Blake v Associated Newspapers Ltd: QBD 31 Jul 2003

The claimant, a former Anglican priest, sued in defamation. The defendant argued that the claim was non-justiciable since it would require the court to adjudicate on matters of faith and religious doctrine.
Held: The claim could not be heard.
Gray J said: ‘It is well established . . that the court will not venture into doctrinal disputes or differences. But there is authority that the courts will not regulate issues as to the procedures adopted by religious bodies or the customs and practices of a particular religious community or questions as to the moral and religious fitness of a person to carry out the spiritual and pastoral duties of his office.’
The issues of the case, ‘cannot be adapted so as to circumvent the insuperable obstacle placed in the way of a fair trial of this action by the fact that the court must abstain from determining questions which lie at the heart of the case’.


Gray J


[2003] EWHC 1960 (QB)




England and Wales


CitedGeneral Assembly of Free Church of Scotland v Overtoun HL 1904
Craigdallie stated settled law: ‘My Lords, I disclaim altogether any right in this or any other civil court of this realm to discuss the truth or reasonableness of any of the doctrines of this or any other religious association, or to say whether . .
CitedRegina v Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Ex parte Wachmann 1992
A local rabbi sought judicial review of the declaration of the Chief Rabbi, following an investigation into allegations of adultery with members of his congregation, that he was religiously and morally unfit to occupy his position.
Held: Simon . .
CitedRegina v The Imam of Bury Park Mosque, Luton and others ex parte Sualiman Ali CA 12-May-1993
The court had been asked to intervene in an internal dispute as to the role of an Imam in a mosque community.
Held: The request was denied. The case was not one of public law: ‘ the particular function which the Imam was performing affected . .
CitedVarsani and others v Jesani, Patel and Her Majesty’s Attorney-General CA 3-Apr-1998
A Hindu religious sect, constituted as a charity, had split into two factions.
Held: The court had jurisdiction to order that the assets of the sect should be divided under the powers in the Act, and held upon separate trusts for the two . .
CitedRegina v the Imam of Bury Park Jame Masjid Luton and others ex parte Suliman Ali QBD 13-Sep-1991
The court was asked to intervene in an internal dispute as to the role of an Imam in a mosque community.
Held: . .
Distinguished on the factsPrebble v Television New Zealand Ltd PC 27-Jun-1994
(New Zealand) The plaintiff, an MP, pursued a defamation case. The defendant wished to argue for the truth of what was said, and sought to base his argument on things said in Parliament. The plaintiff responded that this would be a breach of . .
CitedManoussakis and Others v Greece ECHR 26-Sep-1996
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objection rejected (non-exhaustion); Violation of Art. 9; Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses award – domestic . .

Cited by:

CitedHH Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj v Eastern Media Group and Another QBD 17-May-2010
The claimant, a Sikh religious leader complained of defamation in a Sikh journal in England. The defendant said the claim was non-justiciable since it required the court to pronouce on a matter of religious doctrine.
Held: The plea of . .
CitedKhaira and Others v Shergill and Others CA 17-Jul-2012
The parties disputed the trusteeship and governance of two Gurdwaras (Sikh temples). The defendants now applied for the claim to be struck out on the basis that the differences were as to Sikh doctrines and practice and as such were unjusticiable. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Ecclesiastical

Updated: 19 November 2022; Ref: scu.428701