Religion and law round-up – 20th September

A week in which we had the first hints of possible registration for religion, confusion about the next Lambeth Conference and a certain degree of reassurance that incense is not a “legal high”

Registering “faith leaders”?

Last Sunday The Telegraph carried a report by Andrew Gilligan of a leaked draft of the Home Office’s new counter-extremism strategy which suggested that it would set up a “national register of faith leaders”, who would be subject to government-specified training and security checks. According to the report,

“The strategy … says that Whitehall will ‘require all faiths to maintain a national register of faith leaders’ and the Government will ‘set out the minimum level of training and checks’ faith leaders must have to join the new register. Registration will be compulsory for all faith leaders who wish to work with the public sector, including universities … In practice, most faith leaders have some dealings with the public sector and the requirement will cover the great majority. The move marks a significant deepening of the state’s involvement in religion and is likely to be resisted by many religious representatives.”

The Telegraph reports a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church as saying that the Church had not been consulted on the proposals and that “other senior Catholic sources” had said that any plan for state supervision of priests would be “firmly resisted”.

Whether or not any of this turns into actual proposals for legislation remains to be seen: but it does prompt the question, at least in our minds, “Exactly what is a faith leader”? A bishop? – presumably “yes”. But the leader of a house-church in a village in the Midlands? The Clerk of a Quaker Local Meeting? Hmm. (As to the latter, the same thought has evidently occurred to Cranmer.)

Equal civil partnerships

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Seinfeld have announced that their judicial review hearing has been set down for 19 and 20 January 2016. They are seeking a review of the refusal of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to allow them to register an opposite-sex civil partnership, on the grounds that the decision was unfair and discriminatory.

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