When is it appropriate for courts to decide religious doctrine?

I am presenting a paper today at the IVR2019 conference in Lucerne, Switzerland (a law and philosophy conference), entitled “Respecting the Dignity of Religious Organisations: When is it appropriate for Courts to decide Religious Doctrine?” For those who are interested, the paper can be downloaded here:

Social work student wins appeal against dismissal for views on sexuality

An important decision of the England and Wales Court of Appeal, The Queen (on the application of Ngole) -v- The University of Sheffield [2019] EWCA Civ 1127 (3 July 2019) has ruled that a social work student, Felix Ngole, should not have been dismissed from his course on the basis of comments he made on social media sharing the Bible’s view on homosexuality. The court says in its summary at para [5], point (10):

The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.

The decision is a welcome one, which will hopefully provide guidance in similar situations.

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Sperm donor recognised as father

This week the High Court of Australia handed down a fascinating decision on the question as to whether a sperm donor can be recognised as the legal parent of a child born through artificial insemination. In Masson v Parsons [2019] HCA 21 (19 June 2019) the court ruled that the answer was “Yes”. While the case doesn’t directly involve “law and religion” issues, the question of parental status in assisted reproduction methods is one of great interest in religious communities, so it seems worthwhile to set out the reasoning of the court. And as I will aim to show, there is an interesting possible sideline to the court’s decision which may impact other “status” questions which arise under Australian law, which may be significant for religious views on matters such as marriage and sexual identity.

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Further reflections on the Israel Folau affair

In a previous post I commented on the events surrounding celebrity rugby player Israel Folau’s posting on social media of a meme stating that various groups of sinners, including “homosexuals”, were destined for hell unless they repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ. He was immediately threatened with dismissal by his employer, Rugby Australia (“RA”), a threat subsequently implemented through an internal tribunal finding that he was guilty of a high level breach of the RA “code of conduct”.

It seems an appropriate point to comment on recent developments and to clarify what it seems Mr Folau’s legal options are.

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