The U.K. High Court ruled Friday that a London coroner must giver preferential treatment to Jewish and Muslim families in light of their burial beliefs.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit that religious groups brought against Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner North London, over her office’s policy that families would be served on a first come first served basis with no preferential treatment given according to religious belief, according to the Daily Mail. Lord Justice Singh said in the ruling that Hassell’s policy was too rigid, as it did not allow consideration specifically for Muslims and Jews.
“The fundamental difficulty with the defendant’s policy is that it does not strike a fair balance between the rights concerned at all,” Singh said, according to the Daily Mail. “Rather, as a matter of rigid policy, it requires the coroner and her officers to leave out of account altogether the requirements of Jewish and Muslim people in relation to early consideration of and early release of bodies of their loved ones.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised the ruling on Twitter.
I welcome this decision by the High Court. It is right and proper the Coroner respects the religious sensitivities of Londoners. Crucial that a plan is now drawn up as soon as possible on how this will be implemented in the Inner North London area https://t.co/ZvTyoImDIF
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 27, 2018
Marie van der Zyl, the Board of Deputies vice president, called on Hassell to resign from her position following the ruling if she could not adhere to a policy that allowed for preferential treatment of Jews and Muslims.
“She has previously said that she does not believe that using her discretion to order cases, which she needs to do to uphold the religious freedom of the diverse communities she is meant to serve, is ‘fair.’ If she cannot carry out this basic function of her role, she must vacate her position,” Zyl said, according to BBC.
Christian Voice slammed the decision, however, saying that it effectively forced Hassell to prioritize some religions over others or over those who held no religion.
“I don’t agree with it, it seems certain religions are going to be prioritised, or the families of religious people are going to be prioritised, other families are going to be pushed down the queue,” Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said of the ruling according to Daily Mail. “Why, in a Christian country where everyone is equal before the law, should some be more equal than others?”
“I am disappointed that the court has said that it’s unlawful, it seems perfectly rational in accordance with the law, it doesn’t seem to be discriminatory,” he added.