The recently-published Religion and Legal Pluralism, edited by Russell Sandberg, explores how religious laws are already accommodated under English law, particular issues that arise and their theoretical analyses that explore the extent to which religious legal systems should be recognised. In this post Russell explores the call for legal reform and two possible approaches.
The last few years have seen much concern expressed about the functioning of religious courts – or, to be more precise, we have seen a fear of sharia. The hyperbolic reaction to the erudite lecture on “Religious and Civil Law in England” in February 2008 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, highlighted not only how controversial the subject was but also the extent of our ignorance.
Concerns about religious courts have arisen in many Western States and with increased frequency. The most recent example was in March 2015, when the Home Secretary Theresa May spoke of “examples of sharia law being used to discriminate against women” but then went on to concede that “we know we have a problem, but we do not yet know the full extent of the problem”, calling for an independent investigator to be appointed – which is yet to occur.
Baroness Cox’s Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill
Baroness Cox has been one of the most persistent campaigners for reform. She first introduced her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill into the House of Lords in June 2011. And four years on, a slightly amended Bill has been tabled again for a first reading. Continue reading