Thursday, 3 June 2010

Religion and the Judiciary

The UKSC blog, which is focused on the new UK Supreme Court, has published an article by Aidan O’Neill QC titled Religion and the Judiciary.

He discusses several recent situations where the personal religious convictions or cultural background of judges have given rise to comment, and in particular the recent intervention by Lord Carey in McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd.

He concludes:

The paradox is that the obvious tension between the views expressed by Lord Carey and their unequivocal rejection by Lord Justice Laws arises precisely because of the expansion of anti-discrimination law explicitly to outlaw discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. What the religiously motivated find difficult to understand or accept is that the freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion or belief which has been afforded them by the law does not extend to giving the religious a general right to discriminate (on otherwise unlawful grounds such as sex, age, race, disability, or sexual orientation) on the basis of religion or belief. There will undoubtedly be more litigation – if not further legislation – on this whole vexed issue. The UK tradition of being blind to our Justices’ religion will come to be further strained as a result.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 June 2010 at 10:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

Though in the case mentioned here it was ironic that Mr Justice Laws is, it appears, a practising Anglican.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 3 June 2010 at 11:34pm BST

"...the then Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and the Vice-Chancellor – respectively, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Woolf and Sir Richard Scott who was subsequently ennobled as the Law Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote) stated that:
“We cannot … conceive of circumstances in which an objection [of apparent judicial bias] could be soundly based on the religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, age, class, means or sexual orientation of the judge.” - UKSC blog -

This would seem to uphold the U.K.Supreme Court's position of the unsuitablity of religious bias being brought into play in judgements delivered by officers of the Supreme Court - and, one would hope, of any state judicial authority in the UK.

Lord Carey's attempt to overturn this model of British Justice did little to endear him to the citizens of the UK, who seek, and have the right to, an unprejudicial outcome to cases before the court.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 4 June 2010 at 10:29am BST
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