Law and religion round-up – 11th August

A typical quiet week in August, apart from…

…Registration of marriage from “end of year”

As we noted on Thursday, the Faculty Office issued an update on the implementation of the provisions of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 that will allow for mother’s names to be included in Marriage Registers for England and Wales as well as or in place of father’s names. The Faculty Office document indicates that the General Register Office proposes to bring the provisions into effect “by the end of the year”.

One of the issues that remain to be resolved is training the 20,000+ clergy in the Church of England and the Church in Wales; and the Faculty Office says that “it is unlikely that the GRO will have the resources to provide face-to-face training for all clergy and there will need to be a degree of co-operation with the dioceses.”

That might possibly solve the problem for the C of E and the C in W, but what about all the other non-Anglican – or indeed, non-Christian – ministers of religion who are authorised to conduct religious weddings in England and Wales? Has any thought been giving to training them?

Matthew Chinery, Head of Legal Services of the Church in Wales, has posted a Twitter thread on the proposals as follows, which we publish with his kind permission:

“In an attempt to deal with the questions of @venchrisallsopp and others:

  1. The big policy decision was to go from c20,000 separate marriage registers to one big electronic one.
  2. That decision was Government’s, made by Act of Parliament.
  3. I’m not sure what consultation Government did on this – I don’t recall having seen anything prior to passage of Act.
  4. Faculty Office have clearly not been in a position to say anything until very recently – even now, the Regulations have not been written by Government.
  5. There were questions on this tabled at General Synod.
  6. Previous communication would have been “something’s changing and we can’t tell you precisely what or when” – which would likely not have been helpful.
  7. CofE and CinW clergy remain in a privileged position not requiring the presence of a (civil) Registrar to sign and issue the Document which legally effects the Marriage. It’s just in the new system marriages are not instantly registered.
  8. So yes, clergy no longer register marriages in the new system, but rather sign and issue the legal document which enables a couple to register a marriage, which the cleric has legally brought into effect (as defined by the Marriage Act, clergy are not “Registrars”).
  9. Neither the changes nor the timing is anything to do with either Church affected. They have communicated as quickly and with as much information as currently available, so might I respectfully suggest frustration is better directed elsewhere?”

See also:

Lessons from Scotland on marriage registration

The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 enables the introduction of a “schedule” system for the registration of marriages in England and Wales, similar to that already in place for civil partnerships in England and Wales and for marriages and civil partnerships in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Faculty Office notes that “It is adopting the system that’s been used in Scotland since marriage registration began in 1851”.

In view of its trouble-free use in Scotland, some commentators have been bemused over the apparent concern at its application south of the border. However, the scheme in England and Wales has changed the position whereby, under certain circumstances, a Clerk in Holy Orders has been permitted to take a wedding without the presence of a civil registrar. Furthermore, the current proposal imposes a far tighter timetable than that provided by s.1(6) of the 2019 Act, which states that “No regulations may be made by the Secretary of State under this section after a period of three years beginning with the day on which regulations are first so made”.

On the former point, the Faculty Office has clarified that “Clerks in Holy Orders will still, as they always have, be entitled to conduct marriages without the presence of a Registrar. The marriage will be legally completed once the Marriage Document has been signed by the couple, their witnesses and the officiating priest”… “It’s the place of registration that’s changing – from the vestry to the registry office. It essentially mirrors the registration of births and deaths”.

There are also lessons to be learned from Scotland with regard to suggestions that couples who do not register their completed marriage document within seven days of the wedding will be subject to a significant fine. This appears to be based upon a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation of the intentions of the provisions within the Act. Our post Enforcing the registration of marriages – lessons from Scotland considers these issues further.

Recent interest in law and religion in the UK

In September 2019, we anticipate that our posts on L&RUK will have exceeded 1.5 million readers’ views, and next week we are planning to publish an analysis of the development of interest in the blog. The WordPress Jetpack information provides lists of the posts which have been accessed during a given time period: 7 days; 30 days; quarterly; annually; and for “all time”.

On 2 August we took a snapshot of the situation on that day, and an analysis of the information generated revealed some interesting trends. Whilst not contradicting these trends, the subsequent post Registration of marriage from end-2019 – Faculty Office demonstrated the impact of social media on our readership. Within 24 hours of its publication, this item had caused a substantial spike in our weekly readership and had become the most-read post since August 2018.

Housing developments and monastic tranquillity

Bellway Homes is proposing to build up to 65 houses across the road from Malling Abbey. The initial application for 85 houses was rejected by Tunbridge and Malling Council, and West Malling Parish Council has launched a crowdfunding appeal to support legal representation at the planning inquiry scheduled for 20 August. The Benedictine nuns of the Abbey say that if the development goes ahead, they will be forced to move out because, says the Abbess, “For a focused life of prayer such as ours, and for our guests, silence, spaciousness, and stillness are a necessity.”

But is that a material planning consideration? – a genuine question to which we don’t know the answer, not being planning lawyers. The Planner carries a report here.

Pedants’ corner

It has been pointed out that the article in The Guardian, Roof with a view: Helter Skelter installed in nave of Norwich Cathedral, states that “A cathedral has installed a 55ft-tall Helter Skelter in its nave so that visitors can enjoy a better view of its ornate roof”. As our readers will know, this refers to the vaulted ceiling of the cathedral, not its roof.

Quick links

And finally… I

The “back end” of WordPress reveals that one of our latest followers is No: it’s not about spanking or even about the recently clergy-endorsed Fessée beer, a product that wouldn’t now gain Camra approval; it’s about “the best way to download and enjoy the music you love” – and it appears to be located in Gabon. Eh????

And finally… II

From a BBC report on cremation costs: “Glynn Humphries, from Wakefield Council, said it had set its fees to cover the costs of replacing its cremators in recent years. ‘It is important that we are equipped to meet future demand, as the death rate is likely to rise,’ he added.”

Hang on: surely the death rate is already 100 per cent. Or is there something different about Wakefield?

One thought on “Law and religion round-up – 11th August

  1. Pingback: Changes to registration of marriages – Thinking Anglicans

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