Comments: two explanations of the Archbishop's lecture

There is also a very interesting interview by the BBC with the Archbishop of Jos in Northern Nigeria, who talks of his own experience of being a Christian in a part of the country where Sharia law is used. Sorry I couldn't find the audio -- only the transcript.

Posted by MargaretG at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 9:07am GMT

Justin Lewis-Anthony's precis is helpful, and yet the summaries lead to the same troubling implications. If the precis is correct, the Archbishop is raising questions that seem to be undermining the sovereignty of the Crown: that very authority under which he was appointed.

Using the precis, let's unpick some of these implications:

'The authority which allows an equal citizenship should not be turned into the source of all authority in society. That way leads to ghettoisation'

This is nonsense; the rule of law works in precisely the opposite way. That authority which guarantees an equal citizenship, i.e. the rule of law under the English crown, is what also guarantees against ghettoisation in society. It is the Archbishop's proposals for a marketplace of 'supplementary juristictions' which would encourage community separation and segregation.

'So much of the normal rhetoric about universal rule of law misunderstands the origins of the idea, and so feels threatened by ideas of loosening a monopoly.'

But this is because the rule of law is ultimately tied to sovereignty; if one creates a situation where in the territory of the United Kingdom the rule of a foreign law operates, under the authority of, say, the Koran and Hadith, then the Crown no longer retains juristiction over that area. That would require an Act of Parliament to create a separate jurisdiction (from the Latin ius, iuris meaning “law” and dicere meaning “to speak”) in which the Queen’s rule no longer applied. The possibility then arises that this legal entity could make treaties with another entity; without the universal rule of English law over that territory or space, one can quickly see what would happen if that monopoly were loosened. The Archbishop's suggestions would lead to a state within a state. The constitutional and political implications of this are staggering.

'can we really (theoretically and practically) have anything other than a legal monopoly ie one authoritative legal system?'

No, we cannot, unless you wish to destroy the sovereignty of the Crown (or the state). The religious scruples the Archbishop mentions have been incorporated as part of English law, not through the importation or incorporation of some foreign system. Although the Orthodox Jewish Courts have authority to act as tribunals to make decisions in arbitration disputes, this is under the authority of the 1996 Arbitration Act. Jewish religious law has not been incorporated into English law. Their dispute resolution is informal and voluntary. Their religious marriage and divorce rituals have no status in English law (with the exception of one aspect designed to help resolve an anomaly in Jewish divorce law); for the state to recognise their marriages or divorces, Jews have to marry or be divorced according to English law just like everyone else.

'But there could be very real damage done by unrelenting application of universalist law upon all minorities in our society...This might seem uncomfortably like a “market” in law, but the diverse, plural nature of our society already makes it seem unavoidable.'

On the contrary, the creation of a legal 'market' is to be avoided at all costs.

Posted by John Omani at Sunday, 10 February 2008 at 8:52am GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.