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  • 29 March 2014 : First gay couples are wed in Britain, but Anglican clergy are told to avoid doing so themselves

The Marriage (of same-sex couples) Act came into force in July last year, but the first wedding ceremonies took place on Saturday, 29th March 2014. The law in England and Wales has also been changed to recognise for the first time same-sex marriages performed overseas. In preparation to the change in law, a recent letter from the house of bishops discourages Anglican clergy from marrying partners of the same sex. However, at least seven clergy couples are preparing to marry in defiance of their bishops, although none of them are known to be planning a public ceremony. The bishop of Salisbury issued a statement just before the new law took effect, praising the couples who will get married and assuring them of his prayers and good wishes. His supportive remarks echo the views of a significant body of dissent within the Church of England, who are unhappy with the formal position taken in the church against gay marriage.

Read more about this in the Guardian.

Ingrid Storm
  • 22 March 2014 : British solicitors encouraged to write Sharia compliant wills

New guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills represent the first time Islamic law could be implemented in the British legal system. Under a new guidance policy produced by The Law Society, solicitors can write Islamic wills that exclude unbelievers and deny women an equal share of inheritances. Children born out of wedlock, and spouses married in non-Muslim weddings could also be excluded from succession under Sharia principles.
The new guidance has been met with many negative reactions. The Law Society defended the guidance as responding to the demands of a multifaith society, but other lawyers are sceptical of encouraging the growth of a “parallel legal system”. Many are also worried about the implications for gender equality and human rights. Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, was quoted in the Telegraph saying : “This guidance marks a further stage in the British legal establishment’s undermining of democratically determined human rights-compliant law in favour of religious law from another era and another culture”.
The protests have led to calls for a Parliamentary inquiry into the current scale of Islamic law in the UK. Sharia principles have so far not been formally included in Britain’s legal system, but a network of approximately 85 informal Sharia bodies exist. They deal with commercial and family disputes between Muslim families.

Read more about this in the Telegraph.

Ingrid Storm
  • 11 December 2013 : The UK’s highest court has ruled that Scientology is a religion and that members can marry in their church.

Scientologist Louisa Hodkin, who wanted to marry her fiancé in a Church of Scientology chapel in central London took her case to the supreme court and won. So far, the chapel was refused by the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act. On Wednesday, five Supreme Court justices ruled in her favour, announcing that the Scientology chapel was a "place of meeting for religious worship and that religion should not be confined to faiths involving a "supreme deity", as this would exclude other non-theistic faiths such as Buddhism. The ruling overturns a reading of the law from a 1970 court of appeal case, which was based on scientology’s lack of “veneration of God or of a Supreme Being". While some welcome this ruling as a sign of religious equality and freedom, others are concerned about its implications. Particularly, there is worry that the controversial organisation would now qualify for tax exemptions. Local government minister Brandon Lewis has said his department will take legal advice, but that premises which are not genuinely open to the public will still have to pay business rates, and cannot qualify for tax relief.

Ingrid Storm
  • 25 February 2013 : Cardinal Keith O’Brien has resigned as the head of the Scottish Catholic church after accusations of "inappropriate acts" towards fellow priests

The UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, resigned as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh after three priests and one former priest accused him of inappropriate behaviour towards them, just a week before Pope Benedict’s resignation. The former cardinal has denied the allegations of behaviour stretching back 30 years. The 75 year old was due to retire next month, but his early resignation means he will not take part in the election of a successor to Pope Benedict. This will leave Britain unrepresented in the process, as O’Brien was the only cardinal in the British Catholic churches with a vote in the conclave. O’Brien has been an outspoken critic of gay rights and the legalisation of same-sex marriage Colin Macfarlane, the director of the gay rights group, Stonewall Scotland, called for a full inquiry into the claims against the former cardinal.

Read more in the Guardian

Ingrid Storm
  • 5 February 2013 : New government legislation to allow same-sex marriage was passed in the House of Commons

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, will also allow civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage and enable married people to change their legal gender without having to end their union. The overwhelming majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament voted for the new legislation, but the Conservative party was split down the middle, with 136 opposing and 127 supporting the bill. The bill was considered a bold move from Prime Minister David Cameron as it exposed deep divisions in the Conservative party and among its voters. The Church of England and Roman Catholic Church wrote a letter to the MPs, expressing concern over the legal protection of religious individuals and organisations with conscientious objections to same-sex marriage. Justin Welby, the new archbishop of Canterbury, similarly opposed the bill on his first day in the post.

Read more about this in the Huffington Post and the Guardian

Ingrid Storm
  • 07 December 2012 : Churches and other Religious organisations to host same-sex weddings.

Churches and other Religious organisations will be able to host same-sex weddings under new legislation to be unveiled next week. The Prime Minister David Cameron is supporting a compromise that allows gay marriages to be held in places of worship, but does not oblige religious organisations to hold same-sex weddings. The main churches in the UK oppose the reform, but some faiths, including the Quakers, Unitarians and liberal Judaism, support it and have said they would like to conduct the ceremonies. Civil partnership will still remain an option for gay couples.

Read more about this in the Guardian.

Ingrid Storm
  • 16 November 2012 : A Christian demoted for his opposition to gay marriage has won a legal case against his employer.

Adrian Smith lost his managerial position at the Trafford Housing Trust, had his salary cut by 40%, after posting in February on Facebook last year that gay weddings in churches were "an equality too far". The comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust said he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers. Smith said the trust acted unlawfully in demoting him, and Mr Justice Briggs ruled in his favour at the high court on Friday.

Read more in the Guardian.

Ingrid Storm
  • 08 November 2012 : The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, was named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The 56-year-old bishop will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and the nominal leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide. He replaces Rowan Williams, who steps down next month after 10 years in the post. Popular and media reactions have been mixed. His privileged background and education at Eton and Cambridge has drawn much comment, as has his earlier career in the oil industry. Bishop Welby is a conservative, known to oppose gay marriage but he supports the ordination of women as bishops.

Read more about Bishop Welby in the Independent and procedures for appointment at the website of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ingrid Storm
  • 23 July 2007 : purity ring at school

Queen’s Bench Division. Regina (Playfoot) (a Child) v Millais School Governing Body. Before Mr Michael Supperstone, QC. Judgment July 16, 2007.
A sixteen year-old girl took a case to the High Court of Justice alleging that her school had violated her rights under Articles Nine (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion) and Fourteen (Prohibition of Discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK Law by the Human Rights Act. It was ruled, however, that her school’s refusal to allow one of its pupils to wear a purity ring, demonstrating her commitment to sexual abstinence prior to marriage, did not infringe her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. If there were a perceived obligation to act in a specific way, the school was obliged to make due allowance. However, the claimant was under no obligation to wear the ring and, in his Lordship’s judgement, the act of wearing it was not intimately linked to the belief in chastity before marriage.

See ’Purity ring is not intimately linked to religious belief ; Law report’, The Times (23 July, 2007), p. 49.

David Voas, Siobhan McAndrew

D 9 octobre 2018    ADavid Voas AIngrid Storm ASiobhan McAndrew

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