Thursday, June 30, 2016

British Tribunal: Deportation of Imam Does Not Violate Islamic Center's Religious Freedom

In Hamat v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, (UK UT, June 6, 2016), Britain's Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) rejected a claim that the government is unlawfully interfering with the choice of a religious leader by the Afghanistan Islamic Cultural Centre by deporting its imam who was in the country illegally. Britain's Human Rights Act, Sec. 13, which implements provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, provides in part:
If a court's determination of any question arising under this Act might affect the exercise by a religious organisation (itself or its members collectively) of the Convention right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, it must have particular regard to the importance of that right.
The Tribunal held:
Whilst the effect of the appellant's removal inevitably has the effect of depriving the AICC and its membership of the imam of their choice, this was not the motive of the respondent's actions.... [T]he decision had not interfered with the freedom of choice of the Afghan Muslim community because their actions have not been prompted by a wish to favour one imam over another. The personality of the appellant has not influenced the decision....
The Tribunal went on to hold that Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion) would be violated only if the government's action would "make the free exercise of religion a practical impossibility." Here there are numerous options for the religious organization to recruit a replacement. [Thanks to Law & Religion UK for the lead.]