eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • 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.

  • 20 November 2013 : The Church of England has voted in favour of new proposals to approve female bishops next year.

At a three day meeting in London, the General Synod the synod voted in favour of the new plans by an overwhelming majority of 378 to eight, thus ending a 20-year standoff between modernisers and traditionalists. Recent debates in the media have called for a more united Church of England, with many including Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, arguing that internal splits, factions and arguments damages the churches appeal to ordinary Anglicans.

More can be read about this in the Guardian

  • 10 November 2013 : The National Secular Society has called for a non-religious Rememberance Sunday Ceremony.

In the lead up to the commemoration service Sunday, 10. November, Norman Bonney, a director of the National Secular Society, argued that the Cenotaph, where the ceremony is held, was created as a secular memorial, and that the annual ceremony should no longer contain prayers and readings from scripture. According to Bonney, Edwin Lutyens who designed The Cenotaph, inaugurated in 1919, championed secular commemoration because those who died in the war were from many different nations and religions. The Church of England has criticised the National Secular Society’s call for Christian ritual to have no role in the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph, dismissing it as a “rather sad” attempt at seeking publicity.

More can be read about this in The Independent

  • 17 October 2013 : A controversial Muslim faith school is expected to be closed by the government.

The Al-Madinah school in Derby was labelled as “chaotic” and “dysfunctional” in a report by Government education inspectors. On 1 November the education department will decide whether to terminate the school’s funding. This would effectively force the school to close, as it is thought to be unable to raise funds independently. The Labour Party believes the report has significance across England because it has highlighted key flaws in the governments free schools programme, where local education authorities have little role in monitoring schools. The report, which mentions that female teachers are obliged to wear headscarves and that girls and boys eat lunch separately has contributed to a more general debate about faith schools. However, the main issues raised in the report were not about religion, but about poor management and lack of teacher training.

More can be read about this in the Guardian.

  • 10 October 2013 : During September and early October there has been a debate in the press about the use of the Niqab and other face veils in public places.

A minister in the Home Office, Jeremy Browne (Liberal Democrat), called for a national debate in September on whether the state should step in to prevent young women from being pressured or coerced into wearing a veil. Browne’s intervention follows a controversial decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop a ban on the wearing of full-face veils amid public protests. Freedom of religion is considered a very important value in Britain, and disputes about religious dress are usually solved on a case-to case basis. Some have criticized the government from trying to introduce a national debate about a relatively minor issue during the party conferences to distract the press and public from the country’s economic situation. Nonetheless the use of face veils in certain situations does raise concerns about security, religious rights and equality of access to education and jobs. Since the call for debate was introduced the debate about the Niqab has died down in the press, perhaps reflecting that it is only worn by a very small proportion of the population.

An overview of the context and the different arguments can be found in the Guardian.

  • 26 September 2013 : Interpol issues arrest warrant for British Muslim convert

Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the July 7 London bombers, in connection with suspected terrorist offences in 2011. The arrest warrant has been issued at the request of Kenya after intense speculation linking Lewthwaite to the attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, for which the al-Qaida-linked Somali group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility. However, the warrant does not relate to the recent terrorist attack, but to charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011. Kenyan officials said on Tuesday there was no evidence that Lewthwaite was involved in the attack. Another Briton, Jermaine Grant, was arrested in Mombasa where Kenyan anti-terrorism police found bomb making material. The speculation about the involvement of Lewthwaite, often dubbed “The White Widow” by the press, has led to discussions in the press about the radicalisation of British converts to Islam.

Read more about the story in the Guardian

  • 12 September 2013 : Church of Wales allows Female Bishops

Women bishops will be allowed in the Church in Wales following a landmark yes vote by the governing body. In the breakdown, the laity voted 57 for, 14 against, with two abstentions ; the clergy section saw 37 voting for and 10 against, while the bishops voted unanimously in favour. The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, called it "an historic day for the Church in Wales." In England, the issue is due to be discussed again in November. Ireland and Scotland both allow female bishops, although none has been elected yet.

Read more on the BBC

  • 25 July 2013 : Archbishop of Canterbury challenges payday loan companies with support for credit unions

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury launched a new credit union for church staff earlier this month, and plans to expand credit unions as an alternative to payday lenders. The short term lending industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors during the recession, has been criticised for targeting vulnerable borrowers who become burdened by big debts as a result of high interest rates and fees. In a meeting with market leader Wonga, the Archbishop said that the Church of England wants to "compete" it out of existence. Welby, who has served on the parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, said he wanted to create "credit unions that are both engaged in their communities and are much more professional”. There are also plans to encourage church members to volunteer at credit unions.

Read more about this in the Guardian

  • 24 July 2013 : Monsignor Leo Cushley appointed as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

The new archbishop succeeds Cardinal Keith O’Brien who stepped down in February after admitting inappropriate sexual conduct. Mgr Cushley has worked in the Vatican’s diplomatic team and is currently head of the English language section of the Vatican’s secretariat of state. The 52 year old will now return to his native Scotland after 20 years abroad. The ordination will take place in September.

Read more about the new Archbishop in The Scotsman

  • 23 May 2013 : Murder of British soldier sparks anti-Muslim attacks

On 22 May 2013 a British soldier was murdered in Woolwich in South London by two men armed with knives and cleavers shouting “Allahu Akhbar”.The identity of one of the suspects is 28 year old Michael Olumide Adebolajo, a British born man of Nigerian origin, who converted to Islam from Christianity ten years ago. Counter-terrorism officers and the security services are examining Adebolajo’s links to the extremist group Al-Mujaharoun, which was banned after the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks in London.
Spokespeople for the major Muslim organizations in Britain, have been quick to condemn the violence. Prime Minister David Cameron described the attack as “not just an attack on Britain”, but as a “ betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country”.
The killing has nevertheless led to strong reactions from far-right groups such as the group anti-Muslim English Defence League, who held a rally in Woolwich, shouting anti-Muslim slogans and throwing bottles at the police hours after the murder. Two men have been arrested after separate attacks on mosques. In less than 24 hours the number of supporters of the English Defence League’s (EDL) facebook page grew from around 25,000 to over 75,000.

More details of the killing can be found on the BBC. To read a discussion of the anti-Muslim reactions and implications for community relations see the Guardian.

  • 2 May 2013 : Majority of religious people In the UK support assisted suicide

A new poll finds overwhelming support for assisted suicide for the terminally ill among Anglicans, Catholics, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews and the nonreligious in Britain. British law currently prohibits assisted suicide.
The online survey of 4,437 people in January, commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debates (WFD), shows that 72 percent of members of the established Church of England and 56 percent of Roman Catholics support assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Baptists and Muslims are the only groups where the majority oppose changes to the law.
The survey asked respondents whether “people with incurable diseases have the right to ask close friends or relatives to help them commit suicide, without those friends or relatives risking prosecution.”

More information about the survey can be found at BRIN and Huffington Post.

  • 24 April 2013 : Catholic midwives win right to object over abortion planning in Scotland

Two Roman Catholic midwives have won the right to refuse to help with any abortion procedures or planning after an appeal court ruling in Scotland. Mary Doogan, 58, and Concepta Wood, 52, who worked as labour ward co-ordinators in Glasgow, consciously object to helping with abortions in any way. The ruling could have wider implications for the National Health Service and the rights of other health staff who oppose abortions on religious grounds.

The midwives had lost a previous case against the board on the grounds that their work did not involve actually carrying out abortions. However, the appeal court in Edinburgh on Wednesday overturned that ruling and said the Abortion Act 1967 gave medical staff protection against taking part in any part of the process of abortions and treatment for that purpose on religious and conscience grounds.

More information about this case can be found in the Guardian.
More information about the survey can be found at BRIN and Huffington Post.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 3 february 2013 : Pork DNA found in halal pies

Amidst the unrolling scandal of horse-meat traces in food labelled as beef products, pork DNA was also discovered in “halal-certified beef” pastry products delivered to UK prisons. McColgan’s Quality Foods Limited, based in Northern Ireland was the source of "the very small number of halal savoury beef pastry products," according to food distributor 3663, who conducted the tests suspecting the products might contain horsemeat. Eating pork is forbidded in Islamic law, and a halal certification is an official guarantee that the food product is prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. The products have now been withdrawn from circulation.

Read more at the BBC

  • 1 February 2013 : Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams debated the value of religion

Speaking at the Cambridge Union debating society, Professor Dawkins described religion as "redundant and irrelevant" argued that religion hindered scientific endeavour by "peddling false explanations". Former archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams offered a counter-argument, saying that religion undoubtedly had a place in the 21st century and that the issue was not whether it should exist, but what our attitude towards it should be. In his address he argued that community building and compassion was at the heart of all religion, and that "The notion that religious commitment can be purely a private matter is one that runs against the grain of religious history."

Read more about this in the Telegraph

  • 25 January 2013 : Muslim patrollers arrested in London

Five men between 17 and 29 claiming to be Islamic vigilantes have been arrested in London after tormenting members of the public. The series of arrests were made after films were posted on YouTube featuring a gang harassing passers-by in east London on the weekend of 12 and 13 January. The harassment included homophobic abuse.

Read more about this in the Huffington Post

  • 15 January 2013 : The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a British Christian employee suffered religious discrimination at work

Four cases of British Christians who claimed to have been victims of religious discrimination at the workplace were taken to the ECHR. Nadia Eweda (59), who worked for British Airways was prohibited from wearing a cross necklace because it was not part of the uniform. Former nurse Shirley Chaplin (56) was also asked not to display her cross necklace by her NHS employers in Exeter, on the grounds that the necklace breached health and safety guidelines. Relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane (51) was sacked by his employer, Relate Avon, after saying he objected to giving sex therapy guidance to same-sex couples. Marriage registrar Lillian Ladele, who worked for a London borough Council, was disciplined when she refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

The ECHR ruled in favour of Mrs Eweda, arguing that her rights had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that her faith should be respected over the employer’s wish to display a religiously neutral corporate image. All the other three cases were rejected. The case of Mrs Chaplin was dismissed on the grounds that health and safety for the hospital’s patients and staff should have priority.In the cases of Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele, the Court said it was more important there should be no discrimination against gay people than it was that they should be able to behave in accordance with their religious beliefs at work. The ruling will signal that there is a need for a reasonable accommodation when staff want to wear a cross at work.

Read more about the four cases at the BBC

  • 14 January 2013 : New book exposing Church of Scientology will not be on sale in the UK due to libel laws

Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear : Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief” goes on sale in the US and the rest of Europe this week, but not in Britain. Under English and Welsh law the burden of proof in defamation cases rests exclusively on the defendant, which means that if the Church decided to sue the publisher the legal costs would be up to 140 times higher than international norms. Transworld’s decision not to publish was based on the legal advice that the book’s content was "not robust enough for the UK market”.

Read more about this in the Guardian

  • 7 january 2013 :

A woman in Cardiff who beat her son to death for failing to learn parts of the Koran has been jailed for life, with an order to serve a minimum of 17 years. Sara Ege’s seven-year-old son Yaseen died in July 2010 from internal injuries. Yaseen had been the victim of prolonged abuse, and was beaten often with a wooden pestle after failing in his Koran studies. After his death, the mother set fire to his body to hide the evidence, but it was quickly found he was dead before the fire began.

Read more about the case in the Huffington Post

  • 7 january 2013 : Britain’s first “atheist church”, The Sunday Assembly, held its first meeting on 6 January gathering at a former church in North London

The initiative came from comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, and has the pastoral aims of provoking kindness and encouraging people to volunteer in their local community.
With the tag line ’live better, help often, wonder more’ the brainchild has the pastoral aims of provoking kindness and encouraging people to volunteer in their local community. The assembly has come under criticism by both religious and nonreligious for imitating a religious service by holding the meeting in an old church and following a format of songs interspersed by reading and addresses.

Read more about this in the Huffington Post

D 27 décembre 2013    AIngrid Storm

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