Does the religious element of the Opening of the Legal Year truly ‘undermine public confidence in justice’?
Does the religious element of the Opening of the Legal Year truly ‘undermine public confidence in justice’, as a new campaign to abolish it alleges? That argument is difficult to accept. What percentage of the public have even heard of the Opening of the Legal Year, let alone know what it comprises?
And it is surely incredible to presume that judges engaging in religious services are incapable of disregarding their personal beliefs when issues touching on religion arise during their work.
So what about the ‘appearance of bias’? That is indeed a concern – though one might just as well argue that a judge who organises a Christian wedding for their son or daughter is creating an ‘appearance of bias’.
Britain does pomp and circumstance rather well, it is often observed, and this venerable ritual appears harmless enough. But we suspect that by pointing to the potential for a legal challenge, the campaigners have placed the event on notice. Every year now we can expect the OLY to be accompanied by secularist protest and fierce lobbying of the lord chancellor. And, of course, a legal challenge might succeed.
There is a more prosaic argument that might be deployed by the ‘antis’, too. In Austerity Britain, is the money spent on the OLY justified? Do let the Gazette know your views. You can read our report of the event this week.