Is the law relating to care of children the appropriate place to fight future terrorism? Well, let’s start with what the law says. There are quite different legal systems for children in need of care in England and Scotland. Focussing only on Scotland, the right to determine where a child lives can be removed from the parents and passed instead to a local authority - this is called a “permanence order”. As you would expect, breaking the fundamental relationship between parent and child is not something that can be done lightly. In making the order, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. It must be better for the child that the order be made than not made. And (unless there is nobody with parental rights) it must be “seriously detrimental” to the child’s welfare to continue living with his or her parents.
Would promotion of radical religion or politics be covered by this test? Without any clarification needed, the test is wide enough – but only if, in a particular case, such parenting was found to be seriously detrimental to a child’s welfare. With no other negative factors, would promotion of a particular religious view be enough to be seriously detrimental to welfare, even if it were such an extreme view that the majority would find it illogical or offensive? If yes, why should this only apply to Islam? Mr Johnson mentions children “being taught crazy stuff”, and parents promoting an “utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world”. The doctrines of mainstream Christianity may seem utterly crazy to atheists. Conversely, an atheist philosophy may seem bleak and nihilistic to religious believers. But it seems unlikely that a Court would justify the teaching of either of these points of view to children as grounds for separating parent and child.
Part of Baroness Hale’s speech in an English case from 2008 seems relevant:
“... taking a child away from her family is a momentous step, not only for her, but for her whole family, and for the local authority which does so. In a totalitarian society, uniformity and conformity are valued. Hence the totalitarian state tries to separate the child from her family and mould her to its own design. Families in all their subversive variety are the breeding ground of diversity and individuality. In a free and democratic society we value diversity and individuality.”
The issue raised by the Mayor questions where the line should be drawn between this diverse and individual parenting - in accordance with a particular religion, political view or philosophy – and an upbringing which is harmful to a child. So where do you think the line should be?