Date: January 07, 2017 06:25AM
Yes, Tom and I have been at odds over that for a long time. I have great respect for the man and think the legal action was worth the effort in terms of publicity and as a precedent for challenges in other national jurisdictions where religion is not given as much deference as in the Anglo-American tradition.
Tom's account, as I remember it, is that the church got the subpoena quashed on illegitimate grounds, effectively that the new fraud act granted no exception for religions. The appellate authorities inferred a deference to religions that does not exist in the law. According to Tom, his attorney and some more senior experts agreed that the decision was wrong. And someone reported the incident to the prime minister's office.
If that recollection of Tom's experience is accurate, I feel he is incorrect on three points. First, a law is assumed to encorporate extisting constitutional limits whether it says anything about those limits or not. If a statute, for instance, announces a new penal schedule for various crimes, that statute will be read within the context of the restrictions on torture and other forms of discipline enshrined in constitutional tradition. Thus, any parts of the statute that violate the constitution are null and void from the start. If someone acts on the basis of that unconstitutional provision, the results will be set aside. The statute does not trump the constitution.
Second, if his attorney and other experts assured him that the case was decided inappropriately, that does not make them right. By definition they have a stake in seeing Tom succeed. Lawyers often commiserate, oftentimes sincerely, when their client suffers a setback.
Third, I'm not sure what reporting a bad decision to the prime minister's office means. I would presume that all decisions are forwarded to the cabinet routinely, analyzed by staff, and, if necessary, summarized and distributed. But I doubt the PM would get involved in any substantive way since he (she) holds a much broader portfolio and presumably has little time and energy to devote to obscure cases against obscure sects. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure I've ever heard a British PM criticize a court decision at all.
So in my reading, Tom or his lawyers perceived an absence of church exception in the new anti-fraud statute and inferred that they could therefore subpoena Monson. The appellate authorities simply insisted that the existing constitutional norms be enforced by quashing the subpoena. I doubt that the PM ever read or heard anything about the case.
I conclude again with two caveats. First, I may not recall the details of Tom's experience precisely and would be happy to be set straight. Second, I again think the case was worth the effort and will eventually encourage similar cases in countries with anti-clerical traditions in which religions are not granted special immunity. When one of those succeeds, much of the credit must go to Tom.