Monday, 18 November 2013

New Proposal: Charter of Quebec Values

"Overt and Conspicuous: Religion and the Charter of Québec Values"

Parti Québécois presented a new bill, Bill 60, which seeks to enact the “Charter of Québec Values”. The proposed charter aims to prohibit the wearing of “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols by government officials and public servants.

See full story at: http://criticalreligion.org/2013/11/18/overt-and-conspicuous-religion-and-the-charter-of-quebec-values/

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Happy UN Day Everyone!



HAPPY UN DAY 2013 EVERYONE!

Celebrated on 24 October each year, UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Religious v Secular Oaths in Court

Under the proposals all holy books of all religions would have been removed and people would instead take an affirmation promising “sincerely” to tell the truth.

On the National Secular Society website, it was reported earlier this month that 'Judges call for one secular oath for all'. See http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/10/judges-call-for-one-secular-oath-for-all#.UlmnVTpNrnQ.twitter

The article noted the following:

Magistrates (more acurately, the Magistrates' Assocation) are considering proposals (at the October AGM) to replace religious oaths and affirmations with a single oath for all defendants and witnesses. The motion was put forward by Iam Abrahams, a Magistrate from the Associations' Bristial and North Avon bench.

All those giving evidence in court would make a secular pledge which it is thought would make it fairer and more relevant for people to help them understand the importance of what they are saying.
Religious leaders, and supporters of the religious oath, have criticised the plans as an example of further destroying the history of Christianity in Britain, pointing out that people already have a chance to choose to take a non religious oath, the affirmation. (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10358696/Bible-oath-could-be-scrapped-from-courts.html)

However, NSS welcomed the move: 

"Stephen Evans, NSS campaigns manager, said: "Multiple religious and non-religious oaths unnecessarily make an issue out of a witness's religiosity in the courtroom. A single oath for all would protect witness of all religions and beliefs, including non-believers, from the potential religious prejudices of jurors. All witnesses should be on an equal footing, with cases decided on the evidence heard rather than the prejudices of those hearing it.

"Britain is not the Christian country it perhaps once was, so it is right that our institutions change to reflect this. Justice being done is the most important consideration, and this is a case where I'm sure most people of faith would be happy to swear the same oath as others, rather than insist that the legal system accommodate their religious preferences."

Nevetheless, according to the Telegraph today the proposals have been rejected; 'Magistrates throw out plan to ditch Bible oath'. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10390829/Magistrates-throw-out-plan-to-ditch-Bible-oath.html

So, swearing on the Bible will continue to be a central part of giving evidence in court. The oath will not be 'modernised' as had been proposed.

Will this be the end of the matter? I'm no so sure...

Working on a Sunday

Christian care worker is taking a case to the Court of Appeal this week to argue that she has the right not to work on a Sunday. For the full telegraph article, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10391853/Christian-sues-over-Sunday-shifts.html

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Disclosing Religion at the Airport


Just seen this article in the Daily Record (Scotland)

"Passenger's fury after airport security staff asked him to state his religion"

According to the paper, Iain McGill was travelling through Edinburgh Airport when he was asked to state his faith after being picked at random for a full body scan. For the full story see: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/passengers-fury-airport-security-staff-1780706 

I haven't been able to find this story reported elsewhere. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has seen a similar article. If so, please leave a comment below. Thanks. 

3rd September: 60 Years of the European Convention of Human Rights!



The 3 September 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) coming into force. The British Institute of Human Rights has create an online birthday car with the following message:

Happy 60th Anniversary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Today we celebrate 60 years of human rights across Europe and the UK’s commitment to respecting, protecting and promoting the rights contained in the Convention. The UK played a pivotal role in drafting the Convention in the aftermath of World War II and we ask our political leaders to secure our human rights heritage and stand firm on the UK’s commitment to the Convention.

For more infor and to sign the birthday card see the BIHR website 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Right to Marry in Scientologist Chapel?

"A member of the Church of Scientology has launched a High Court battle for the right to marry in a Scientology chapel.

Louisa Hodkin, 23, is challenging a refusal of the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales to register the chapel for the solemnisation of marriages on the grounds that it is not "a place of meeting for religious worship"."

See links below for more:


http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/24/louisa-hodkin-scientology-marry_n_2009771.html

http://cerf-institute.org/2013/07/20/scientology-case-has-judges-debating-the-meaning-of-religion/

Monday, 8 July 2013

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Job Seeker

According to the National Secular Society (I haven't been able to corroborate this story as of yet) an Ultra-Orthodox job seeker - who refused to work on Friday afternoons or Saturdays in order to observe the Shabbath- has won an appeal against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after he was refused Jobseeker's Allowance for over six months. 
www.parliament.uk
A number of comments have criticised the decision. However, I would just like to highlight one section of the article which appears to have been mistread by a number of commentators:

"Regulations state that jobseekers must be available to work up for a minimum of 35 hours a week, which Mr Slinger had agreed to. In fact, the tribunal was told that he had made himself available for 53 hours a week."


As Mr Hewitt pointed out, "Mr Slinger has demonstrated that, even within the restraints he has set himself, he has reasonable prospects of securing employment and he is both available for and actively seeking work."


This case is interesting because it raises the question of reasonable accomodation. 

To read the article please see: http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/07/tribunal-rules-that-ultra-orthodox-jewish-man-who-wouldnt-work-on-shabbat-is-entitled-to-benefits

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Religion and Foreign Policy

According to a recent comment piece by Baroness Berridge religious freedom should be at the heart of this Government's foreign policy. To read the article please follow the link below:

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Religion and the Scottish Judicary



National Secular Society has recently posted on "Impartiality of Scottish judiciary undermined by religious ceremonies" 

"The National Secular Society has written to Kenny MacAskill MSP, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Justice to draw his attention to a possible undermining of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the Scottish judiciary.
The NSS complaint relates to two ceremonies, the Red Mass (Catholic) and the 'Kirking of the Court' (Protestant). At the ceremonies, which are attended by all levels of the judiciary in Scotland, judges are invited to request 'guidance from the Holy Spirit' for all who seek justice."
Taken from: http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/05/impartiality-of-scottish-judiciary-undermined-by-religious-ceremonies-say-nss

Monday, 22 April 2013

Religion as a 'thought crime'?

Extracts from the Telegraph 'Christians launch landmark human rights case'

"Campaigners will submit papers to the European Court of Human Rights in a final attempt to overturn rulings they say have restricted religious freedom for Christians and effectively persecuted those wanting to publicly practise their religion...

...Papers in the three cases are to be submitted this week that will claim British courts are applying double standards towards Christians for “political” reasons, and that human rights rules have been used to effectively outlaw beliefs which have been held for millennia while affording special recognition to minority opinions on anything from fox hunting to climate change.

According to Paul Diamond, the religious rights barrister, who is representing Mr McFarlane and Mrs Chaplin, Mr McFarlane was "dismissed for his 'thoughts’ and 'religious beliefs’ on a wholly theoretical basis.”

“The case directly raises the question of conscience and 'thought crime’,” the papers say. 

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr McFarlane and Mrs Chaplin, said: “We are throwing down the gauntlet to David Cameron to decide once and for all whether he is in favour of religious freedom or not.“These are cases where the only victims were the Christians trying to live out their faith in the workplace but who were driven out for doing so. As the pleadings in Gary McFarlane’s case make clear, Christians are now being punished for 'thought crimes’.”

Friday, 29 March 2013

UN HRC Draft Resolution on Religion

From Reuters:

"The U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution drafted by the EU calling for an end to religious intolerance and violence and for all governments to observe freedom of religion and belief.

Introducing the non-binding resolution to the council, the EU described it as condemning "all forms of violence against, intolerance towards and discrimination of people on the basis of their religious or non-religious identity." "

However the Resolution has been criticised by some Atheist groups:

"Elizabeth O'Casey of the U.S.-based Centre for Inquiry said the EU refusal to include a direct reference to non-believers as needing protection alongside religious minorities "fails many millions of people across the globe".

According to Sonja Eggericks, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, "[t]he wording of this resolution shows how the world, even the secular West, ignores the plight of atheists and other non-believers in many countries,"

But officials from the 27-member EU said they believed it was clear that the resolution - passed by consensus in the council where in the past there have been fierce struggles over religious freedom - covered believers and non-believers..."

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/22/us-rights-atheists-eu-idUSBRE92L0N520130322

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Conservative MP's Private Members Bill (re HRA)


Update on the Private Members Bill from the National Secular Society:

"Conservative MP's Private Members Bill that sought to replace the Human Rights Act with a "UK Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" was withdrawn at the Second Reading last month.The Bill, which was presented by Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, was entitled the Human Rights Act 1998 (Repeal and Substitution) Bill.

The Bill would have included special privileges and exemptions for religion...

...The Bill that he proposed would have reduced the circumstances in which it was permissible to limit the right to manifest religion to the cause or incitement of physical harm to others."

Read the full atricle at: http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/03/evangelical-mps-attempt-to-dismantle-human-rights-act-and-permit-religion-to-do-whatever-it-likes-falls-in-the-house-of-commons

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Claim that applicant was refused job on basis of religion

"Graphic artist Jamie Haxby, who was turned down for work at Prested Hall Hotel, Feering, Essex for being a Christian

Mr Haxby has now lodged a complaint with the East London employment tribunal, saying: 'I have been unlawfully discriminated against for reasons relating to my Christian faith.' The Christian Institute, which is supporting Mr Haxby, said: 'Jamie's case is shocking, and shows that discrimination against Christians is getting more brazen. 'There's no place for this anti-Christian intolerance at the hands of aggressive atheists. It's high time the Government took the issue more seriously.'"

Read the article at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294472/You-work-youll-upset-atheists-What-hotel-told-jobseeker-discovering-committed-Christian.html

Sunday, 3 March 2013

UK Withdrawal from ECtHR?

Adam Wagner answers some key questions....

http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/03/03/what-would-happen-if-the-uk-withdrew-from-the-european-court-of-human-rights/

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Freedom of Religion in Public Schools



Freedom of Religion in Public Schools: Strasbourg Court v. UN Human Rights Committee

Excellent post on this topic at Strasbourg Observers:

"In a recent decision, the Human Rights Committee of the UN found a violation of the right to freedom of religion in a case concerning the famous and highly debated French law of 2004 that prohibits the wearing of religious garment in public schools...

...This is not the first time the UN Committee adopts a reasoning differing from the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in freedom of religion cases. In both cases the Human Rights jurisdictions do not only differ on outcome (violation v. inadmissibility) but their approach towards the applicant is completely opposite. While the ECtHR views the cases merely in light of the interests of the State, the UN Committee balances the arguments of all parties in a more convincing way, taking the fundamental rights of the applicants seriously all the while acknowledging the State’s interests. Hence, with this case the UN Committee gives again a clear signal that a general principle such as secularism, however important, cannot blindly trump individuals’ rights, such as the right to freedom of religion, without looking at the particularities of the case."

http://strasbourgobservers.com/2013/02/14/freedom-of-religion-in-public-schools-strasbourg-court-v-un-human-rights-committee/

Monday, 25 February 2013

Legal Guidance from the EHRC

Equality and Human Rights Commission launches new guidance on religion and belief in the workplace

Symbols representing various religions
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/
"The Commission has published new guidance to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief at work. The guidance follows the European Court of Human Rights judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told not to wear a cross at work. However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law, has the potential to cause confusion. The Commission has therefore produced straightforward, expert guidance to clarify the law."

Employer Guidance and Legal Explanation can be downloaded in both (pdf and Word format) from

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/guidance-for-employers/religion-or-belief-new-guidance-february-2013/

There are also some really helpful Employer Questions and Answers at the end of the page. Press the title to expand.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Religious Right in UK


http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2013/02/01/comment-what-makes-the-religious-right-so-weak-in-britain

Dawkins v Williams: Cambridge Debate



Richard Dawkins v Rowan Williams Debate at Cambridge Union



http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/01/richard-dawkins-rowan-williams-debate 


Coverage of the debate on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XpEjVlPFrs&feature=youtu.be

Comment on the debate in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/religion-is-redundant-and-irrelevant-richard-dawkins-takes-on-exarchbishop-of-canterbury-dr-rowan-williams-in-cambridge-debate-8476499.html
Comment from Christian Post: http://www.christianpost.com/news/richard-dawkins-loses-debate-against-former-anglican-head-rowan-williams-at-cambridge-university-full-video-89364/

And the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/01/richard-dawkins-rowan-williams-debate

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/01/richard-dawkins-debates-religion-rowan-williams_n_2596375.html

Thursday, 17 January 2013

ECtHR Judgements Updates

Please see ThinkRights on Twitter for links to comments on the recent ECtHR judgements concernign freedom of thought, conscience and religion....

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Christian BA Employee wins case at ECtHR

BREAKING NEWS

A British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work over her Christian beliefs, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

Judges ruled Nadia Eweida's rights had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Please see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21025332

More details will follow shortly

Friday, 4 January 2013

Gay Bishops

"The Church of England has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. The announcement, from the Church's House of Bishops, would allow gay clergy to become bishops if they promise to be celibate." See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20914799