Law and religion round-up – 8th July

A fairly quiet week – though not for Mrs May…

Leicester City Council and criticism of Israel

In R (Jewish Rights Watch, t/a Jewish Human Rights Watch) v Leicester City Council [2018] EWCA Civ 1551, the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that a resolution by Leicester City Council “insofar as legal considerations allow, to boycott any produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank until such time as it complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian Occupied territories” was not in breach of the Council’s Public Sector Equality Duty under s.149 of the Equality Act 2010. The losing appellants, however, claimed that they had won …

… and both parties declared it to be “a landmark ruling”. So maybe everyone was happy with the outcome: we noted the judgment here.

Coroners and prioritising deaths

The Ham & High reports that HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell, admitted to a public meeting in Camden Town Hall that her previous policy of enforcing a “cab-rank rule” for dealing with deaths in her jurisdiction had been wrong. The meeting was held after the Chief Coroner` had advised her to draw up a formal policy “to show a departure from the previous system”.

France, laïcité and universities

On 13 December 2016, the Revd Michel Deneken (anonymised in the subsequent opinion of the Conseil d’État) was elected President of the University of Strasbourg. In a case which one cannot imagine ever arising in the UK, the higher education union SNESUP-FSU [Syndicat national de l’enseignement supérieur –  Fédération syndicale unitaire] challenged Judgment no. 1703016 of 14 December 2017 by the tribunal administratif of Strasbourg rejecting its request for the annulment of Fr Deneken’s election. The President of the 3rd chamber of the cour administrative d’appel of Nancy then sought the opinion of the Conseil d’État on the interpretation of the respect for rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the provisions of Article L. 712-2 of the Education Code. The union had argued, in short, that the election of a priest as President of the University violated the principle of laïcité and compromised academic independence.

In Lecture du mercredi 27 juin 2018 N° 419595: ECLI: EN: CECHR: 2018 419595.20180627, the combined 1st and 4th chambers of the Conseil pointed out that Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and Article 1 of the Constitution established the constitutional principle of laïcité. It followed, therefore, that access to public functions, including access to a university presidency, was without distinction of religion or belief. The fact that the elected president of a university was a minister of a religion was not, of itself, relevant to the constitutional principle guaranteeing the independence of teachers and researchers. Neither of the union’s arguments, therefore, were of substance [un caractère sérieux]. Therefore, it was not necessary to refer the issue further to the Conseil constitutionnel.

HMG Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Ahmad as her Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The purpose of the Special Envoy, which supports the Prime Minister’s commitment to religious tolerance in the UK, is to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to religious freedom by promoting inter-faith respect and dialogue internationally. Lord Ahmad is also Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.


On 7 July, the Church of England issued a Press Release on the agreement by General Synod to endorse key priorities for action on safeguarding, focusing on themes which came out of the first set of hearings by the IICSA. As we noted on 6 June, the hearing relating to Peter Ball is scheduled for July 23-27 2018.

Climate Change

On 5 July, Pope Francis received participants to the conference “Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth” which was arranged by the Vatican to mark the third anniversary of the publication of the Papal encyclical Laudato si’. The conference was opened with an intervention by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

Climate change is also on the agenda of General Synod of the Church of England when Sunday afternoon will be given over to a consideration of climate change and investment, with presentations from the National Investing Bodies (GS 2093) and the Diocese of Oxford (GS Misc 1196).

[Postscript: General Synod gave a strong endorsement to the strategy of the Church of England Pensions Board and Commissioners in pursuing its climate engagement with companies. Vote on item 11, with amendment 35 was: In favour: 347; Against: 4; Abstentions: 3]

And a reminder

However helpful, profound, critical, apposite or witty they may be, we only accept comments if you put your name to them.

Quick links

  • Commons and Lords Hansard: all of Hansard has come home to a single website, whose content goes back to 1803:
  • bathwellschapOff we went, to make a great big tent, on the weekend: as ever, essential reading for anyone seeking an unbiased analysis of events at General Synod.
  • bathwellschap: There’s a shadow hanging over me… *: Day 2 of General Synod: the Safeguarding debate; the Teaching Document seminar; House of Clergy meeting on clergy remuneration.
  • Church of England in Parliament: Week in Westminster, 2nd-6th July 2018: The bishops spoke on the NHS, social care funding, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, lifelong learning and skills, and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. They asked questions about EU migration, sentencing of female offenders, and NHS data records.

And finally…I

Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that two householders in Wales were entitled to damages from Network Rail because it had failed to control the Japanese knotweed on its land, which had been infested for fifty years. In Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 1514, the Court upheld the ruling of Cardiff County Court – though on rather different grounds – and concluded unanimously that there had been an unlawful interference with the claimants’ enjoyment of the amenity of their properties because of the impairment of their right to use and enjoy those properties. It dismissed Network Rail’s appeal.

The relevance of this to “law & religion” may not immediately leap out and hit one in the eye but, between them, religious organisations own rather a lot of land – and some of it, no doubt, is infested with Japanese knotweed. We suspect that the judgment would repay careful study by denominational property managers.

And finally…II

Compare and contrast:

[i] The Brexit meeting at Chequers on Friday, “Widespread ministerial unhappiness that they have to read 120-odd pages of dense and complex stuff in just a few hours before making historic decisions on UK’s Brexit future”.

[ii] Apparent absence of comment on the papers for General Synod, Friday to Tuesday, which according to bathwellschap’s bathroom scales “weighed 3.5 kilos and amounted to a pile 3½” high”.


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