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The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is a groundbreaking piece of legislation, giving legal recognition to same-sex relationships and providing equality of treatment in regard to inheritance and other financial matters with that enjoyed by married couples. The legislation was opposed by certain religious communities for a variety of reasons. This article is the text of an address delivered by Lord Falconer of Thoroton to the annual conference of the Ecclesiastical Law Society on 1 April 2006. It provides a personal reflection on the nature of the legislation and the necessity for its enactment, and seeks to demonstrate that the concept of civil partnership does not undermine the nature of marriage. It also discusses the Act in the context of law and social attitudes with particular reference to the Hart/Devlin debate of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 came into force on 1 January 2006. It provides a new structure for dealing with formal complaints of misconduct against members of the clergy, except in relation to matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, which continue to be governed by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963. This paper concentrates on the new disciplinary procedures in respect of priests and deacons, rather than those for bishops and archbishops.
This article traces the recent development of gender equality law, understood broadly to embrace sex, transsexual and sexual orientation discrimination. Against this background it considers the ‘problem’ of religion from two perspectives. First, religion is seen as representing a problematic obstacle to the pursuit of a modern gender equality programme, and this results in judicial tendencies to criticise religion and constrain its significance. Second, religions and religious bodies themselves have difficulties with the new ethic underlying recent legal changes. The tension between religious ethics and the new law has resulted in a series of exceptions for religious bodies. However, these are rather narrow, and can be viewed as the minimum necessary to satisfy international and European human rights standards. The article then considers the enigma of equality and the question-begging nature of much of the law made in its name. It concludes that modern problems are better seen not as a clash between religious liberty and gender equality, but as a shift in conceptions of equality. At the same time, this shift has been accompanied by a significant juridification of what for a long time have been social spaces virtually immune from secular legal regulation. Ironically, a new establishment is being created which barely tolerates dissenters.
Using methods of analysis suggested by existentialism, existential eschatology and the wisdom tradition, this paper seeks to offer an understanding of what canon law is and why canon law is necessary for the church, in a philosophical and theological sense. The paper concludes that canon law may be seen as an interim agent of the Kingdom. The analysis is grounded in the phenomenological, stoic and platonic schools of thought, formed as ontological questions.
The enactment of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 is the most recent legal mechanism developed to protect believers, beliefs and religious feelings in the United Kingdom. Despite the recognition of a certain degree of overlap between the different categories, this article proposes a broad distinction between legal devices which protect believers and those which safeguard beliefs and religious feelings. The common law offence of blasphemy is analysed, taking into consideration the response of both the UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights. The endorsement of the English law of blasphemy by Strasbourg is particularly relevant. Furthermore, this paper focuses on different instruments that, throughout the last few decades, have been articulated to protect the faithful, such as the crimes of religiously aggravated offences and the offence of incitement to religious hatred.