Religion and Law roundup: 6th January

A surfeit of large meals, Christmas pud, alcohol and (in David’s case) carols means that this is a fortnight’s-worth of rounding up

Archbishop Rowan’s life peerage

On 26 December 10 Downing Street announced that the Queen

IMG_5563(3)“… has been pleased to confer a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on the Most Reverend and Right honourable Dr Rowan Williams Lord Archbishop of Canterbury upon his retirement from the See of Canterbury”.

As a life peer Dr Williams will take “the style and title of Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea”.

The press release added that the Prime Minister

“… retains the right to nominate up to ten people for Life Peerages each Parliament. These are awarded to people who have given significant public service”.

Given that the days when retiring archbishops received an automatic life peerage are presumably now past – House of Lords reform and all that – it sounds to us like a wholly-admirable exercise of the PM’s discretionary right to nominate.

Employment, Sunday working and Christian employees

The Telegraph reported on 30 December that an Employment Appeal Tribunal had dismissed an appeal by Ms Celestina Mba against the rejection of her claim for constructive dismissal by her employers, Merton London Borough Council, after she refused to work on Sundays at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden. Ms Mba, a Baptist, claimed that when she took the position in 2007 her managers initially agreed to accommodate the requirements of her faith; however, she was later pressured to work on Sundays and threatened with disciplinary action when she refused to comply, even though other workers were willing to take the shifts – which meant that she felt that she had no alternative but to resign. It appears that she claimed that she was unlawfully discriminated against on grounds of her religion.

According to The Telegraph, Langstaff J upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling that the fact that other Christians were prepared to work on Sundays suggested that not to work on Sundays was not a core requirement of the Christian faith. We will post a proper case-note and analysis if and when the EAT’s judgment becomes publicly available.

Human rights in 2012 

Adam Wagner completed his four-part human rights roundup of 2012 on UKHRB: part four includes hyperlinks to the three earlier parts. It’s an extremely useful checklist for the broader issues that came up last year. It’s (obviously) written from a rather different perspective from our own; but many of more general issues in human rights law have a more specific impact on the narrower area of law and religion.

Law & Justice No 169: Trinity/Michaelmas 2012

The latest edition of Law & Justice has just been published. Full-length articles include:

  • David McIlroy of Spurgeon’s College and SOAS on the impossibility of a purely “secular” law;
  • Stephen Allison on the natural law theory of Viscount Stair – the greatest figure in the historical development of Scots law;
  • Prof Jerold Waltman of Baylor University on the “Ministerial Exception” in US employment law;
  • Amy Codling of Reading Law School on a critical pluralist analysis of R (Begum) v Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School; and
  • Helen Hall, PhD student at Cardiff Law School, on vicarious liability for sexual abuse and the recent judgment in Catholic Welfare Society & Ors v The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

In addition, there are twenty-odd case-notes (mostly contributed by Russell Sandberg and Frank Cranmer) covering the UK courts and the ECtHR and reviews of Norman Doe’s Law and Religion in Europe: A Comparative Introduction and Gary Watt’s Equity Stirring: the Story of Justice beyond Law.

Law & Justice is published twice-yearly. Current subscription rates are: students £15.00, individuals (UK) £25.00, individuals (overseas) £27.50, institutions (UK) £30.00 and institutions (overseas) £32.00 – in short, just about as cheap as chips. Copies are available from the Administrator of the Edmund Plowden Trust, Mrs Anne Duddington, at 6 Hanbury Park Road, St John’s,  Worcester WR2 4PB.

Pagan Federation and charitable status 

Third Sector Online reports that the Pagan Federation has withdrawn its appeal to the charity tribunal against the Charity Commission’s refusal to grant it charitable status. The Commission had concluded that the Federation did not meet all the essential characteristics of a religion for the purposes of charity law and was not for the public benefit.

Mike Stygal, vice-chair, told Third Sector that the Federation was a representative body for religious organisation rather than a religious organisation itself and that applying for charitable status on the grounds of religion “wasn’t necessarily appropriate”. He also said that the Federation might reapply on the grounds that it was an umbrella body and provided education – but that that was by no means certain.

Religious dress in schools – again

The Mail Online reported on 3 January that St Cyprian’s Greek Orthodox Voluntary Aided Primary School in Thornton Heath was being sued by a Muslim couple after it refused to allow their nine-year-old daughter to wear a hijab. The parents say that it would be a sin for their daughter’s head to be uncovered while in the presence of male teachers because she has “reached puberty”, while the headteacher, Kate Magliocco, is quoted as saying that the girl’s parents were informed about the school’s uniform policy when their child, whose brother remains a pupil at the school, was first admitted at the age of seven:

“The decision not to allow her to wear a headscarf was taken by the governing body. The school has a very particular uniform policy, which is shared with parents and, as head, I must follow the plan”.

Given the entirely understandable desire of the courts to protect the identities of the children in such cases, watch out for  “A v The Governors of B School” or similar.

Sexuality, ordination and the C of E 

On 21 December we reported that the House of Bishops had agreed that the terms of the 2005 civil partnership statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England – ie that the partners are celibate – applied equally in relation to the episcopate as to the priesthood and diaconate. The BBC picked up the point on 4 January: see Church of England drops gay bishop opposition, and the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, issued a statement on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England which clarified the ending of the 2011 moratorium on the appointment of gay clergy as bishops and returning the Church to its 2005 position.  This stated

“The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships issued in 2005 did not address specifically whether clergy who entered such partnerships should be considered for the episcopate. What the House has now done, following the work undertaken by the group chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man set up last year, is to look at the matter again last month.

“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.

“The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”

Succession to the Crown Bill 

On 13 December the Government introduced the Succession to the Crown Bill into the Commons. It has obvious implications for the interaction between constitutional affairs and religion – particularly in relation to the position of the Church of England – and we published an interesting guest post by Bob Morris analysing its provisions.

Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide: update

Readers will recall the case of Tony Nicklinson, a victim of “locked-in syndrome” who applied unsuccessfully to the Administrative Court for a declaration that a medical practitioner might end his life without fear of prosecution and who subsequently died: see R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice & Ors: R (AM) v DPP and Ors [2012] EWHC 2381 (Admin). The Administrative Court refused leave to appeal; but his widow Jane subsequently sought leave from the Court of Appeal.

On 3 January Bindmans LLP reported that the Court of Appeal has made an order that Jane Nicklinson, as Administrator of Tony Nicklinson’s estate, may take forward his case that the current law of murder and/or assisted suicide was incompatible with his right to respect for dignity and autonomy under Article 8 ECHR (respect for private and family life). As well as being given leave to appeal the judgment of the Administrative Court she has also been granted a protective costs order so that if she loses she will not be liable for her opponents’ costs.


Postscript: blogging about law and religion six months on

This blog sputtered into life, at least technically speaking, in February but we didn’t begin posting regularly until June. In just over six months we have posted 200 items and the site has had over 30,000 page-views, starting with a daily average of 37 in mid-June and rising to just over 300 for December, with peaks of up to 800. We are a very small enterprise – though, that said, law and religion is still something of a fairly specialist, minority interest in the UK – but we hope that we are doing a useful job in helping to plug a small gap in the legal blogosphere and doing it in a way that our visitors find helpful and at least mildly interesting. And, from our point of view, there’s nothing like writing the blog for making us keep up with the cases, the new legislation and the seemingly-endless procession of policy statements.

We are also beginning to attract some high-quality guest posts, ranging from Bob Morris of the UCL Constitution Unit on Parliamentary intervention on women bishops and (as noted above) on the Succession to the Crown Bill to Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society on Prayers at council meetings. Guest posts on topics of current interest are always welcome: for further details see our General Conditions.

People arrive here by a variety of routes. Thinking Anglicans provides a steady stream of visitors – for which our heartfelt thanks to Simon Kershaw, Peter Owen and Simon Sarmiento. The Law and Religion Headlines produced by the indefatigable Donlu Thayer at Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies have been enormously helpful in making people outside the UK aware of our existence.

And then there is Google. Most of the search terms that pick up our blog are pretty obvious: “law and religion”, “chancel repair liability”, “article 9 echr”, “jam jars” (alas) and, currently, various combinations of “exclusive brethren”, “charity commission” and “preston down”. But some are simply downright weird: most recently, “why the bishops should not intervene in church affairs”. (Shurely shome eccleshiological mishtake – Ed.)


And a very happy New Year to all our visitors

One thought on “Religion and Law roundup: 6th January

  1. Pingback: The C of E, ordination, episcopacy and civil partnerships | Law & Religion UK

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