Dr Maebh Harding is an Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Warwick.
The recent threat by Ireland’s Catholic bishops to refuse to perform the civil aspects of a wedding if the marriage equality referendum is ratified will have no effect on the legal validity of Catholic marriages in Ireland. Parties to a marriage are married to each other when both of them make a declaration in the presence of each other, a registered solemniser and the two witnesses that they accept each other as husband and wife. Refusal by the solemniser to complete paperwork may create unnecessary hassle for the couple and the civil registration service but does undermine the legal validity of a marriage.
If the amendment is carried, the Irish Catholic Bishops will continue to carry out religious marriages but are considering refusing to sign the Marriage Registration Form: a civil form that is returned to the civil registration service as proof of the ceremony. Such a refusal will make it more difficult for couples to obtain civil proof of their marriage but does not affect the marriage’s legal validity. Where the couple has given requisite legal notice and are married by a Catholic priest who is a registered solemniser following the traditional Catholic rites, they are legally married, with or without the completion of a marriage registration form.
Irish marriage law works on the premise that all marriages are legally valid unless certain substantive requirements, the lack of which is declared in legislation to annul a marriage, are not fulfilled. The power to decide whether or not a marriage is legally valid lies in the High Court not the Civil Registration Service. Minor mistakes in protocol such as typographical mistakes on legal paperwork and stuttering over vows have no effect on the legal validity of marriages. Continue reading “What Makes a Legal Marriage? A Response to the Catholic Church”→
Our regular blogger Eoin Daly has published an op-ed in today’s Irish Times in which he responds to calls for increased religious “diversity” in Irish schools (such as that made by the IHRC on Tuesday). The full piece is here. Eoin writes:
Generally, suggestions of reform have been limited to readjustments within the logic and form of the patronage model, better tapering the ethos-mix, while stopping short of prescribing a universal model of non-denominational education, which might put religious freedom beyond the crude vagaries of the school recognition process.
The Irish Human Rights Commission launched a report this week with recommendations including: “The State should ensure that there is a diversity of provision of school type within educational catchment areas throughout the State which reflects the diversity of convictions now represented in the State.”
I acknowledge the limited statutory remit of the commission. However, its report falls short of suggesting the creation of a universal, common public school. It essentially suggests reforms within the logic and form of the patronage model.
On the other hand, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s desire to see the church divest control of up to a half of primary schools to the State is radical and welcome.
Yesterday, the IHRC launched its new report Religion and Education: A Human Rights Perspective.It is a substantial document, which contains a comprehensive review of the relevant law, and we hope to have more analysis of it in due course. The Report also draws on a consultation process which received over 60 submissions, and the excerpts from these make fascinating reading in their own right. The report proceeds on the basis that the prevailing accommodation of religion in schools is no longer fit for purpose. It recommends that the state should:
Diversify school provision to accommodate diversity of religious and non-religious convictions in the State;
Learn from approaches taken in the pilot VEC community national schools, the Gaelscoileanna, and Educate Together schools;
Avoid any inadvertent indoctrination or proselytism of minority faith or non faith children;
Expand the remit of Ombudsman body to deal with complaints in relation to exemption procedures or any unwanted exposure to indoctrination or proselytism;
Revise the Education Act 1998 and the Rules of National Schools to protect the rights of minority faith and non faith children.
The tenth annual Minority Rights & Indigenous Peoples Summer School will take place from June 13-17, 2011, at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. This highly acclaimed course gives an overview of the legal, political and philosophical issues pertaining to international human rights law and its relationship to minority rights and the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition, each year it gives a more in-depth perspective on a particular theme, which this year is religion.
Minorities and Religion
Religion has a fraught relationship with minority and human rights standards, being perceived at once as a right and a cause of the denial of rights. The theme of this year’s school highlights religion in contemporary minority rights discourse, focussing on issues such as: religious minorities, religion and international institutions, Islam in Europe, caste, indigenous peoples and spiritual beliefs, women and religion, genocide and defamation of religion.
The list of speakers and registration details can be seen here. It promises to be a lively and engaging course, and a unique opportunity to hear a range of insights on this fascinating and complex area.
Against the backdrop of much fanfare and polemic, France’s controversial prohibition on face-veiling comes into force today. The law has met with derision and scepticism internationally, and internally, from a surprising source, in the guise of a police union which “denounced” the law as “unenforceable”. The law, which was passed by the Senate in September, was motivated by a number of political concerns. First, it was rationalised with reference to the value of gender equality, and the concern that the republican state should take a stand against the symbols of gender oppression in the public square. Second, it was motivated by an idea that the much-cherished principle of laïcité, or secularism, should preclude “ostentatious” or threatening displays of religious affiliation in the public square. Third, it was thought that the imperative of republican civility, or what feminist Elisabeth Badinter bizarrely termed the “obligation of fraternity”, precluded the practice of hiding one’s identity in public. Fourth, and far from least, the recent populist turn of the French government and president, under pressure from the new leader of the resurgent National Front, has fed a parallel discourse surrounding the imperative of integrating Islam in French society. By this light, the “full” veil was perceived as an ostentatious marker of difference or segregation, an indication of creeping “balkanisation” or “communautarisation”of French society.
This weekend’s recommendation comes at the suggestion of Máiréad Enright. Eve Darian-Smith’s new book entitled, ‘Religion, Race, Rights: Landmarks in the History of Modern Anglo-American Law’ discusses three core issues in the development of modern Western law: religion, race and rights. Prof Darian-Smith focuses specifically on the influence which Christian orthodoxy has had on the development of legal concepts such as the rule of law and other fundamentals of modern legal systems. The book covers a wide range of topics from the separation of powers, colonialism, as well as race, religion and rights in the global era.
This book provides an excellent overview of the interplay between law and religion, particularly in rights discourse. In focusing on particular events such as the rise of Martin Luther, the execution of Charles I, The Dawes Act, and the Nuremberg Trials, among other events, Prof. Darian-Smith is able to focus on the key historical developments in the interplay between religion, race and rights.
Following months of bruising polemic and debate, the French National Assembly – the lower house of parliament – has, as expected, overwhelmingly approved legislation prohibiting face-coverings in public spaces. Although phrased in facially neutral terms, the measure is broadly understood as being directed at the Islamic burqa and niqab. The bill will be debated in the Senate in September and is expected to be enacted shortly thereafter. However, in a response to concerns surrounding the constitutionality of the measure, the UMP majority has also announced that it will refer to the bill to the Conseil Constitutionnel, France’s specialised constitutional court (the Constitution allows the President of the National Assembly, amongst other political figures, to refer bills to the Conseil) . Concerns had been expressed in a recent report by the Conseil d’Etat that a full prohibition on Islamic face-coverings in all public spaces might raise several problems in terms of both the Constitution and the ECHR. Is it understood that the majority has referred the bill in order to remove any doubts as to its constitutionality, and therefore, has taken something of a political gamble on this front. The leader of the Assembly majority, Jean-François Copé, said “I want the measure to be submitted to the Constitutional Court before its promulgation in order that its application cannot be contested.” If the “sages” of the Constitutional Court adopt as liberal an approach to the issue as the Conseil d’Etat, it is conceivable that the government’s project may come unstuck.
We have written about France and the veil several times (see here) but, unfortunately, this issue is not going away. There seems to be a new development every week. Last Wednesday, the French government approved a draft law banning the wearing of garments which cover the face in public spaces. It is clear from the public discourse surrounding its development that the law is aimed at Muslim women who wear the niqab and the burqa. Under the terms of the Bill, women punished for wearing such garments in public would be fined or compelled to undergo citizenship training. Penalties including a term of imprisonment would also be established for those convicted of forcing a woman to wear a veil (though compulsion would be difficult to prove). A six month grace period would apply before the law came into full force and the government aims to work with community and faith groups to ‘persuade’ individuals who support women’s wearing of face veils that a ban is legitimate. Some questions remain as to whether these provisions can be enforced. For example, the French police union Alliance has expressed skepticism about its members being required to enforce any new ban.
We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr. David Keane. Dr. David Keane is a Lecturer in Law, Middlesex University, United Kingdom. David researches and publishes on issues relating to human rights, minority rights, freedom of expression, racial discrimination and regional human rights systems. A full list of David’s publications can be accessed here. This is David’s response to my previous post South Park: ‘Religious Defamation’, Freedom of Expression & Human Rights.
I hadn’t seen South Park in many years, but coincidentally happened to be watching last Wednesday when Episode 200 was shown. I realised that the portrayal of Mohammad dressed in a bear costume (although it turns out not to be him – see here) was going to re-ignite questions of religious defamation and freedom of expression, and wasn’t surprised to see the Guardian, for example, run with the story for the past three days. Liam Thornton’s interesting analysis on this blog has firmly supported freedom of expression and underlines South Park’s irreverent approach as an ‘equal opportunities offender’. As a human rights academic and a firm believer in freedom of expression, and indeed cartoons as an art form, I am always surprised to find myself often arguing against the cartoonists who are behind the series of recent controversies. I sometimes wonder whether it may be related to the fact that every time I read an article about the Danish cartoons or other such incidents, I detect a certain triumph in the portrayal of Muslims as intolerant of freedom of expression. They’re only cartoons! seems to be the central message.
Liam Thornton’s piece makes reference to an article of mine, and I’d like to go back to the central idea I had in writing it in order to explain my position. In much of the analysis on the ‘Danish cartoons’ controversy, there was an implicit understanding that cartoons are for children. How could people be offended by something which is essentially harmless juvenile fun? Yet the history of cartoon satire tells otherwise; cartooning has had a long political history, according to one study beginning as far back as 1360 BC with an unflattering portrait of King Tutankhamen’s father. This noble tradition of political dissidence, or the cartoon as social protest, spread from 17th century Holland, and morphed into the editorial cartoon we have today. Continue reading “Keane on South Park, Islam and Hate Speech: A European Perspective”→
The Irish Times reports that Cardinal Seán Brady, the besieged leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has said today that he wants a “just resolution” to a civil case taken against him by an alleged victim of the convicted child abuser Father Brendan Smyth. The man is suing Cardinal Brady in his capacity as Archbishop of Armagh and as the Catholic Church’s representative in Ireland. The action was initially taken some 13 years ago, in 2007. The Cardinal has asked his lawyers to engage with the complainant’s solicitor “with a view to progressing the case”.