Law and religion round-up – 14th August

The Attorney General and human rights

On Wednesday, the Attorney General, Suella Braverman QC, made a speech at a meeting of the Policy Exchange on the subject of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the ECHR. She does not like what she sees:

“The new sector called Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a by-product of the rights culture born out of the Convention and the Human Rights Act, combined with misinterpretations of the Equality Act.

Often with vastly inflated salaries and armed with a Newspeak dictionary, they have created mighty citadels of grievance across the public sector and made huge inroads into the private sector.

Equality laws have been misconstrued and weaponised to fight those who challenge their views as perpetrators of hate speech, calling for them to be swiftly no-platformed or cancelled. There are now many concerning examples of how inclusion has trumped fairness.”

She is particularly critical of the “living instrument” approach to applying Convention rights, heightened because

“the Strasbourg bench of judges is composed by justices from continental legal systems. They are used to operating without a formal doctrine of binding precedent. This means that their habit is to force the ‘right’ result in the case – even if that means straining the law – with less of a focus on how that case will influence future cases. When coupled with the living instrument doctrine, the Convention has rapidly and unpredictably expanded.”

We fear it’s the “unelected judges” thing again. Otherwise, no comment – but do read it for yourself.

For an alternative view, see Alice Donald & Philip Leach, UK In A Changing Europe: Why the Bill of Rights poses problems for human rights in Europe and the UK’s international standing.

Joshua Rozenberg comments on the Northern Irish dimension in The Law and Policy BlogHow the Good Friday Agreement means the United Kingdom government cannot leave the ECHR (without breaching the Good Friday Agreement)

Scottish Episcopal Church: Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney

On Wednesday, it was announced that, after two formal complaints of alleged misconduct by the Rt Revd Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, the Primus had suspended her from office until further notice, following the commencement of a disciplinary process under Canon 54 of the Church’s Code of Canons. The process was to be considered in the first instance by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, the Bishop of Edinburgh was also to serve as Acting Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney during her suspension, and the independent mediation process set up last October in response to difficulties experienced in her diocese was expected to be put on hold pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.

Later on the same day, however, it was announced that her suspension had been lifted with immediate effect after she gave notice of an appeal against the decision to the Episcopal Synod. It is expected that a meeting of the Episcopal Synod will be arranged as soon as possible.

Church and State

On Friday, the House of Commons Library published a research briefing on The relationship between church and state in the United Kingdom written by David Torrance. The briefing

“covers the historical background to and structural basis of the Churches of England and Scotland. It also explains how the Church of England intersects with the Crown and Parliament, as well as the Government’s role in advising on church appointments. There are shorter sections on the Church of Ireland and Church in Wales, as well as a summary of proposals to reform the established church in England”. [With thanks to Daniel Hill.]

Religious slaughter in Belgium

Slaughter of animals without pre-stunning was banned in Wallonia in 2017 and in Flanders in 2019; the Brussels-Capital Region remains the only part of Belgium in which kosher and halal slaughter remain legal. In Centraal Israëlitisch Consistorie van België and Others [2020] Case C-336/19, the Grand Chamber of the CJEU ruled that, in order to promote animal welfare in the context of ritual slaughter, Member States may, without infringing the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, require pre-stunning of animals before slaughter: consequently, the Belgian Constitutional Court dismissed applications for review by the Jewish and Muslim communities in two judgments of 30 September 2021, nos. 117/2021 and 118/2021.

The two communities have now taken the matter to the ECtHR, and in a communicated case, Executief van de Moslims van België and Others v Belgium – 16760/22, they argue that the decrees adopted in 2017 and 2018 are an unjustified and discriminatory interference with their freedom of religion under Article 9 ECHR.

Watch this space (given the ECtHR’s backlog, possibly for rather a long time).

Vexatious litigation and tenure

In last week’s roundup, we posted a piece on vexatious litigation, tenure and the effect of a prohibition – a Civil Proceedings Order – under section 42(1) Senior Courts Act 1981. David Lamming has posted a long comment on the implications of a Civil Procedure Order for ecclesiastical proceedings: specifically, whether the words “any court” in section 42(1A) include a consistory court. Highly technical, but well worth a read.

Quick links

And finally…

Though consistory court judgments rarely impinge on Frank’s consciousness, he was delighted to read Re St James Church Kirk [2022] ECC Bla 3, with the prospect of a refurbished ring of eight bells at Over Kellet, only six miles from where he lives. (It’s a pity the bells were originally cast by Warner of Cripplegate, no doubt with Warner’s customary dodgy tuning, but you can’t have everything.)

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