Law and religion round-up – 31st December

and so, as the reality of the Article 50 of time confronts the fantasy of “excruciating detail”, we round off another year of L&RUK with a miscellany of recent news…

What the rule of law is really about

On 22 December, the First President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland, Professor Dr Małgorzata Gersdorf, published an open letter on the recent reforms of the judiciary. President Andrzej Duda has signed into law two bills reforming the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary: one allows politicians to choose members of the judiciary council, which appoints judges and the other, by lowering the retirement age for Supreme Court judges, would remove about 40 per cent of the current Court.

Continue reading

Clergy employment – an unusual case: Gould

Another one I missed…

The Times reported (£) on 27 December that “A lawyer-turned-vicar is suing his church for discrimination after he was dismissed when his marriage ended.” The report relates to the dismissal of the Revd Jonathan Gould as minister of St John’s Downshire Hill, in Hampstead, and the subsequent proceedings before Employment Judge Lewzey and, in October, before Simler J in the Employment Appeal Tribunal: see Rev J Gould v Trustees of St John’s Downshire Hill [2017] UKEAT 0115/17/0510.

Background

St John’s Church, Downshire Hill, is one of the few surviving Church of England proprietary chapels. It is recognised as a church within the Diocese of London but has complete independence in financial matters. Continue reading

Lee v McArthur: the Gay Wedding Cake revisited

In a guest post, Dr Michael Arnheim, Barrister at Law and Sometime Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, offers another view of Lee v McArthur & Ors [2016] NICA 29 and the forthcoming appeal.

Introduction

What is the point of yet another article on the “Gay Wedding Cake” saga? Just this, that, having lost in two courts already, the Christian bakery owners are about to receive a final knock-out blow in the UK Supreme Court – unless their lawyers take off their gloves and go for the jugular. Up to now, their lawyers have fought their corner in a quiet, gentlemanly way – on their adversaries’ terms. It is time to challenge the whole very shaky basis of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.  Continue reading

May a faith-based nursery school sack a teacher for cohabitation? De Groen

And here’s one we should have noted earlier…

Background

In Ms Z De Groen v Gan Menachem Hendon Ltd [2017] UKET 3347281/2016, the claimant was employed by the respondent, a private Orthodox Jewish nursery school that followed the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe [22]. Part of the ethos of the nursery is to instil in its children the principles and practices of ultra-Orthodox Judaism:

“Both handbooks for teachers and parents and a job description mention the religious nature of the nursery in various places. However, none sets out that all staff must adhere to the beliefs and practices of the ultra-Orthodox community with which the nursery is most closely associated. Indeed, the respondent was at pains to point out that it was open to employing a non-Jew as a teacher provided that they had a sufficient knowledge of the principles of Judaism and adhered to key aspects of its fundamental principles (such as its dress code)” [24]. Continue reading

Same-sex marriage, civil partnership and the Austrian Constitutional Court

Readers will no doubt remember the outcome of Schalk and Kopf v Austria [2010] ECHR 1996, in which the ECtHR ruled that there was no right under the Convention for same-sex couples to marry. It held that, in the absence of same-sex marriage in Austria, the possibility of entering a registered partnership satisfied the requirements of Article 12 ECHR (right to marry and found a family).

The Constitutional Court of Austria [Verfassungsgerichtshof] has just taken precisely the opposite view. Continue reading

Achbita: the (interim) domestic outcome

I noted briefly in an earlier post – primarily on the French case of Bougnaoui – that the Belgian Cour de Cassation/Hof van Cassatie had handed down judgment in Achbita on 9 October 2017. The judgment is now available: so far as I can discover, in Dutch only.

Readers will recall that Ms Achbita was dismissed by her employer, G4S Secure Solutions nv, because she refused to comply with an instruction to remove her hijab when visiting the company’s clients. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 26th November

A week in which marriage and cohabitation were much in the news and GAFCON claimed its first scalp (or should that be bonnet?) in Scotland…

Unrecognised religious marriages

A survey for The Truth about Muslim Marriage, a documentary broadcast on Channel 4 on Tuesday, suggested that as many as 200,000 Muslim couples may be living in unregistered marriages. The survey of 923 Muslim women revealed that while 78 per cent wanted their marriages to be legally valid, 61 per cent had had a nikah ceremony only. It also suggested that some 28 per cent of those women who had married in a nikah ceremony were unaware that it did not give them the same rights and protections as a legally-recognised marriage. Continue reading