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How much notice should we take of religion in the public sphere? My question is prompted by three rather different developments in recent weeks.

First, is England and Wales ready for its three most senior judicial posts to be held by Jews? Lord Neuberger becomes president of the UK Supreme Court on October 1 and  Lord Dyson replaces him as Master of the Rolls. Might a third Jewish judge take over as Lord Chief Justice next year?

I rather doubt it. Although Lord Justice Leveson may be a strong candidate, he is not seen as the favourite. Non-Jewish lawyers are not at such a disadvantage in achieving high judicial office that they need to invoke the Equality Act of 2010.

But if being Jewish is no handicap among UK lawyers, it may well be for their clients. Julius Meinl is a British banker of Austrian descent. In April 2009, he was arrested at the state prosecutor's office in Vienna after attending voluntarily for interview. As a condition of bail, he was required to pay an extraordinary €100 million into court — reputedly a world record in any jurisdiction. Although the Austrian authorities have spent the past five years investigating alleged market manipulation by a property fund in which Meinl was not directly involved, he is the only person to have been arrested as a result of the investigation. Nobody has been charged and Meinl's bail money has not been returned.

Complaining about the delay in dealing with his case, his lawyer Lord Goldsmith QC recently told the Foreign Secretary, William Hague: "There is a strong suspicion that the [Austrian] authorities have been reacting to public pressure from some quarters, which in turn is coloured by Mr Meinl's Jewish family background." The businessman's family fled from Austria in 1938 because Meinl's grandfather had married a woman of Jewish descent.

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September 27th, 2012
4:09 PM
I echo Gribold's comments, and would add that there must be no application of one's religious beliefs when ruling upon UK law. Judges must judge the law, not their own outdated beliefs.

September 27th, 2012
12:09 PM
I just find it incredible that these ludicrous bronze-age superstitions still have currency in the 21st century

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