Monday, October 24, 2005

Interesting employment law case in the UK

From the Guardian:
How do you launch a claim for sex discrimination if your employer is God? Helen Percy was suspended from her job as an associate Church of Scotland minister in the Angus glens in 1997 when as a single woman she was accused of having sex with a married elder. She resigned and took a claim for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination to an employment tribunal.
But her case has been thrown out by the tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal, and the court of session in Edinburgh. Each institution ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case - because in Britain, uniquely, clergy enjoy none of the employment rights the rest of us take for granted. An earlier case involving a Church of England rector, Ray Owen, found that, under laws dating back nearly a century, clergy were not church employees at all but office holders - in effect employed by God.
Today Ms Percy's eight-year battle - now a claim for sex discrimination only - will go to the House of Lords, which could rule that in the 21st century clergy should, like everyone else, have the rights and protections that go with holding down a job. Mr Owen's attempt to take his case to the lords failed in 2001, when they refused his petition to hear the case.
The five law lords will have to decide how the 1921 Church of Scotland Act, which lays down the church's right to regulate its own affairs, interacts with the EU's 1976 equal treatment directive, which provides that men and women must be treated equally at work.
The act declares that the church receives from "the Lord Jesus Christ, its Divine King and Head" and "from Him alone" the right and power "subject to no civil authority to legislate, and to adjudicate finally, in all matters of doctrine, worship, government, and discipline in the Church, including the right to determine all questions concerning membership and office in the Church".

Also in the Guardian, news of a Koran recital contest:
With senior militant leaders looking on, Palestinian officials opened an international competition yesterday testing participants' knowledge of the Qur'an.
Some 700 people, including diplomats and leaders of Islamic Jihad and Hamas crowded into a cultural centre for the first day of the al-Aqsa international competition for the holy Qur'an.
Yousef Salameh, Palestinian minister of religious affairs, commended the non-Arabic speakers for learning to recite the Qur'an "better than us, who have Arabic as a mother tongue".
Muslims believe there is a place secured in heaven those who memorise the Qur'an and follow its dictates. Those who memorise its 30 sections are given the title of honorary sheikh.

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