Essays on Law and Religion in the British Commonwealth Nations

The British Commonwealth is an association of countries that share a connection to the British Empire, often as former colonies. The common law of these countries all has this common root or family resemblance, and is therefore in many ways similar, notwithstanding specific national differences that have developed with independence from the Empire. Here is a new book concerning the law and religion doctrine of these nations: Law and Religion in the Commonwealth: The Evolution of Caselaw (Bloomsbury), edited by Renae Barker, Paul Babie, and Neil Foster.

This book examines law and religion from the perspective of its case law.

Each chapter focuses on a specific case from a Commonwealth jurisdiction, examining the history and impact of the case, both within the originating jurisdiction and its wider global context.

The book contains chapters from leading and emerging scholars from across the Commonwealth, including from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia, India and Nigeria.

The cases are divided into four sections covering:
– Foundational Questions in Law and Religion
– Freedom of Religion around the Commonwealth
– Religion and state relations around the Commonwealth
– Rights, Relationships and Religion around the Commonwealth.

Like religion itself, the case law covers a wide spectrum of life. This diversity is reflected in the cases covered in this book, which include:
– Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur v Home Minister on the use of the Muslim name for God by non-Muslims in Malaysia
– The Church of the New Faith v Commissioner of Pay-roll Tax (Vic) which determined the meaning of religion in Australia
– Eweida v UK which clarified the application of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights
– R v Big M Drug Mart on the individual protections of religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights.

The book examines how legal disputes involving religion are among the most contested in the courts and shows that in these cases, passions run high and the outcomes can have significant consequences for all involved.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • In Fox v. City of Austin, a Christian minister who has been a volunteer fire department chaplain filed suit in a Texas federal district court alleging that his free speech and free exercise rights were violated when the fire department terminated him as chaplain because of his social media posts. 
  • In Lowe v. Mills, a Maine federal district court rejected challenges by seven healthcare workers to Maine’s COVID vaccination requirement for healthcare workers. While medical exemptions to the requirement are available, no such exemption applies to religion. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ Title VII religious discrimination and free exercise claims. 
  • In People v. Calvary Chapel, San Jose, a California state appellate court annulled contempt orders imposed by a trial court and reversed the trial court’s imposition of monetary sanctions, which resulted from a church’s refusal to comply with state COVID public health orders. 
  • The Department of Agriculture issued a Guidance clarifying that a Title IX exemption is available for religious educational institutions if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets. 
  • As part of a settlement with the national organization, American Atheists, Arkansas state Senator Jason Rapert will have to unblock his atheist constituents from his social media account. Senator Rapert is also required to pay more than $16,000 to American Atheists for costs related to the lawsuit. 
  • The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia sent to Parliament its Final Report on its Review of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The Report makes 163 recommendations for changes in Western Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. In connection with the Act’s ban on discrimination based on religious conviction, the Report’s Recommendation 51 provides updates on how “religious conviction” should be defined in the Act.