Salford CC v W and Ors [2021] (Special Guardians: Religion) EWHC 61 (Fam)

In June 2017 it was agreed that the 5 children, aged 4 to 11, should live with their maternal aunt Mrs Z and her partner, Mr Y.  In December 2018, a Child Arrangements Order was made in favour of Mrs Z and Mr Y. When the matter was transferred to the Family Court sitting in Manchester, Salford City Council applied for permission to amend the original application for care orders to include a s8 order prohibiting the proposed special guardian, Mrs Z, from giving effect to her intention to have the children initiated into the Roman Catholic Church. The mother contended that the children had been brought up in the Pentecostal faith.  While in the care of Mrs Z the children attended a Roman Catholic church, spiritual trips and prayed to the rosary every evening. As such, the children considered themselves Roman Catholic and displayed crosses around their necks to social workers.

Mrs Z contended that it was difficult to enrol the children in a local Roman Catholic school because of their lack of Catholic Baptismal Certificate and the fact they couldn’t not take communion left them feeling left out of the community [31]. The mother contended Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 required the children to be brought up in the context of the parent’s religious beliefs [29].

MacDonald J dismissed the application for a s8 order saying while the 2005 Regulations “make plain that information regarding the children’s religious and cultural upbringing is important” and must be included in the report to the court [46] he was not satisfied that the Regulations intended to “ensure the approach of the special guardian…aligns with that taken prior”. The purpose was to identify the children’s welfare needs with respect to their religious and cultural upbringing. MacDonald J stressed that the conclusion reached in this instance was “not to pronounce judgment on the relative merits” of each denomination, but merely a matter of the children’s welfare [85].

For the full judgment, click here.