Law and religion round-up – 1st November

An amazingly busy week, with sharia, safeguarding, tax credits and the end of the Vatican Synod on the family, just for a start…

The Lords debate sharia

On Friday 23 October (yes: we’re afraid we missed it) the House of Lords debated Baroness Cox’s Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill. In response, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Lord Faulks, said that as part of the Government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy announced earlier in the week, the Home Secretary was to commission a full, independent investigation into the application of sharia law in England and Wales. On the question of legislation, he did not want to prejudge that inquiry, “although certainly legislation may be an option”. But that would be considered in due course: the Home Office inquiry would “enhance our understanding of any ongoing misuse of sharia law and the extent of the problem where it exists”.

The National Secular Society has published a helpful summary of the debate.

That other Lords’ debate …

… i.e. the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, [26 Oct 2015 Vol 765 (56) Col 975] – not a Bill, as the Editor of a well-known satirical magazine insists on calling it. With regard to the constitutional issues associated with the amendments, had there been a division on the Bishop of Portsmouth’s “motion of regret”, the Lords would not have been accused of defying precedent on financial secondary legislation.

Following the government defeat, the Prime Minister was quick to establish a “rapid review” of the role of the Lords under Lord Strathclyde, although when questioned in the Commons, Chris Grayling commented “It is absolutely essential that we do not rush this”, [Commons Hansard 28 Oct 2015 Vol 601(5) Col 355].

Readmission of divorced and remarried Roman Catholics to communion

The Synod on the Family agreed by a single vote over the necessary two-thirds majority to allow divorced and remarried persons to take communion – from which they are currently debarred – after consideration of individual circumstances. Paragraph 85 of the final document, on readmission to communion, urges a “case by case” approach to remarried persons whose marriages have not been annulled, on the grounds that both parties to a divorce do not necessarily bear the same responsibility for what happened.  Continue reading