Law and religion round-up – 5th November

A week in which the Westminster sexual exploitation scandal continued to claim scalps, there was an important report on House of Lords reform – and Brexit rumbled on…

Victimisation and public interest disclosure in school

In Miss S Bi v E-ACT (England and Wales: Public Interest Disclosure: Race Discrimination: Religion or Belief Discrimination) [2017] UKET 1304471/2015, the ET upheld the claim of Ms Suriyah Bi, a Muslim teaching assistant, that her dismissal  constituted victimisation under ss.27 and 39 Equality Act 2010 but dismissed her claim that she had been subjected to a further detriment under s.47B Employment Rights Act 1996 by the respondent giving prejudicial, damaging and discriminatory information about her to Birmingham City Council. In March, she had been successful in a claim of unfair dismissal in relation to a protected disclosure,

The latest decision was delivered orally and written reasons have not been given; however, The Guardian reports that Ms Bi was sacked by the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham in 2015 after she had objected to a group of 11-year-olds with special needs being shown footage of people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. She said that when a warning message appeared on the screen, children asked if they should be watching it, but were told by the teacher to be quiet. She raised the issue on the following day and was dismissed just over an hour later.

According to The Guardian, a safeguarding checklist written three days after her dismissal mentioned that Ms Bi had been Head Girl at Saltley School which, five years after she left, was implicated in the “Trojan Horse affair” (an anonymous accusation that Islamic extremists planned to take over state-run schools in Birmingham). It also said that she had raised concerns about the footage because it offended her as a Muslim. Ms Bi’s reaction was that “Just because I went to a Trojan Horse affair school, which [was involved in the scandal] five years after I left … I was implicated as being an extremist.” Again according to The Guardian, a remedy hearing is expected to take place next year.  [With thanks to Paul de Mello Jr.] 

President of the Family Division calls for rethink on child prosecutions

The Law Society Gazette reports that Sir James Munby has called for the Family Court to be “revamped” with an enhanced quasi-criminal jurisdiction. At a meeting of the Howard League for Penal Reform he asked:

“Why, for example, could the youth court not be amalgamated in an expanded family court where the process would no longer be criminal and the emphasis could be on problem-solving in the true sense and … for the entire family, rather than on punishment, or so-called rehabilitation, for the child in the custodial estate so excoriated by the Chief Inspector?”

According to the report, he also urged the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its current prosecuting policy in relation to children:

“I do not … go so far as to suggest that age alone should immunise children from the appropriate application of the criminal law where there has been really serious offending. However, in less serious cases it is legitimate to ask what advantage there is … in invoking a criminal process in preference to a family court process, especially where the family court is already engaged in careful analysis of and planning for the child’s future.”

Nothing much to do with religion but – as with other matters we have previously noted – an immense amount to do with issues such as morality and children’s rights.

Khaira v Shergill again

The Court of Appeal has handed down another judgment in the seemingly-interminable litigation between Mr Khaira and Mr Shergill; however, anyone who has been following the story will be relieved to learn that this one is solely about costs. So unless costs are your particular interest, you don’t need to read it.

Music in C of E churches: the saga continues

On Monday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered a written question from Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): “what the policy is of the Church Commissioners on the playing of secular music in (a) St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church and (b) all churches.

Precisely what administrative responsibility the Church Commissioners might have for music in churches is not at all clear – perhaps they have occasional lunchtime meetings to discuss the dire musical standards of congregational mass-settings for Common Worship. But be that as it may, Dame Caroline duly replied:

“The Church of England’s ‘Open and Sustainable Churches’ programme operates through its ChurchCare website. This programme offers advice and encouragement to churches on how to use imaginative and strategic ways to make their spaces available for purposes as well as worship. These could be community activities, cultural or even commercial events. There is no specific national policy about the use of churches for concerts, as this is usually left to the discretion of the Vicar and the Parochial Church Council.

Following a decision by the Parochial Church Council of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the church will end its programme of offering hire space to musicians from 2018. In its place, the church will offer monthly Saturday evening concerts in partnership with external musical groups … From 1 November, the Diocese of London will also launch a website that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as a tool to promote concerts and events” [emphasis added].

Subsequently, the Diocese of London launched Musicians’ Church: we noted it here.

New publication: Islamic Law: Cases, Authorities and Worldview

Islamic Law: Cases, Authorities and Worldview, by Ahmad Atif Ahmad, Professor of Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara, is a basic introduction to the subject. Though intended for undergraduates, it assumes no prior knowledge of Islamic law and is a helpful starting point for the general reader.  Drawing on a comparative approach, it looks at the issues of the application of Islamic law where Muslims live as a majority and where they live as a minority, including the USA, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan. It surveys the historical development and the contemporary contexts of Islamic law, covering topics such as the development and transformation of Islamic institutions before and after colonialism, rituals, dietary restrictions, family, contracts and property, lawful and unlawful gain, criminal law and punishments, and what makes a government legitimate in the eyes of Muslim individuals and authorities.

The one obvious drawback for the UK reader is that its common law context is US law rather than English or Scots (); however, though we tend to avoid US law on religious issues because of the distortions (from a UK perspective) that result from the First Amendment, the US examples are not too difficult for a Brit to follow.

Moors Murders

On 3 November, the BBC reported that the ashes of Moors Murderer Ian Brady had been disposed of at sea in the middle of the night after a cremation the previous week. For those with an interest in burial law, the report said:

“Brady’s body was collected from Royal Liverpool Hospital’s mortuary by a council official at about 21:00 BST on 25 October … Under police escort, the corpse was taken to Southport Crematorium where the cremation began at 22:00 BST, with no music or flowers allowed. Brady’s ashes were then placed in a weighted biodegradable urn, driven to Liverpool Marina and dispatched at sea at 02:30 BST”.

Also on 3 November, the High Court released the unredacted judgment in Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council & Ors v Robin Makin & Ors [2017] EWHC 2543 (Ch)paragraph 88 of which includes the Court’s directions as to the disposal of Brady’s body.

In a separate report, it was revealed that the remains of the Moors Murderers’ first victim, Pauline Reade, were kept by police for 30 years without her family’s knowledge. The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it “recently became aware” some of her remains were kept “for investigative purposes” and has since returned them. Pauline is buried is the same plot as her parents and brother. Her niece said:

“As a family, we want to put all the parts back with Pauline, where they should be. But to do that we will have to disturb all four graves. I think I should get an apology from the police. We will hold second funerals for all of them.”

Quick links

And Helge Årsheim’s recent cross-post, Being Boring – How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom has been reposted on The Religion Factor with a new title: Deus in Machina: How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom. The site promises that Helge’s piece will be the first in a series of exchanges arising from the recent conference of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation at the University of Groningen on ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing [sic] Beyond Essentialism’.

And finally…

What must surely be the comment of the week, from The Times daily e-mail update, Red Box:

“Maybe I had a sheltered upbringing in darkest Somerset, but as a general rule for starters, if you never take a photo of your private parts and never touch or send fruity texts to someone who isn’t your other half, you tend not to get into any trouble.”

2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 5th November

  1. Correction:

    The article above in relation to Miss S Bi v E-ACT (England and Wales: Public Interest Disclosure: Race Discrimination: Religion or Belief Discrimination) [2017] UKET 1304471/2015, claims that:

    “Trojan Horse affair” (an anonymous accusation, subsequently discredited, that Islamic extremists planned to take over state-run schools in Birmingham).”

    This is incorrect, the accusations of the “Trojan Horse affair” have been found to be very serious indeed, as shown by several reports:

    – Ian Kershaw’s independent investigation by Birmingham City Council;

    – Sir Micheal Wilshaw’s Ofsted report; and most significantly

    – The Peter Clarke report, in which Mr Clarke concludes in his executive summary:

    “There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by
    a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive
    Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham. This has been achieved by
    gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic
    headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to
    key positions, and seeking to remove headteachers they do not feel to be
    sufficiently compliant.” – at p 14.

    Any assertion that the “Trojan Horse affair” has been “discredited” is simply not true and should be challenged at every opportunity.

    • I was merely paraphrasing the report in The Guardian. Unfortunately, because the ET merely gave its decision without reasons, all I could do was to quote what Ms Bi said.

      The whole “Trojan Horse” story – with copious links – is available on Wikipedia here. And I’ve taken out the word “subsequently discredited”.

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