Category: Article 9 | Thought / Conscience / Religion


Prayer in council meetings was unlawful, rules High Court

10 February 2012 by

R on the application of the National Secular Society and Clive Bone v Bideford Town Council – read judgment

The High Court today ruled that the Town Council of Bideford (in Devon) had overreached their powers under the Local Government Act 1972 by insisting on the practice of prayers as part of their formal meetings. The ruling will apply to the formal meetings of all councils in England and Wales, the majority of which are thought to conduct prayers as part of their meetings.

Background

The Secular Society brought this application as part of their campaign to separate religion from public and civil life. They have observed that prayers have been the cause of tension in a number of local councils. But the Society needed  to join an individual claimant since they could not be a “victim” for the purposes of the Human Rights Act.

The claimants contended that the practice, which dates back the days of Elizabeth the First, breached the prohibition on religious discrimination in the Equality Act 2006, and the replacement “public sector equality duty” in the Equality Act 2010: it discriminated indirectly against persons, such as Mr Bone, who had no religious beliefs, and it was not justifiable under those Acts. The practice interfered with Mr Bone’s right not to hold religious beliefs under Article 9 ECHR, and not to be discriminated against for that lack of belief under Article 14. They also contended that it was outside the powers of section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972.
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Are lawyers in right-to-die cases breaking the law?

31 January 2012 by

Debbie Purdy

Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row is representing Martin in the judicial review proceedings.  He is not the author of this post.

Albert Camus famously wrote: ‘there is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.’  However profound a philosophical problem, the question of suicide or, more precisely, assisted suicide is proving quite a legal conundrum.

It is a well-known fact that, at present, it is lawful in England and Wales to commit (or to attempt to commit) suicide but unlawful to help someone else to do so.  Encouraging or assisting suicide is an offence under section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.  On a literal reading of the Act, even obtaining information about euthanasia for someone who plans to commit suicide could constitute a breach of section 2.

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Archbishop on warpath

29 January 2012 by

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has thrown  a firecracker into the consultation on gay marriage, which is about to begin in March. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he declared that he did not agree that it was the role of the state to define what marriage is.  “It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are”.

Gay rights campaigners have poured scorn on this pronouncement, calling the Archbishop a “religious authoritarian” who wants to  “impose his personal opposition to same-sex marriage on the rest of society.” But this outbreak of bad temper – not unpredictable, given the skirmishing over the consultation on the same issue which took place in Scotland last year – raises the wider issue of the role and influence of church leaders in the process of legal change.

In a secular society, the participation of clerics in the  House of Lords is grudgingly accepted as part of an ancient tradition. And on this issue at least, the general view seems to be that the Church has grounds for complaint.  The current system recognises gay partnerships under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA). But the main change is to alter the Equality Act so as to allow such partnerships to take place on religious premises, and it is that which is being so bitterly opposed, apparently because it brings the matter within the church’s bailiwick. But even if it does,  we have to ask what it is that privileges Sentamu’s voice over any others in the debate over whether gay and heterosexual partnerships should be on an equal footing in all respects, including the place where they are registered.
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A human right to object to war

13 December 2011 by

R v Michael Peter Lyons [2011] EWCA Crim 2808- read judgment

Moral objections to the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan do not constitute a defence to an insubordination charge, the Court Martial Appeal Court has ruled. The appellant was not entitled to disobey a lawful command on the ground of conscientious objection.

At the age of 18 the appellant had volunteered for the Royal Navy and under its auspices was posted to submarines as Leading Medical Assistant. Five years in to his service, he was told that he would be deployed to Afghanistan. He applied for discharge on the basis that he objected to the UK’s role in Afghanistan. His application on grounds of conscientious objection was refused. Before his appeal against this refusal was decided he was ordered to undertake a pre-deployment weapons training course, because of the risk all personnel faced in that theatre, combatant or not. On refusing to submit to this he was convicted of insubordination.

In this appeal against his sentence he argued that  Article 9  protected him from active service from the moment when he told his commanding officer of his objections, until his appeal on grounds of conscientious objection was finally determined. He also contended that he had protected status under the Geneva Convention 1949 and it was unlawful to require him to undergo weapons training.  His appeal was dismissed.
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Lawful for Home Secretary to deport Palestinian activist accused of fostering hatred

6 November 2011 by

Raed Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department IA/21/21631/2011 – Read Judgment

1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.

The First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum and Immigration Chamber), has upheld the decision of the Home Secretary to deport Raed Mahajna, who had come to the UK to attend a number of meetings and speaking engagements.

Mr. Mahajna  (also known as Raed Saleh) was born in Israel in 1968. He is however of Palestinian origin and has been a vocal critic of the Government of Israel. Aware of his intention to travel to the UK, the Home Secretary issued an exclusion order against him on the basis that he had publicly expressed views that fostered hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. However, this order was never served upon him, and he entered the UK on 25th June 2011. He was subsequently arrested on 27th June and detained until released on bail on 18th July.

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Equality and Human Rights Commission reverses position on religious cases intervention

22 August 2011 by

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has reversed its plans to intervene in two European Court of Human Rights cases about religious discrimination. 

Last month the Commission announced that it would intervene in European Court of Human Rights cases on behalf of religious believers who failed to convince the UK courts that they were being discriminated against in the workplace. Two of the proposed interventions – in which the EHRC proposed a “reasonable accommodation” for religion and belief cases (an idea proposed on this blog by Aidan O’Neill QC) – courted controversy, as Alasdair Henderson explained in his post, A leap of faith?

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Religious freedom does not stop at the prison gates – Part 2

21 July 2011 by

Jakobski v Poland (December 2010) – read judgment

Mahayana Buddhists have profound moral objections to eating meat. According to the rules, a Mahayana Buddhist should avoid eating meat to cultivate compassion for all living beings.

Even peaceable Buddhists commit crimes sometimes and go to prison. Meat free diets however are not available in all European penitentiaries. Should committed vegetarians be made to forfeit their beliefs once their offences against society have committed them to penal servitude?

In Poland, apparently, the answer is yes. The refusal to provide a Buddhist prisoner with a meat-free diet was not unlawful under local law which provided only that prisoners should receive meals taking into consideration their employment, age and where possible religious and cultural beliefs. That let-out clause allowed the Polish government to issue an ordinance requiring the provision of special meals for diabetics and a “light diet”. Both contain meat products.
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A leap of faith?

20 July 2011 by

In the midst of all the coverage of the phone hacking scandal and the mounting woes of News Corporation an interesting piece of human rights news from the past week got lost: the announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) that it is applying to intervene in four cases before the European Court of Human Rights being brought by Christians who claim their Article 9 rights are not being sufficiently protected in UK law.

The applicants are Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, each of whom has lost claims of workplace discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief in the UK courts over the past couple of years (see our general comment pieces here and here). The EHRC has now said that in its view “Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims” and that “the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.”

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Hey, teacher! Leave those cornrows alone

20 June 2011 by

Updated | SG v St Gregory’s Catholic Science College [2011] EWHC 1452 (Admin) (17 June 2010) – Read judgment

Most people have their first taste of injustice at school. This is hardly surprising: an institution containing hundreds of teenagers for whom rebellion is a biological imperative is always going to be difficult to control. In trying to do so, teachers sometimes impose petty rules.

Many children fantasize of an external authority intervening to expose the injustice of those rules, particularly in relation to modes of dress. But few take their school to court to challenge a policy on hairstyle. And even fewer win, as a young boy – known in this case as SG – has just done in the High Court. SG took his school, St Gregory’s Catholic Science College of Harrow in Greater London, to court to challenge its ban on boys wearing their hair in “cornrows“, or braids.

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Should male circumcision be banned?

15 June 2011 by

Yesterday Neil Howard and Rebecca Steinfeld asked via guardian.co.uk whether it is Time to ban male circumcision? The article was prompted by attempts to ban the practice in San Francisco.

Male circumcision is common amongst Muslims and Jews, but judging from the 286 comments (so far!) to the article, there are a lot of people who feel that the practice is outdated and should be banned. I have responded with my own article, arguing that whilst the debate is by no means settled, a ban at present would amount to a disproportionate interference with freedom of religion rights.

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Religious freedom doesn’t stop at the prison gate

7 June 2011 by

R (Imran Bashir) v. The Independent Adjudicator, HMP Ryehill and the Secretary of State for Justice [2011] EWHC 1108 – read judgment here.

1 Crown Office Row’s John Joliffe appeared for the Secretary of State for Justice in this case. He is not the writer of this post.

The High Court held last week that disciplining a Muslim prisoner for failing to give a urine sample in a drugs test when he was in the midst of a voluntary fast was a breach of his right to manifest his religious beliefs. 

Recent claims or defences on the basis of Article 9, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, have mostly been unsuccessful – see our comments on the Catholic adoption agencies, fostering and Cornish hotel cases, as well as Aidan O’Neill’s feature article. However, in this case His Honour Judge (HHJ) Pelling QC held that the failure to even consider a prisoner’s Article 9 rights meant that the decision to discipline him was fatally flawed.

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Control orders and human rights to family life: not always incompatible

1 June 2011 by

CD v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWHC 1273 (Admin) Read judgment

As readers of this blog will know, control orders have often been successfully challenged in the courts on human rights grounds. But in this case, an order forcing a person to relocate to a different part of the country was found to be lawful.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 gives the Home Secretary the power create to control orders, which impose obligations on persons “for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism”. One of the obligations permitted is a restriction on an individual’s place of residence.

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Adoption, same-sex couples and religion – again

3 May 2011 by

In a modern liberal democracy we take for granted the fact that laws apply to all individuals and are enforced by the courts without special consideration of religious beliefs they may happen to have.

But for a while at least there was a very real danger of the dissolution of the divide between private orthodoxy and public principle following the widespread invocation of Article 9 in the courts. This came to a head in the furore over the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention in the MacFarlane v Relate case, provoking some very sharp words from Lord Justice Laws. Although religious groups continue to rattle their sabres, a recent ruling from the Charity Tribunal suggests that the right to religion is losing its edge somewhat on the litigious battlefield. Does this mark a trend away from making concessions to the devout?

We posted previously on the somewhat convoluted history of Catholic Care v Charity Commission for England and Wales. Essentially the Charity wished to legitimise its policy of excluding same sex couples from its adoption services by seeking permission from the Charity Commission to amend its objects of association. They sought thereby to a statutory exception to the general prohibition on discrimination in the Equality Act 2010.

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Ban on religious couple adopting?.. On the naughty step

26 April 2011 by

Human rights and discrimination law are often criticised in the press. Sometimes the criticisms are justified, but the level of anger which a system of universal rights can generate is sometimes surprising. Unfortunately, some of that anger is caused by inaccurate reporting of judgments.

In yesterday’s Telegraph online, Cristina Odone blogged on a recent “scandal” relating to Mr Justice Mostyn’s request to carry out his responsibilities as a duty judge in Tenerife. I will leave comment on the main story to Charon QC, save to say that Odone uses the story as a means of judge-bashing, a sport which is currently popular in the press and even with politicians. “Who”, asks Odone channeling public anger, “do these judges think they are?” Moreover,

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Squaring equality with religion – Aidan O’Neill QC

29 March 2011 by

The relationship between the expression of religious beliefs and practice and equality law is a fraught one, and particular difficulty has been experienced in the matter of the application of the law outlawing discrimination.

Equality law, as currently interpreted, treats the six prohibited grounds of discrimination – age, disability, race, religion, sex (including transgender status) and sexual orientation – as being of equal weight and standing; there is no hierarchy among these grounds.

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Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption ALBA Allison Bailey Al Qaeda animal rights anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 Artificial Intelligence Asbestos assisted suicide asylum Australia autism benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery Catholicism Chagos Islanders Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners climate change clinical negligence Coercion common law confidentiality consent conservation constitution contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus Coroners costs Court of Protection crime Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation deportation deprivation of liberty Detention diplomatic immunity disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Employment Law Employment Tribunal Environment Equality Act Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Family Fertility FGM Finance football foreign criminals foreign office France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage Gaza gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Health high court HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests international law internet Inuit Iran Iraq Ireland Islam Israel Italy IVF Japan Judaism judicial review jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid Leveson Inquiry LGBTQ Rights liability Libel Liberty Libya Lithuania local authorities marriage Maya Forstater mental capacity Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery music Muslim nationality national security NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury Piracy Plagiarism planning Poland Police Politics pollution press Prisoners Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia Saudi Arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing statelessness stop and search Strasbourg Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treaty TTIP Turkey UK Ukraine USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wind farms WomenInLaw YearInReview Zimbabwe
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