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When state law and religious law collide

12 Mehefin 2008

Representatives at first meeting of Interfaith Network

A group of legal advisers to the UK’s main faith groups are set to meet at Cardiff Law School to examine how religious traditions interact with civil laws relating to marriage, charity and sexual orientation.

The second meeting of a unique legal Network designed to tackle the interface between law and religion, it follows a controversial call from the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year to find ways for UK law to engage with religious legal codes.

Network members will share their experiences on how their own religious traditions interact with three areas of law highlighted in the response to the lecture on Sharia law given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. These are: the law on marriage, including divorce, re-marriage, interfaith marriages and civil partnerships; recent developments in charity law affecting religion; and the impact of new laws on equality and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, as well as the area of sexual orientation.

The Interfaith Legal Advisers Network is the first of its kind in the UK and has been established by the Centre of Law and Religion in response to the growing interest and importance of interactions between law and religion.

Professor Norman Doe, Director of the Centre of Law and Religion, said that the increase in state law on religion in recent years is a growing area of debate. "The Network provides a unique opportunity for advisers from a diverse range of religious traditions to share their experiences and learn from each other. It provides members with a greater understanding of their respective religious legal systems and the common legal issues they face and we anticipate that it will lead to greater interfaith dialogue and highlight areas of law in need of further research."

Advisers in the Network include those from the Office of Chief Rabbi, Muslim Council of Great Britain, Hindu Council UK, Methodist Church, British Orthodox Secretariat, Church of England, United Reformed Church, Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Hindu Forum of Britain, Church of Scotland, Lutheran Council of Great Britain, Three Faiths Forum, Network of Buddhist Organisations, Network of Sikh Organisations UK and the British Humanist Association. Academics and practitioners have also been invited to the meeting, including members of the Centre.

Anthony Jeremy, a legal adviser to the Church in Wales, said: "We certainly welcome the second meeting of this imaginative initiative. The first meeting was excellent and served to demonstrate that we all face similar opportunities and challenges, especially in coping with very fast-moving developments in state law on religion."

The Interfaith Legal Advisers Network is one of two new Networks that have been established as part of the Centre for Law and Religion’s 10th Anniversary Celebrations. The Centre has also established the Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) which met for the first time in May.

The full programme of the second meeting of the Interfaith Legal Advisers Network can be accessed at