Law and religion round-up – 23rd April

A week dominated by…

…the General Election, June 2017

On 18 April we published a short post on the announcement by the Prime Minister of her intention to move a motion for an early election in the House of Commons on the following day, under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The House of Commons Library immediately published a helpful short guide to the election, and for anoraks, it answers the question: Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead? vide infra. The House of Commons Library has also produced a briefing on the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

On 12:57 pm on 19 April, the Prime Minister moved “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. [HC Hansard, 19 April Vol 624 Col 681]. After a 90-minute debate, the House divided: Ayes: 522; Noes: 13.  Continue reading

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

National Secular Society report on freedom of and from religion

On 26 December, the National Secular Society published a report, Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change – which we missed at the time. In the Executive Summary, it argues that the purpose of its proposed reforms is not to drive religious people out of public life, but simply to establish a level playing-field for all:

“While we are of course particularly concerned with the privileges afforded to one denomination of Christianity, the Church of England, many of the points we make apply to some degree to other denominations and religions. The iniquity of having the Church of England favoured now could easily be used as a precedent for seats in the legislature to be distributed to other religions too, even more than they are in practice now, which we would see as a serious mistake. The levelling should take place by the withdrawal of any ex officio religious seats in Parliament. Continue reading

The right kind of ‘secular state’ – a Christian perspective

We have posted previously on both the CORAB report and the recent secularist response. In this guest post, Jonathan Chaplin, Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, responds to the latter. This article is an extended version of a KLICE Comment published by the Kirby Laing Institute on 20 January 2017 and shortly to be cross-posted at Public Spirit.

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On 17 January the University of Warwick released A Secularist Response to the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life[1] It is offered as a ‘critical counterweight’ (p3) to the Commission’s report Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good published in December 2015. The CORAB report proposed 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 adhering to no religion and to new minority religions. It argues that this growing de facto plurality ought to be better accommodated in the de jure institutional and constitutional status of religion and belief and reflected in public policy. It projected an appealing ‘vision … of a society at ease with itself … in which [all] feel at home as part of an ongoing national story … [and] to which all … wish to, and are encouraged to, contribute … to the common good’ (Living With Difference, p11). The report unleashed many vigorous responses, including many from Christians, several of which, in my view, were hasty and dismissive. Continue reading

A secularist response to CORAB: recommendations at odds with the realities of twenty-first century life in Britain

In March 2016 the University of Warwick convened a panel to consider the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life’s report ‘Living With Difference’. In a post that first appeared on the LSE’s Religion and the
Public Sphere,  Steven Kettell explores its findings.

The last few decades have seen significant changes to the landscape of religion and belief in Britain. According to surveys by British Social Attitudes, the proportion of the adult population describing themselves as ‘Christian’ fell from 67% to 41.7% between 1983 and 2014, while the proportion self-identifying as having ‘no religion’ rose from 31% to 48.9% over the same period. These developments pose a number of important challenges, thrusting concerns about social cohesion, debates around national identity and questions about balancing the rights and duties of citizenship to the forefront of British public life. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 22nd January

A fairly quiet week for the blog, but certainly not for politics…

Brexit

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister unveiled her plans for Brexit – or at least her desiderata. We summarised the main points here. To describe reactions as “mixed” is something of an understatement.

Northern Ireland elections

As expected, the power-sharing Executive in Belfast duly collapsed. Minutes after the deadline for a nomination to replace Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister had passed, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, announced that elections for Stormont would take place on 2 March. Continue reading