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An in-house lawyer at mobile network operator Everything Everywhere has relaunched the Lawyers’ Secular Society (LSS).
The network was originally set up by 1 Chancery Lane barrister Carla Revere, but had lapsed before Everything Everywhere senior legal counsel Charlie Klendjian took on the secretary role late last year.
Klendjian, a former Howard Kennedy trainee, is encouraging legal professionals to join the 100-member organisation, which helps people and groups campaign against “religious privilege”.
Among its high-profile members are Matrix public law silk David Wolfe QC and anti-Sharia Law campaign One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters. Wolfe acted for the National Secular Society and atheist and former Bideford councillor Clive Bone in the Bideford Council pre-meeting prayers case (17 February 2012).
The LSS states that it believes that law and the administration of justice should be based on equality, respect for human rights, and on objective evidence with no weight attached to religious doctrine.
Although it does not provide legal advice as an organisation, it says that its members can separately give assistance to individuals “affected by laws which give special advantages to those who assert religious beliefs”.
Klendjian said: “Some of the key employment cases in the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] this year are centred on the key areas of interest we’re focused on in terms of religious privilege, such as the freedom of Christians to wear crosses at work and refusing to support same-sex relationships.
“Our stance is that behaviour which would otherwise be wrong cannot be justified in the name of religion. Our clear line is that freedom of religion is incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean the freedom to discriminate.
“Because we have such a good legal system in this country, the court process shines a light on the issues.”
The LSS is open to barristers, solicitors, legal academics, legal professionals and law students, either religious or non-religious, who are ‘committed to secularism’.
Other areas the LSS lobbies on are protecting free speech and free expression in the face of religious pressure and intimidation, opposing female genital mutilation, protecting female reproductive rights from religious pressure, opposing faith-based arbitration and mediation that is not compatible with the principles of UK law, supporting the separation of church and state generally - such as supporting the disestablishment of the Church of England and opposing reserved seats for bishops in the House of Lords – and opposing legal exemptions for ritual slaughter that dispense with the need to pre-stun animals.
The LSS is holding its next meeting on 4 February at Matrix Chambers.