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

Law and religion round-up – 5th February

Brexit yet again, child abuse, abortion, deposition from Orders – the usual mix…

Brexit yet again

On Friday, the Administrative Court threw out the latest Brexit challenge by a group led by Peter Wilding and Adrian Yalland. They argued that, under the terms of Article 127 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area, Parliament should give separate approval to the UK’s exit from the EEA.

Lloyd-Jones LJ and Lewis J concluded that the Government had not made a decision “as to the mechanism by which the EEA agreement would cease to apply within the UK”. As a result, it was not clear at this stage what issues, if any, would fall within the jurisdiction of the courts. All we have at the moment is press reports: we’ll be interested to see the written judgment.

‘EU Withdrawal Bill’ – Second Reading and White Paper Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 8th January

Oh well, back to work…

Religious observance in Scottish schools

The Times reports (£) that an online poll by YouGov for its Scottish edition has found that (55 per cent of Scots believes that children should not be made to participate in religious observance at school. 38 per cent of all Scots (and 48 per cent of SNP voters) feels that there should be no place for collective worship in the Scottish education system and a further 17 per cent wants children to be able to opt out, even without parental consent. [Thanks to British Religion in Numberssee below.]

Church and State in Scandinavia Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 4th December

A week dominated by arguments about public religious manifestation and, inevitably, the fallout from the Brexit vote – of which much, much more to come… 

Reasonable accommodation in the workplace?

On 30 November at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Theresa May said in reply to a question from Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con), that

“We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of. I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas.”

Perhaps coincidentally, the past week saw two publications on manifestation. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 27th November

A long round-up of a very busy week

Religious dialogue and secularism

As part of Interfaith Week, Ed Kessler, Director of the Woolf Institute, posted The Value Of Religious Dialogue In An Increasingly Secular Age on Huffington Post. He begins from the contradiction between the dramatic increase in the number of people describing themselves as non-religious and the fact that religion “has rarely had such a central part in our national conversation”. Moreover,

“all too often religion is seen not as a source of comfort or a force for good but as a cause of division and distrust. In a world become less united by the day, religion is viewed as a powerful force pulling us apart.” Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 20th November

A week of necessary and disingenuous anonymity, IICSA disarray, and Brexit sniping

Miller, Brexit and Lady Hale

On 9 November in Kuala Lumpur, Lady Hale delivered the Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture 2016, The Supreme Court: Guardian of the Constitution?, and caused something of a stir. In the course of her lecture, she referred to the recent proceedings in the Divisional Court in Miller and suggested that the European Union Referendum Act 2015 had not produced a result that was legally binding on Parliament. Which, one might think, was a statement of the obvious, because there is no binding mechanism in the Act. ObiterJ has posted a full analysis of her speech on his Law and Lawyers blog.

Nevertheless, there were howls of protest: so much so that there were calls for her to recuse herself from the forthcoming appeal. A “Supreme Court spokesman” made a statement on the matter while, in an exclusive in Solicitors Journal, Lady Hale declared that she would “absolutely not” recuse herself, adding, “I have exhibited no bias and those that suggested that I have are simply mistaken.”

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, president of the Supreme Court, is the latest to have been accused of bias, this time by pro-Brexit Conservative MPs on account of him being allegedly compromised by his wife’s views.

Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th November

A week in which everything else paled into insignificance beside… 

…Brexit: a spanner in the works

The big news of the week was that a max-strength Divisional Court of Queen’s Bench [Thomas LCJ, Etherton MR and Sales LJ] ruled in R (Miller & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) that the Government has no power under the Crown Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 process for withdrawal from the European Union without the prior approval of Parliament. Unsurprisingly, a Government spokesperson said that HMG was “disappointed” with the outcome. Equally unsurprisingly, the Government is to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Prime Minister said subsequently that she was “confident” that the Government would win the appeal. But presumably the Government was “confident” of winning at the initial hearing…

Subsequent events

Following the High Court ruling, a number of commentators have suggested that this could result in the Prime Minister calling a “snap election”. However, that possibility  is now governed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced by the Cameron administration; S2 requires the resolution of a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, or a motion for an early parliamentary election supported by two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons (including vacant seats). Furthermore, the option of repealling the 2011 Act is no simple matter, as explained by Lord Norton; he suggests that whilst this is possible, it is not necessarily simple, or politically feasible.

Barristerblogger, Professor Mark Elliott and others noted that In the wake of the dramatic Article 50 judgment, various Brexiteers have been venting their feelings. On 5 November, the Bar Council, the representative body of all barristers in England & Wales, passed a resolution calling on the Lord Chancellor to condemn the recent attacks on the judiciary. A measured summary of the situation has been produced by Harry Bingham, eldest son of the late Lord Bingham, in an open letter to Liz Truss.  A brief statement was issued by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday afternoon, but this stopped short of condemning attacks on senior judges over the Brexit ruling.

The Supreme Court has indicated that it will hear the government’s appeal over 4 days during the week of 5 December with a larger than usual panel of judges. We suspect that Ms Truss’s cursory dismissal of the media attacks will be further tested in the run-up to the UKSC hearing, and afterwards.

Abortion – or its absence – in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. On Wednesday, an appeal began in the Supreme Court against the judgment in R (A (A Child) & Anor) v Secretary of State for Health [2015] EWCA Civ 771, in which the appellants were a girl, A, and her mother, resident in Northern Ireland. Continue reading