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11 December 2007
Advisers to the UK’s main faith groups have met for the first time marking the launch of a unique legal network designed to tackle the interface between law and religion.
The first of its kind in the UK, the Interfaith Legal Adviser Network has been established by Cardiff Law School’s Centre of Law and Religion. The first meeting began dialogue on timely debates, such as public religious symbols and wider discussions about impartiality and religious dress.
Developed in response to the large number of recent high profile court cases involving religious symbolism, and the considerable challenges for faith groups by an increase in State law on religion, advisers to the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Orthodox, United Reformed Church, Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Quaker, Mormon and the Order of St Lazarus faiths, were invited to the Network. Professor Norman Doe, Director of the Centre of Law and Religion said: "The meeting was a huge success. While from a diverse range of religious traditions, the advisers all welcomed the opportunity to share their views and learn from each other. A number of common experiences and issues emerged from their discussions."
Providing all members with a greater understanding of their respective religious legal systems and legal issues faced, particularly at the interface with the civil law of the State, the meeting revealed how advisers use internal rules to run their organisation, how these rules reflect religious beliefs, how there are great similarities in the subjects dealt with by these rules, and their importance in running these organisations.
Anthony Jeremy, a legal adviser in the Church in Wales, said: "We certainly welcome this imaginative initiative. It was an excellent first event and served to demonstrate that we all face similar opportunities and challenges, especially in coping with very fast-moving developments in civil law on religion.
"Each faith shares the need to have rules in place, and it was apparent that there exists a remarkable legal similarity between us - that really was an eye opener."
The meeting also involved a discussion of papers by Frank Cranmer, Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre and Secretary of the Church Main Committee who provided an overview of recent developments in civil law on religion, and Professor Peter Luxton, author of The Law of Charities, who spoke of recent changes in charity law and their impact on religion.
The Network will meet again in six months’ time and will become an established feature of the work of the Centre for Law and Religion, with ongoing discussions which are hoped to contribute to greater interfaith collaboration. Topics for discussion at the next meeting will include interfaith marriages and the impact of the Equality Act on religion.
Leading barristers Samantha Knights, author of Freedom of Religion, Minorities and the Law, Neil Addison, author of Religious Discrimination and Hatred Law, and Mark Hill, Honorary Professor at Cardiff Law School and author of Ecclesiastical Law also attended the meeting, alongside Centre members Russell Sandberg, Revd Gareth Powell, Alexandra Araujo, and Layla Wilkie-Buckley, as well as Dr Ian Kenway, Director of the Centre for the International Study of Cyberethics and Human Rights at Cardiff University.
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