J. Reuben Clark Law Society

UK & Ireland Chapter Hosts Third Annual Religious Freedom Lecture

The UK & Ireland Chapter held its third Annual Religious Freedom Lecture at the BYU London Centre on Tuesday 13th June 2017. The event was co-hosted with the Wheatley Institution of BYU and the BYU London Centre. The Chapter’s honoured guest speaker was The Honourable Judge Marta Cartabia, Vice-President of the Italian Constitutional Court.

From L-R: Alessandro Barro (Chief of Staff to Judge Cartabia), Charlotte Steinfeld (Chair, UK & Ireland Chapter J. Reuben Clark Law Society) Judge Marta Cartabia (Vice-President, Italian Constitutional Court) Professor David Kirkham (Academic Director BYU London Centre), Dr Paul Kerry
Judge Cartabia was a Presidential appointee to the Italian Constitutional Court, the highest court in Italy on constitutional matters, in September 2011. At the time of her appointment she was one of the youngest ever appointees and only the third woman to have been appointed in the history of the Court. She has served as Vice-President of the Court since November 2014. She was previously Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Milan-Bicocca and has taught at several Italian universities while being a visiting scholar and professor in France, Spain, Germany and the United States.  

The title of Judge Cartabia's remarks were, "The Many and the Few: The Case for Religious Accommodation." Judge Cartabia spoke eloquently on religious accommodation, really highlighting progress made across Europe and looking at how both the courts and private individuals are more frequently attempting to find practical, creative solutions in cases of religious discrimination. Judge Cartabia highlighted how this approach is preferential as it leaves aside the need to decide which doctrine might be correct or which party obtains a remedy at the expense of the other – it moves from the doctrinal to the practical. She successfully demonstrated this through the use of case law, highlighting cases where a party has sought to manifest his/her personal religious beliefs, for example, through the use of symbols in an employment or schools context and how religious accommodation had or had not been made.

One interesting example of how religious accommodation could have been successfully implemented was given by Judge Cartabia using an early case in this area heard by the Italian Supreme Court. The case involved a Sikh who was required by his faith to carry a dagger with him at all times, including to school. The court decided that security issues overcame every other concern but Judge Cartabia discussed ways the court could have considered practical solutions, including asking the boy to sew the knife into his coat and never allowing it to be seen. This was a good illustration of how the courts could have balanced safety with a deeply held, personal religious belief - thereby not ranking doctrine or values but seeking practical accommodation.
Judge Cartabia graciously answered questions after the lecture, of which there were many. The audience were very engaged. The event exceeded all expectations; the room was filled to capacity and every guest stayed for a drinks reception held in Judge Cartabia’s honour after the event. It was a resounding success.

By Charlotte Steinfeld, JRCLS UK and Ireland Chapter Chair

Posted: July 31, 2017