And as Rishi Sunak becomes the sixth Prime Minister since we started this blog…
When cancelling an event unilaterally amounts to discrimination
In Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Against Scottish Event Campus Ltd  SC GLW 33, Franklin Graham – the son of Dr Billy Graham – had been due to appear at the Hydro in Glasgow venue in May 2020 as part of a UK tour under the auspices of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The “private” event was to be non-ticketed with members of the public entering free of charge. It was described as “an evangelistic outreach event to profess and promote religion or philosophical belief”; however, the SEC became aware of opposition to the event in November 2019 through the press and social media and decided to postpone it, after a meeting of Glasgow City Council including its leader, Susan Aitken, and the Labour group leader, Frank McAveety. The BGEA sued, alleging discrimination.
Sheriff John McCormick held that the event had been cancelled because of the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham as viewed by the SEC’s reaction by others to the religious or philosophical beliefs professed by BGEA and/or Franklin Graham. By terminating the agreement, SEC had discriminated directly against BGEA, contrary to ss 10 and 29 Equality Act 2010, and had failed to prove on the balance of probabilities that its decision had had nothing to do with religion or philosophical belief and that it had not treated the BGEA less favourably than it would have treated others. He awarded the BGEA £97,000 plus expenses.
Street preachers again
The Times reports that the Metropolitan Police has paid £10,000 in damages and apologised to Hatun Tash, a Christian preacher who was wrongfully arrested at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park on two occasions. A former Muslim who had converted to Christianity, in May last year she had been assaulted, abused and harassed by a group of Muslim men when she wore a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt while taking part in weekly debates at Speakers’ Corner. Police told her to leave and arrested her for breach of the peace. On one occasion she was interviewed under caution and held in custody for 24 hours before being released and the police took no further action. The Christian Legal Centre took up her case, arguing wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment.
Inspector Andy O’Donnell, from the Met’s professional standards directorate, apologised to her “for the distress that you have suffered”. He said he was “satisfied that on these occasions the level of service did fall below the requisite standard”. [With thanks to the Religion Media Centre.]
Abortion services in Northern Ireland
The UK Government has announced that it will commission abortion services in Northern Ireland following the failure of the devolved Department of Health to do so. It follows the making of Regulations in May 2022 which gave the UK government the same powers as a Northern Ireland minister to ensure that services are available in line with international human rights law.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that it was unfortunate that the Westminster Government had been forced to commission services that should be a matter for the Department of Health to implement; however, it had been left with no other option. He would be meeting the CEOs of Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to ensure that abortion services could be provided.
The Constitution Unit at UCL has published revised versions of two of its reports: The Coronation of Charles III and Swearing in the new King. The co-authors, Robert Hazell and Bob Morris, have also published a blog post summarising the conclusions of both reports, here.
The latter document sets out the options for revising the coronation oaths if during the new reign there is the political will to do so. The authors recognise that this is unlikely to happen in the six months before King Charles’s coronation, but they raise the issues now for two reasons:
- in case there is criticism of the Accession Declaration Oath and Coronation Oaths taken by Charles, to explain that criticism should be directed primarily at the Government for failing to revise them; and
- to put down a marker for the future: if the oaths are to be updated in time for the accession of Prince William, that needs to be done during the reign of King Charles.
The Times covers the report, here.
Chancel repair liability
In answer to a question from Daisy Cooper (Lib Dem, St Albans) about the Law Commission’s progress on its Registered Land and Chancel Repair Liability project, Mike Freer (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, MoJ) said that the project was part of the Law Commission’s 13th programme and will be conducted “as and when resources allow, and we understand that the project on Registered Land and Chancel Repair Liability has not yet begun”.
Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has confirmed in a statement to the Scottish Parliament that Lord Brailsford will replace Lady Poole as Chair of the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry. He has also confirmed that an amendment will be made to the Inquiry’s terms of reference to include a clear reference to a human rights-based approach. Like Lady Poole, Lord Brailsford is a Senator of the College of Justice.
On Tuesday, Martin Vickers (Con, Cleethorpes) will open a Commons debate in Westminster Hall entitled “Religious education in modern Britain”. We do hope that he realises (or that someone has reminded him) that education is a devolved responsibility.
The US and “gay cakes” again
In a tentative decision which becomes final at the end of the month unless an objection is filed, a court in California concluded that a bakery that refuses on religious grounds to furnish custom-designed cakes for same-sex weddings and instead refers customers to another bakery for such items had not violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v Cathy’s Creations Inc (CA Super Ct Oct 21, 2022) the court concluded that the Department had failed to prove intentional sexual orientation discrimination. [With thanks to Religion Clause.]
- All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group: No lawful impediment: the APPG’s second report on humanist marriages in England and Wales.
- Ilaria Bertini, UK Human Rights Blog: Mortier v Belgium: A landmark decision on euthanasia in the case of mental illness: on the recent decision of the ECtHR on Belgium’s law relating to euthanasia.
- Charles Collins, Crux: The Seal of Confession could be latest casualty of sex abuse crisis.
- COMECE: Freedom of religion with regard to religious slaughter: the Catholic bishops in support of ritual slaughter.
- Mark Fox, Reaction: Will Rishi Sunak want to appoint the Bishops?: sounds to us like a question that suggests its own answer.
- David Allen Green, The Law and Policy Blog: Here we go again: Raab returns to the Ministry of Justice: “When Dominic Raab left the Ministry of Justice when Elizabeth Truss became Prime Minister, the blog teased that the Human Rights Act was still there and Raab was not” – but he’s back.
- Massimo Introvigne, Bitter Winter: England and Wales: New Assault Against the Secrecy of Confession.
- Charles Moore, The Spectator: The personal faith of PMs: in brief, argues that the new PM, though a Hindu, should continue to advise the Crown on ecclesiastical appointments “so long as the C of E remains the church by law established”.
- Joshua Rozenberg, A Lawyer Writes: What’s the point of Dominic Raab?: “Beware of unintended consequences”.
- Religion Media Centre: Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first Hindu prime minister.
- Russell Sandberg, (2022) 188 Law & Justice: The Unexpected Benefit of Hindsight: Reassessing the Legal Importance of the Black Death from the Vantage Point of the Covid Pandemic: suggests that our experiences of the COVID pandemic can enrich our appreciation of the legal significance of the Black Death and asks what can be learnt from this comparison in terms of understanding legal change in both the fourteenth and twenty-first centuries.
- Cathérine Van de Graaf, Strasbourg Observers: Banning body-covering swimwear: the Human Rights Centre submitted a Third Party Intervention to the ECtHR in Missaoui and Akhandaf v Belgium: on yet another pending case on burkinis.