Saturday 17 January 2015

Your choice to attend religious services? Apparently not.

Freedom of expression is an important right, as has been highlighted in recent days with the Charlie Hebdo affair. But what about the freedom not to attend a religious service?

Skepticule host Paul Orton explains the case of Anonymous Steve (a Skepticule contributor), who has been ordered by a judge to attend Roman Catholic Mass with his children:
Steve, a British citizen of my acquaintance, has been instructed by a British judge to attend Roman Catholic mass with his children when he has custody of them, as part of a divorce settlement.

The instruction to attend church* was something the judge introduced without being requested by the mother. The judge declared his Roman Catholicism to the court. The children only occasionally attended church with their mother before the divorce.

Steve appealed the judgement as far as he could as a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) but the Appeals Court has ruled that the original ruling should not be overturned. This would appear to set a precedent whereby it is in the remit of the British court system to demand that citizens attend services of a particular denomination.

Steve chooses not to take his children to mass, thereby leaving himself open to a charge of Contempt of Court and a prison sentence.
Read more on Paul Orton's blog, Missing God Gene.

*UPDATE 2015-01-17: "court" corrected to "church"