Law and religion round-up – 7th January

Marriage and parochial fees, Gift Aid, Scientologists, hijabs, Brexit – and priority for Buddhist monks…

Marriage certificates

The Sunday Times reported (£) on New Year’s Eve that the Home Office is likely to approve the inclusion of mothers’ names on marriage certificates. According to the report, “A Home Office source told The Sunday Times the proposal had been ‘signed off’, and a spokeswoman confirmed that it wanted to include mothers’ details. These will also appear on civil partnership certificates.”

The issue is currently the subject of two identical private Member’s bills tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman in the Commons and by the Bishop of St Albans in the Lords. The Lords bill is to have its second reading debate on 26 January.

“Get me to the church on time”

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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.


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

Law Commission Review: 13th Programme of Law Reform

On 14 December, the Law Commission announced that leasehold, trust law, smart contracts and chancel repair liability are among the 14 projects that the Law Commission will look at over the next three years. A number of these projects are associated with “law and religion” and related issues, including: Continue reading

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

And here’s one we should have noted earlier…


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

“Cohabitation, cohabitation, cohabitation”: Smith

The rights of cohabiting couples – or the lack of them – have been in the news for the last week or so. In her recent Times interview (£), as well as calling for no-fault divorce in England and Wales Lady Hale voiced support for new legal rights for unmarried couples. The number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled in recent years, from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017; and on Monday, Resolution, formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association, published the results of a ComRes survey which found that:  Continue reading

Religious dress: Bougnaoui in the French Cour de Cassation

The French Cour de Cassation has handed down its judgment in the case of Ms Asma Bougnaoui, a Muslim design engineer sacked for refusing to remove her hijab when visiting the firm’s customers.


Regular readers will recall that Ms Bougnaoui worked for the French information technology company Micropole SA. She wore a hijab at work but was told by her employer to remove it while visiting a client after the client’s staff had complained about her appearance Continue reading

Religion, employment and the Genuine Occupational Requirement: Egenberger

Advocate General Tanchev has today published his Opinion in the case of Vera Egenberger v Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V. [2017] ECJ C-414/16.


Ms Egenberger applied for a job advertised by the Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung [EWDE], an auxiliary organisation of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland [EKD] which is governed by private law and exclusively pursues charitable, benevolent and religious purposes. Continue reading