Regina 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 Brown J said: ‘Mr Beloff invites my attention to certain passages in the judgments of the Court of Appeal both in Law’s case and in the Datafin Case [1987] Q.B. 815. I need not recite them. Their effect is clear enough. To say of decisions of a given body that they are public law decisions with public law consequences means something more than that they are decisions which may be of great interest or concern to the public or, indeed, which may have consequences for the public. To attract the court’s supervisory jurisdiction there must be not merely a public but potentially a governmental interest in the decision-making power in question. And, indeed, generally speaking the exercise of the power in question involves not merely the voluntary regulations of some important area of public life but also what Mr Beloff calls a ‘twin track system of control.’ In other words, where non-governmental bodies have hitherto been held reviewable, they have generally been operating as an integral part of a regulatory system which, although it is itself non-statutory, is nevertheless supported by statutory powers and penalties clearly indicative of government concern.’
. . And ‘As Mr Beloff points out, the court would never be prepared to rule on questions of Jewish law. Mr Carus, recognising this prospective difficulty, says that in advancing his challenge here, the applicant would be prepared to rely solely upon the common law concept of natural justice. But it would not always be easy to separate out procedural complaints from consideration of substantive principles of Jewish law which may underlie them . . That consideration apart, this court is hardly in a position to regulate what is essentially a religious function – the determination whether someone is morally and religiously fit to carry out the spiritual and pastoral duties of his office. The Court must inevitably be wary of entering so self-evidently sensitive an area, straying across the well-recognised divide between church and state. One cannot, therefore, escape the conclusion that if judicial review lies here, then one way or another this secular court must inevitably be drawn into adjudicating upon matters intimate to a religious community’.
The state has not surrendered or delegated any of its functions or powers to the Church. None of the functions that the Church of England performs would have to be performed in its place by the state if the Church were to abdicate its responsibility. The relationship which the state has with the Church of England is one of recognition, not of the devolution to it of any of the powers or functions of government. ‘the court would never be prepared to rule on questions of Jewish law’ In relation to the determination of whether someone is morally and religiously fit to carry out the spiritual and pastoral duties of his office, the court ‘must inevitably be wary of entering so self-evidently sensitive an area, straying across the well-recognised divide between church and state’
Simon Brown J
[1992] 1 WLR 1036
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedParochial Church Council of the Parish of Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley, Warwickshire v Wallbank and another HL 26-Jun-2003
The owners of glebe land were called upon as lay rectors to contribute to the cost of repairs to the local church. They argued that the claim was unlawful by section 6 of the 1998 Act as an act by a public authority incompatible with a Convention . .
CitedRegina (Amicus etc) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Admn 26-Apr-2004
The claimants sought a declaration that part of the Regulations were invalid, and an infringement of their human rights. The Regulations sought to exempt church schools from an obligation not to discriminate against homosexual teachers.
Held: . .
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 . .
CitedBlake 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. . .
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. . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 03 May 2021; Ref: scu.184046