Breaking news: Article 9 challenge to lack of provision for humanist weddings in England & Wales dismissed

In R (Harrison & Ors) v Secretary of State for Justice [2020] EWHC 2096 (Admin), the Claimants were humanists who complained that the legal recognition of different forms of religious wedding ceremonies under English law did not extend to weddings carried out in accordance with their humanist beliefs. They contended that this discriminated against them unjustifiably and in breach of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. They were supported in their claim by Humanists UK. The focus of their claim was Article 9 ECHR (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) [70].

It was not in dispute that humanism has been afforded equal status to the major world religions in many aspects of public life in the United Kingdom, such as education, healthcare, public broadcasting and remembrance, and humanist marriage had been given legal recognition in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey. Further, the Secretary of State accepted that humanism was a recognised belief system with a number of core beliefs [22].

Eady J dismissed the claim. Continue reading