Mass cards challenge fails
The High Court dismissed yesterday a challenge to s. 99 of the Charities Act 2009, which creates an offence of selling a Mass card “other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.” A “recognised person” is defined as a bishop, or a provincial of an order of priests recognised by the “Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.” The provision, giving legal effect to certain discriminations pertaining to clerical status within a particular church, and confining the sale of a religious product to those authorised by certain authorities within that church, was challenged by a Longford retailer. While the written judgment is not yet available, early media reports have suggested that the ruling turned partly on the fact that the there was no evidence that the sale of pre-signed Mass cards constituted the profession or practice of his religion. More interestingly, McMenamin J. has apparently suggested that the State may justifiably lend its weight to a discrimination of status deriving from within Roman Catholicism. It is unclear, as of yet, whether the Court has dismissed the claim on the basis that the plaintiff, as a retailer, cannot rely on the rights of a hypothetical third party which might be engaged in the practice of religion in issuing an “unauthorised” mass card, or whether it does not believe that the rights of such a party would, in any case, be violated by the state’s buttressing of the internal rules of the church. More detailed analysis will follow once the judgment becomes available.