Law and religion roundup – 26th November

Stir-up Sunday: “the day on which good Anglicans traditionally order their luxury Christmas puddings from Fortnum and Mason”

Catherine Fox, Acts and Omissions

Soul Survivor

On Tuesday, Fiona Scolding KC, the Independent Reviewer appointed by the trustees of Soul Survivor Watford, Soul Survivor and Soul61, published the Terms of Reference of her review. Notably:

“!4. The review shall only consider matters which concern Soul Survivor and shall not determine the merits or outcome of any individual complaints made. The Reviewers cannot determine if events did or did not occur or make any findings of fact as to any individual allegations.”

There is also a statement on the Soul Survivor website:

“We recognise that this continues to be an extremely painful process, particularly for those who were subject to Mike’s [Pilavachi’s] abuse. Our hope is that this review demonstrates our unwavering commitment to learning from the mistakes of the past and can go some way to ensuring those experiences are not repeated.”

Leaving the ECHR?

The Times reported yesterday that the new Home Secretary, James Cleverly, is taking a much more pragmatic position than his immediate predecessor, Suella Braverman, on the UK’s adherence to the ECHR. In an interview, he warned that leaving the ECHR would jeopardise “key cooperation” with international partners including France, Albania and Bulgaria which has helped drive down illegal migration.

Those advocating leaving, he argues, are putting ideology before pragmatism. “What some people, I fear, do is jump to their preferred solution and hang on to that really, really tightly and say this cannot be the right answer unless you do a particular thing.” Leaving the ECHR, he suggests, could in fact undermine the Government’s attempts to stop the boats given the importance of international cooperation:

“I do not want to do anything that might undermine the key cooperation we have with countries [who] are very wedded to the ECHR for understandable reasons. Nothing is cost free. Everything needs to be considered, the advantages and disadvantages.”

The CJEU and religious dress at work

On 29 November, the CJEU will hand down judgment in the latest case on religious dress at work: OP v Commune d’Ans Case C‑148/22, which is a request for a preliminary ruling from the Tribunal du Travail de Liège. In this case, the prohibition on wearing religious signs in the workplace was imposed not by a private employer but by a municipal authority, and it raises the question as to whether the nature and particular features of the public service and the context specific to each of the Member States require a different solution to that adopted in previous cases involving private employers.

In his Opinion of May 2023, Advocate General Collins suggested that Article 2(2)(a) of the Equal Treatment Directive must be interpreted as providing that a prohibition on employees of a public body from wearing any visible sign of political, philosophical or religious belief in the workplace does not constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief provided that it is applied in a general and undifferentiated way. Similarly, Article 2(2)(b) of the Directive must be interpreted to mean that a difference of treatment indirectly based on religion or belief arising from such a provision by a public body

“may be justified by that body’s desire to put in place an entirely neutral administrative environment, provided, first, that that desire responds to a genuine need on the part of that body, which it is for that body to demonstrate; second, that that difference of treatment is appropriate for the purpose of ensuring that that desire is properly realised; and, third, that that prohibition is limited to what is strictly necessary”.

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We were puzzled at the interest this week in what some have suggested to be “The fairest, goodliest, and most famous ‘multi-faith’ prayer area in all of England“. In the event, it appears that much to our surprise, the news item was “true” rather than a “bluff”. It is, however, a new multi-faith area in the free waiting zone, in addition to the multi-faith area in the Departure Lounge of the terminal building.

Quick links

And finally…I

Russell Sandberg offers a very different take on a sixtieth anniversary: Why Law Students Should Watch Doctor Who.

And finally…II

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