Salvation outside the church? CJEU rules on religious discrimination in employment — Dr Ronan McCrea

CJEU

The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued its first major ruling on the reconciliation of the autonomy rights of religious organisations with the right of employees (or potential employees) of such organisations to be free of discrimination.


Background


In 2012 Vera Egenberger applied for a fixed term post advertised by the Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung, which is a body associated with the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (a German Protestant church). The post advertised sought a person who could prepare a report on Germany’s compliance with the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Ms. Egenberger had significant experience in this area and applied for the post. However, there was a problem. Ms. Egenberger is a person who does not have a religious faith and the relevant advert included the following statement:


‘We require membership of a Protestant church, or of a church which is a member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland (Cooperative of Christian Churches in Germany), and identification with the welfare mission. Please state your membership in your curriculum vitae.’



Ms. Egenberger was not called for interview. She took a case in the German courts alleging discrimination on grounds of religion.


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Worboys’ release quashed — Jake Richards

taxiOn 28th March 2018 a three-judge panel of the Divisional Court gave its decision in R (DSD and Ors) v The Parole Board of England and Wales [2018] EWHC 694 (Admin), ruling that the Parole Board’s decision to direct the release of John Worboys (the ‘black cab rapist’) should be quashed.

 

Background

On 21st April 2009, John Worboys (now under the name of John Radford) was convicted of 19 serious sexual offences, including rape and sexual assault, which were committed on victims aged between 19 and 33 between October 2006 and February 2008. He was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection – specifying a minimum term of imprisonment of 8 years after which Worboys would be eligible for release if the Parole Board was satisfied that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public for him to be held in prison.

On 26th December 2017, the Parole Board determined that incarceration was no longer necessary and directed for Worboys to be released. After much public outcry, the decision was challenged by the Mayor of London, two victims and, on a discrete aspect of the decision, a media group.

A decision to release a prisoner by the Parole Board had never been the subject of judicial review before. This is because the only parties to a hearing before the Parole Board are the Secretary of State for Justice, the Parole Board themselves and the prisoner. The proceedings are held entirely in private. To that extent, unless the Secretary of State for Justice intervened to seek judicial review of a decision by another government body, the decision was effectively unchallengeable.

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New Zealand’s Parliament to consider assisted dying – David Seymour

David Seymour is a New Zealand MP sponsoring a Bill in support of assisted dying.

Our liberal history can be briefly sketched out in two stages. Establishing a bundle of rights and then expanding them to include a wider range of people. In one sense, the right to assisted dying is a continuation of this movement and perhaps its final chapter.

In dark ages past people had few dimensions of freedom and little self-expression. Most people had one option for spiritual thinking with severe penalties for deviance.  As for choice in sexuality, the electoral franchise, freedom of speech, unless you fitted in exactly the right box, forget it.

In my maiden speech to parliament, I borrowed heavily from AC Grayling’s excellent Towards the Light of Liberty where from the Inquisition to the Reformation through the abolition of slavery, the liberation of women and expansion of the franchise, the black civil rights movement and finally the LGBTI movement, the sphere of liberty was expanded and then eventually included all people.

The British Commonwealth has long been an important institution for advancing these liberties. The Treaty of Waitangi, which established ‘the same rights and duties as citizens of England’ for all New Zealanders, was an extraordinary document for colonial times marred by arrogance and violence by colonisers. Today, the Commonwealth Charter sets out an admirable set of values that would make the world a better place if only they were universally followed. They include access to health: voluntary euthanasia is merely consistent with this value. Continue reading

Immigration Detention: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back — Sophie Walker

immigration centreNew legislation significantly curtails accommodation provision for those seeking release from immigration detention. The likely result is more and more people being held in immigration detention.

The fight to end to indefinite detention of immigrants pending their removal from the UK has been gathering momentum.  There have been parliamentary debates and expert reports, all critical of the Home Office policy of what effectively involves ‘warehousing’ immigrants in cramped and often unsafe conditions with no end in sight.

While there is no legal maximum for how long someone can be held in immigration detention, the Home Office can only use their power to detain if they intend to remove the person and can do so ‘within a reasonable period’.  If at the outset it is apparent that the person cannot be removed within a reasonable period they should not be detained at all. If it becomes apparent once detention has commenced that the person cannot be removed within a reasonable period, then the person should also be released. In addition, the Home Office should exercise appropriate diligence in their efforts to remove the person.

Despite these well-established restrictions on the power to detain, men and women are still held in detention centres for extended periods of time. In March 2018, a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons of Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre found that 23 men had been held for over year, and one man had been held for four years.

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Demolitions in the West Bank highlight a deep inequality — Josh Newmark

Josh Newmark is a History and Politics graduate from Durham University and an incoming History MSc at the University of Edinburgh, currently teaching in Salamanca. He is part of the youth-led #DontSettleForThis campaign with Yachad, the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement in the UK.

The security of a roof over one’s head, a space for personal and familial privacy… Having “a place to call home” is widely recognised as an essential prerequisite for human wellbeing. This is acknowledged across the political spectrum – from the phrase “property-owning democracy” shared by both Thatcherites and American liberal philosopher John Rawls, to left-wing movements for affordable housing. In Judaism, too, the value of having a home is recognised. A key aspect of Judaism’s story is learning from the experience of being a people in exile, yearning for a home – “love the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt” is a frequent refrain in the Torah. Moreover, the Jewish household is of central importance to Jewish life – with its important physical features, like the mezuzah (boxed prayer scroll attached to each door frame), and key practical functions, such as hosting the traditional Friday night family meal to welcome the Sabbath. Undoubtedly, this is one of the motivating factors for young British Jews’ repugnance towards the Israeli’s government continuing policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Yachad is a British Jewish NGO which promotes support for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the Jewish community through education, debate, and advocacy. Under the hashtag #DontSettleForThis, young Yachad activists are raising awareness within the Jewish community of the demolitions of Palestinian homes, and pushing the UK government to help prevent these demolitions.

According to Israeli humans rights NGO B’Tselem, Israel has demolished at least 1,323 Palestinian residential units in the occupied West Bank, plus over 600 just in East Jerusalem, since 2006. This policy has taken homes from over 8,000 people in that time period, more than 50% of them minors. These figures exclude the demolitions which Israel controversially carries out upon the family homes of convicted or deceased terrorists. Rather, these are homes which are being demolished because they have been built without permits. While demolishing such structures might seem to be the right, even obligation, of a governing authority, only a little detail is necessary to make clear that this policy is an inflammatory and unjust policy which compounds the wider injustice of the occupation itself. The dual policy of allowing and stoking a Palestinian housing shortage whilst allocating land for well-planned, well-connected illegal Israeli settlements, often with illegal (even under Israeli law) structures tolerated on them, highlights the deep inequality inherent in the occupation.
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The new German social media law – a risk worth taking? An ‘extended look’ by Stefan Theil

social media.pngThe German Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Rechtsdurchsetzung in sozialen Netzwerken (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz) (literally: Law on the improvement of law enforcement in social networks and known as ‘NetzDG’) has attracted much media attention, e.g. here and here, since fully entering into force on 1 January 2018. This was sparked to a significant extent by a few high profile deletions, including a tweet from the responsible Minister for Justice.

This contribution will give an overview of the NetzDG and explain how some of the criticisms are overstated and partially misguided. While the NetzDG is unlikely to resolve all challenges surrounding social media and freedom of expression, and undoubtedly presents a certain risk of stifling expression online, I believe it is nonetheless a significant step in the right direction. Rather than undermine freedom of expression, it promises to contribute to more inclusive debates by giving the loud and radical voices less prominence. In any case, it appears reasonable to let this regulatory experiment play out and observe whether fears over a ‘chilling effect’ on free expression are borne out by the evidence. A review of the law and its effects are is planned after an initial three year operation period, which should deliver ample data and regulatory experience while limiting the scope for potential harm.

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The Round up: Assange’s arrest warrant, victims of human traffickers, and a Convention Right victory for salmon fisherman

Eleanor Leydon brings us the latest developments in rights law.

In The News:

A Senior District Judge has ruled that upholding the warrant for Julian Assange’s arrest is both in the public interest and proportionate, albeit that Assange has already restricted his own freedom for several years. In determining the proportionality of the proceedings the judge had regard to the seriousness of the failure to surrender, the level of culpability at this stage of the proceedings, and the harm caused, including impact on the community.

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