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A QC, a judge, a rabbi and an atheist walk into a bar...

On Monday 23 July 90 young lawyers raised almost £2,000 for the British Friends of Hebrew University at a Question Time-style debate on religion and law. The panel including a Deputy High Court Judge, an Orthodox Rabbi, a leading human rights QC and a secularist ex-MP debated gay marriage, the JFS Supreme Court decision and whether the German circumcision ban could have an effect in the UK. The event was hosted by Norton Rose and chaired by legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg.

Dinah Rose QC, who represented the excluded child in the JFS case, argued that the European Court of Human Rights may not be doing enough to protect religious believers.  John Bowers QC, a deputy High Court Judge, said he feared the German decision would have a 'chilling effect' on mohels in the UK, particularly in relation to their insurance premiums. Evan Harris, an ex-MP and medical doctor, said that he thought the British Medical Association was afraid of debating the issue. He also said he was concerned that the courts did not offer enough protection to those who would be discriminated against in education and public services by religious organisations. 

Rose, who was one of the signatories to the JC letter criticising the Chief Rabbi for speaking out about gay marriage, said that he should not have intervened in an issue which would not affect religious practice. Rabbi Michael Laitner of Finchley United (Kinloss) Synagogue argued that it would have been strange if the Chief Rabbi had not spoken out on one of the key moral issues of the day. 

ylgeventphotos left to right: Gerard Rosthschild*, Jacqueline Renton*, Stephen Kosmin*, Evan Harris, Adam Wagner*, Joshua Rozenberg, Dinah Rose QC (* denotes BFHU young legal committee)
Committee Chair and barrister Adam Wagner said: "We are delighted to have sold out the event and it was incredibly kind of Norton Rose to host us. Their kind support meant that every penny of the money raised will go to the free legal advice clinics at the Hebrew University. With the event of human rights law, the courts seem to be increasingly commenting upon religious practice, so we thought this was an important debate to have.”
Added Nigel Salomon, Chief Executive British Friends of the Hebrew University, “An excellent event in keeping with the quality of the Hebrew University’s Law Faculty, Israel’s first law school, supporting their legal justice centres in which the brightest law students work with qualified advocates to gain experience providing vital pro bono legal advice to disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities across Jerusalem’s complex social spectrum”.

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