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In our recent weekly round-up we noted that on 4 February The Times carried a report (£) by Dominic Kennedy on the Election Court hearing of the challenge to the re-election of Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Rahman is accused, inter alia, of securing re-election last year by telling Muslims that it was their religious duty to vote for him; and the report says that Richard Mawrey QC, an election commissioner, had said that priests and imams could be committing the 19th-century offence of “spiritual influence” if they told their supporters that it was forbidden to vote for a certain candidate.
As readers might suspect, the issue is more nuanced than The TImes’ report suggests, and whilst we may not comment on the on-going case, this post will explore the issues raised by “spiritual influence”, a term that continues to give rise to confusion as to its meaning and application. Continue reading