Senior family law judge: courts are ‘neutral’ on religion
The courts respect religious belief but take “an essentially neutral” stance on faith, England’s most senior family judge has declared.
Speaking at the first annual conference of the Law Society’s Family Section, the President insisted that the traditional Christian faith of the judicial establishment was no longer an element of proceedings and judges now appear as “secular judges serving a multicultural community of many faiths sworn to do justice to all manner of people”.
Religious belief was no concern of either the government or the secular courts the Law Society Gazette reports Sir James saying.
“We live in a society, which on many of the medical, social and religious topics that the courts recently have to grapple with, no longer speaks with one voice. These are topics on which men and women of different faiths or no faith at all hold starkly different views. All of these views are entitled to the greatest respect, but it is not for a judge to choose between them.”
The courts should recognise no religious distinctions and pass no judgements on belief systems, the President said, as long as they are “legally and socially acceptable” and not “immoral or socially obnoxious”.
“A child’s best interests have to be assessed by reference to general community standards, making due allowance for the entitlement of people, within the limits of what is permissible in accordance with those standards, to entertain very divergent views about the religious, moral, social and secular objectives they wish to pursue for themselves and for their children.”
Practices such as forced marriage and “honour” killing were “beyond the pale” he said.
In relation to matters concerning children, he said, the courts will take into account the beliefs of the parents, but will always rule on what they belief to be the best interests of the child. Amongst other examples of such conflict, he cited the belief amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses that blood transfusions are sinful.
Photo by stevec77 via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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