Law and religion round-up – 9th October

A week so quiet that we found ourselves contemplating the plight of civil servants obliged to write rubbish for Twitter…

Appointing bishops in the C of E

We posted two pieces on episcopal appointment this week: on appointments to vacant sees and on the news of the appointment of a theological review of the work of the Crown Nominations Commission. In a thoughtful piece in Christian Today, Mark Woods (who, by the way, is a Baptist minister) mulls over the question, Bishops: Who Gets To Choose Who They Are, And Why? Well worth reading.

Abortion law in Poland

Christian Today reports that the Polish Government has decided not to seek a change in the law to impose a total ban on abortion following mass protests in which thousands of women dressed in black protested against the proposed ban even in the cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s health is at risk.

Poland’s current law has been the subject of several adverse rulings by the ECtHR: see, for example, Tysiąc v Poland [2007] ECHR 219R R v Poland [2011] ECHR 828 and P and S v Poland [2012] ECHR 1853. Perhaps someone in the Government’s legal department has had a quiet word with ministers.

Headscarves in France

The Local fr reports that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested that he is in favour of banning the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public. According to the report, the following exchange took place during an interview on Radio Classique on Wednesday morning, in which Sarkozy seemed ready to ban the hijab in public places in the name of equality if he is elected President:

 “Are you preparing a proposal to ban the headscarf?”


 “Yes or no?” “Yes,” said Sarkozy. “On French soil, we don’t accept inequalities between men and women. No headscarves, no burkinis, no specific swimming times at the public pools, and strict equality when it comes to the rights and of men and women – that is the French Republic.”

Which leads one to wonder precisely how Sarkozy proposes to define the hijab for the purpose of banning it. Any headscarf worn by a woman? A headscarf that covers all the hair? A headscarf worn by a woman who looks vaguely foreign? A veil worn by a nun? And as to “inequalities between men and women”, presumably there’s nothing in French law, currently, to stop a bloke from wearing a headscarf if that’s what he wants to do.

In SAS v France, the Grand Chamber was prepared not to interfere in the ban on the niqab veil – but one would hope that it would not be quite so supine if a general ban on the hijab came up. As De Gaetano J pointed out in his dissent in Ebrahimian v France [2015] ECHR 1041,

“A woman may wear a headscarf not to manifest a religious belief, or any belief for that matter, but for a variety of other reasons.”

And quite apart from Article 9 and the right to manifest, what about respect for private and family life under Article 8? Or does private life end once you open the front door and walk into the street? And we mustn’t forget that the CJEU still has to rule on Achbita and Bougnaoui – on which all we have thus far are two rather conflicting opinions from AG Kokott and AG Sharpston.

Sacking religious education teachers in Croatia

We posted a note on Travaš v Croatia [2016] ECHR 813, in which the Second Section ECtHR held that the dismissal of a teacher of religion in two State high schools after his canonical mandate to teach Roman Catholic religious education had been withdrawn following his remarriage in a civil ceremony after divorce.

The European Centre for Law & Justice – which was one of the third-party commentators at the hearing – reproduced the Court’s press release under the headline, ‘The ECHR confirms the autonomy of religious communities’. On re-reading the judgment, however, we think that may be something of an exaggeration.

Quick links

  • British Religion in Numbers: Counting Religion in Britain, September 2016: lots of interesting stuff, principally that both the numbers of those self-identifying as Christians and of those self-identifying as members of other faiths have declined since 2015, according to a poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft.
  • Christian Rutishauser SJ, europinfosThe burqa debate and the human face: “The political debate around banning the burqa for reasons of public safety is really laughable” but “there is still a case for banning women from wearing the full veil in public, since democracy is founded on citizens – men and women alike – taking responsibility for their community”. Is that a non sequitur?
  • Audun Toft, Religion Going PublicHijab – Not religion?: a Norwegian hairdresser was found guilty of religious discrimination for denying a hijab-wearing woman entry to her salon and there is now a debate in Norway about the true significance of the hijab. Audun Toft argues that simply to categorise it as ‘religious’ or ‘political’ is an oversimplification.

And finally, from Twitter…

Dept. for Int. Trade‏@tradegovuk:

France needs high quality, innovative British jams & marmalades ‪#EXportingisGREAT ‪#ExportOpps ‪

Innovative British jams??? Wi-fi enabled, maybe? As The Guardian commented, “Unfortunately, our highest-profile exponent of marmalade is an illegal immigrant bear likely to fall foul of the next Home Office clampdown.”

One thought on “Law and religion round-up – 9th October

  1. It seems that M. Sarkosy is as big a problem for secularism as Beata Szydło Prime Minister of Poland is for Catholicism. One can only hope that the people of France will oppose the Sarkosy stupidity as forcefully as the Polish people opposed the Szydło stupidity.

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