Law and religion round-up – 1st October

And the party conference season grinds on – but in real life (and amongst the episcopi vagantes) …

“Living wills”

Sky News reported that, during the course of a hearing last week in the Court of Protection about the treatment of an elderly man who is in a minimally conscious state, Francis J said this:

“It should be compulsory that we all have to make living wills because these cases would be resolved much more easily. We all ought to be encouraged to tackle these issues. If there was some sort of campaign to educate people about these sort of things I think people would actually do something about it.” Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 23rd July

The week’s news seems to underline the wisdom of the injunction in the Persil advert: Always Keep Away From Children

The Supreme Court

First, though, the big news of the week: Baroness Hale of Richmond will succeed Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury as President of the UK Supreme Court on 2 October. Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lord Justice Briggs will all join the Supreme Court as Justices on the same day.

Sexual orientation and “British Values”

An Orthodox Jewish school in Hackney has failed its third Ofsted inspection because it did not teach its pupils about sexual orientation. The inspectors reported that the pupils at Vishnitz Girls School, who range in age from three to eight,

“are not taught explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation. This restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles. As a result, pupils are not able to gain a full understanding of fundamental British values.” Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 16th July

A quiet week, apart from…

… not the Great Repeal Bill

On Thursday, the Government published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We noted it here and the Parliament page on the Bill is here.

In Public Law for Everyone, Professor Mark Elliott’s post looks in some detail (albeit preliminarily) at how the EU (Withdrawal) Bill works, and comments on some of the key constitutional issues that it raises, here. As a taster (for both Brexiteers and Remainers), he concludes: Continue reading

Scottish Government to re-examine obligatory collective worship in schools

As we have previously noted, children in Scotland (and in Northern Ireland) do not have the right to withdraw themselves from collective school worship without parental permission even if they are aged sixteen or over. Originally dating from 1872, the current law on religious observance in Scottish schools is set out in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, as amended, and the latest guidance from the Scottish Government was issued in 2011 – though since 2005, Scottish schools have been required to make parents aware that they can remove their children from religious education and observance.

After that situation was roundly criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Humanist Society Scotland launched a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s refusal to allow sixth-form students to opt out of religious observance. Continue reading

Joint Committee on Human Rights reports on counter-extremism policies

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its Second Report of the Session, on Counter-Extremism. There is much in the Report that is of interest to faith-communities, not least because the Joint Committee is critical of the Government’s proposal that education in “out-of-school settings” when instruction takes place for six hours a week or more should be subject to inspection by Ofsted. As we first noted in January (and we have returned to the issue subsequently) the proposal has raised concerns about possible inspection of such activities as intensive choir-practices and Nativity play rehearsals.

The Joint Committee does not support a regime of routine inspections of out-of-school education. Moreover, it is fairly critical of current policies generally, pointing out that “The Government gave us no impression of having a coherent or sufficiently precise definition of either ‘non-violent extremism’ or ‘British values’.”

Following are the Joint Committee’s recommendations:

Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 10th April

A week in which the Pope published his long-awaited Apostolic Exhortation on the family, the Church in Wales took its first tentative steps to accommodate its gay and lesbian members – but there were other things going on…

Abortion in Nothern Ireland

The Irish Times reports that on Monday a woman was given a three-month sentence of imprisonment suspended for two years after she pleaded guilty to charges of procuring her own abortion by using a poison and of supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage. The woman, whose identity was protected by a court order, had bought the drugs on-line after contacting an abortion clinic in England for advice. Belfast Crown Court heard that she had told her housemates that she had wanted to travel to England for a termination but could not raise the money to do so.

According to the report, the Recorder of Belfast, HHJ McFarland, said that there were no guidelines or similar cases and that, in his experience, there had been no other prosecution under s 58 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 – which prescribes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Acknowledging that as a UK citizen the defendant could legally have travelled to England for a termination, he said that the advice given by the clinic that she contacted “without knowledge of her background and details was perhaps inappropriate”.

The BBC website has a very helpful account of why the laws on abortion are different in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Religion in the workplace – again Continue reading

‘Living with Difference’: Time for a constructive Christian engagement

We have already posted our own summary of the CORAB report and a critique of the report by Bob Morris. In this guest post, Jonathan Chaplin, Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, continues the discussion.


The British Christian community is in danger of squandering an important and timely opportunity to contribute to the debate about the role of faith in the public square, a debate marred by much confusion, misunderstanding and ill-temper.[1]

The report

On 7 December, the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute’s Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB) published Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good, following a two-year national consultation in which hundreds of contributions were received from individuals and organisations.[2] The report proposes a ‘new settlement’ on the place of religion in public life in view of the current rapid shifts in religious allegiance and identity in British society, including the decline in membership of mainline Christian denominations and the significant growth of those who adhere to no religion and to new minority religions.[3] It argues that this growing de facto plurality of religion and belief ought to be better accommodated in the de iure institutional and constitutional status of religion and belief and reflected in public policy.[4] Continue reading