Law and religion round-up – 7th May

In the news this week: “Slow walking”, “Silent prayer” and “Pyjama injunctions”

…as well as the Coronation of King Charles III, which for some was “a good day to bury bad news”…

Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill

On Tuesday, the Government published the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill: there is a link to the text of the draft Bill and the associated documents here. The most important aspect of the Bill for places of worship is that the Government has kept to its undertaking that they will all be treated as “standard duty” premises – on which the compliance obligations are much less onerous – regardless of their capacity unless they impose an admission charge. But even so, the cost of compliance is estimated to be around £2,000 – which might stretch the resources of very small congregations.

The Explanatory Notes say that “Work is currently underway to develop a new Faith Security Training Scheme, for which up to £1 million is available in 2022-23, to assist faith communities in preparing against security threats”.

Rhian Greaves and her colleagues at DAC Beachcroft have written a helpful analysis of the Bill in Lexology: Protect Duty Draft Legislation Published: What You Need to Know.

Religious dress in the workplace again

And for those of you who are still interested in EU law…

… Advocate General Collins has now published his Opinion on OP v Commune d’Ans [2023] EUECJ Case C 148/22.

The claimant was an employee of her local Commune in Belgium. She was prohibited from wearing the hijab in her workplace and, subsequently, the Commune amended its terms of employment to require all its employees to observe strict neutrality, prohibiting any form of proselytising and banning the wearing of overt signs of ideological or religious affiliation. Ms OP claimed that, in doing so, the Commune was infringing her freedom of religion and brought proceedings in the Labour Court of Liège.

The Belgian court was uncertain whether imposing “exclusive and absolute” neutrality on all the employees of a public service, even on those who had no direct contact with customers, was a legitimate aim and whether the means used to achieve it ­– an outright ban on wearing any signs of belief – was appropriate and necessary, and sought the opinion of the CJEU.

AG Collins concludes that the terms of employment of the Commune do indeed fall within the scope of the Directive in so far as it concerns both the public sector and the private sector and that the prohibition at issue comes under the scope of “employment and working conditions” within the meaning of the Directive. The concept of “religion” covers both the fact of having a belief and its manifestation in public, such as a woman wearing the hijab.

The general framework established by the Directive gives Member States a particularly broad margin of appreciation where the principles at stake may involve their national identities. The imposition of restrictions on the freedom of public sector employees to manifest their political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the performance of their duties may be of such importance in some Member States that it forms part of their national identities, inherent in their fundamental political and constitutional structures. Therefore, it does not constitute direct discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, always provided that it is applied in a general and undifferentiated way. Equally, it does not constitute indirect discrimination so long as it is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means employed to achieve that aim are appropriate and necessary.

An Advocate General’s Opinion is advisory only and does not bind the Court. For the outcome, watch this space.

Dastardly crime foiled by churchwarden

On 2 May 2023, the Lincolnshire Police reported Church warden led officers to church lead theft suspects:

“As part of our series on the three men sentenced for church lead thefts across the country, we look at how the bravery of a churchwarden led to the arrests of the defendants…The group [was] seen leaving the area by the then churchwarden who bravely followed the vehicle in his car up to the A1 at Grantham, providing Lincolnshire Police’s Force Control Room with updates along the way, helping officers track them. Officers located the suspects’ car, and the defendants were found packed into the front seat of the car with the rear full of lead sheets. They were arrested and the lead was tested.

There had been a number of thefts of lead from churches in the previous few days in the Sleaford area.  A sample of lead was matched via SMARTWATER samples to another theft at nearby Newton church which had occurred that night.”

This operation, named Operation Dastardly, was led by Lincolnshire Police. The judge also awarded £350 of public money to be issued to the churchwarden for his bravery – probably of more immediate use than the medals given to the fictional Muttley. It should be noted that the churchwarden didn’t employ his powers of arrest under s2 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, for which the maximum custodial sentence is a term “not exceeding two months”. Two of the group of three were awarded sentences of 6 years 1 month; 4 years 10 months; and the other a 24-month community order and 30 days of rehabilitation activity at a later hearing.

Other aspects of the case were the criminals’ use of Google Earth to locate roofs to target, the use of DNA on a discarded cigarette butt found in the grounds of one of the churches, and the pre-Brexit use (in 2019) of a European Arrest Warrant to extradite two of the criminals from Romania. A more detailed post will follow.

Quick links

And finally…

From The Spectator:

Magna Carta? In pre-Union SCOTLAND????


One thought on “Law and religion round-up – 7th May

  1. Dastardly indeed… I’m assuming a theft of lead wouldn’t count as “riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour” but would “vex” a “preacher duly authorized to preach therein” – hence being in the scope of s2 – but if they’d already left the premises, is arrest under s3 possible?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *