides security, guarding and reception services. Samira Achbita, a Muslim, worked as a receptionist for G4S and after three years she insisted that she should be allowed to wear a hijab at work. G4S prohibits employees from wearing any visible religious, political or philosophical symbols at work and, consequently, dismissed her. The Belgian Cour de Cassation/Hof van Cassatie, before which her wrongful dismissal appeal is pending, asked the CJEU for a preliminary ruling clarifying the prohibition under EU law of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, as follows: 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

Law and religion round-up – 5th March

Brexit rumbles on, but perhaps the most important event of the week was the outcome of the Northern Ireland Assembly Election – on which we would not presume to comment…

Son (or more accurately daughter) of Miller?

Gina Miller, who mounted the successful challenge in the Supreme Court to the Prime Minister’s proposal to trigger Article 50 TEU by using the Royal Prerogative, has said that she is looking at launching a new challenge if Parliament is not given a vote on the final terms of Brexit. Speaking to Bloomberg, Ms Miller explained: Continue reading