This really isn’t the time to be starting a law school, at least in the United States. Lawyers face uncertain job prospects–the poor economy, outsourcing, and technological innovation continue to reduce demand for lawyers–and fewer and fewer people see a legal education as a good investment. Applications are down dramatically. Maybe this situation is temporary, maybe it’s permanent; we’ll have to wait and see. But starting a law school in this environment–you really have to wonder.
None of these hard facts explains the controversy surrounding a proposed new Canadian law school, however. Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia wishes to start the first religious law school in Canada. The Council of Canadian Law Deans opposes the new school because TWU requires students, faculty and staff to honor traditional Christian sexual ethics: no sex outside heterosexual marriage. This requirement, the deans argue, discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of Canadian law. TWU maintains that a Canadian Supreme Court case from 2001 allows it to impose the requirement as a matter of religious freedom.
The Federation of Canadian Law Schools, the body that accredits law schools in Canada, has not yet decided whether to grant TWU permission to start its new school. Whatever decision the Federation takes, a lawsuit will no doubt follow. Canadian law on religious exercise uses a balancing test similar to the one in the European Conventi0n on Human Rights. Under that balancing test, government may limit citizens’ freedom of religion if necessary to protect important countervailing interests, including “the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” Just last week, in fact, the European Court of Human Rights applied this test and ruled that the European Convention allows member states to limit employees’ religious freedom in order to protect the right of same-sex couples to be free from discrimination.
It’s a different jurisdiction, of course, and the Canadian and European cases don’t line up exactly. As a religious university, TWU could raise arguments the European case didn’t address. But, like the European case, TWU’s claim will require judges to balance the right of religious exercise against the rights of sexual minorities. If Canadian judges adopt the ECtHR’s general view of things, TWU’s chances of prevailing in the long run don’t look great.
I.B. Tauris Publishing has published Shi’i Islam and Identity: Religion, Politics and Change in the Global Muslim Community (2012) by Lloyd Ridgeon (University of Glasgow). The publisher’s description follows.
The contemporary world is increasingly regarded as a global community in which traditional patterns of social organisation, faith and practice are rapidly being transformed. These changes are evident in many religious traditions, and Shi’i Islam is no exception. This book seeks to investigate the nature of contemporary Shi’ism, focusing on the creation of identities – showing the diversity of thought within the Shi’i world, the transnational nature of Shi’i networks, and the forces of tradition and modernity influencing current developments in Shi’i identity. Increasing contacts between East and West have made the presence of Shi’ism more visible in the modern world, especially in Europe. Shi’i Islam and Identity shows that it is no longer sufficient to speak of a ‘Shi’i Crescent’; rather, Shi’i worlds range from Senegal, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, to Turkey, Albania and European capitals such as London and Berlin.
Intersentia Publishing has published European Non-Discrimination Law: A Comparison of EU Law and the ECHR in the Field of Non-Discrimination and Freedom of Religion in Public Employment with an Emphasis on the Islamic Headscarf Issue by Sarah Haverkort-Speekenbrink. The publisher’s description follows.
Contemporary multicultural issues in Europe raise the question whether the overlap between the non-discrimination regimes of the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe in the field of public employment may lead to conflicting case law. Would the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) address potential sex, race and religious discrimination in a similar manner or would the Courts take a different approach?
This study consists of three parts. Firstly, an analysis is presented of the EU non-discrimination Directives 2006/54, 2000/43 and 2000/78, and the ECJ’s assessment in cases of alleged sex, race and religious discrimination in the public workplace. Secondly, the non-discrimination provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the right to freedom of religion are studied. Further, the ECtHR’s assessment in cases involving potential discrimination in the public workplace based on sex, race and religion are examined. In the final part a comparison is made between the provisions and the assessment of the ECJ and the ECtHR.
Besides an examination of European legislation, case law and academic literature, this research also uses a legal case study to explore the similarities and differences between the non-discrimination regimes. Accordingly, the theory is again discussed, but now in light of a much debated issue in Europe: the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public employment. The result of the study is a detailed explanation of the relevant similarities and differences between the approaches of the two Courts to claims of discrimination.