Religion and Law round up – 5th May

The Council of Europe, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and religion, belief and human rights

We commented on the recent Council of Europe Resolution on human rights, religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence, noting the slight misgivings expressed by the Catholic News Agency. That said, though the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is by no means unprejudiced, it’s good to see it taking Article 9 rights seriously. (Coincidentally, the admirable House of Commons Library has just produced a very useful note on UK Cases at the European Court of Human Rights since 1975, (see below): thanks to Obiter J for pointing that out.)

Independent of the CoE Resolution but complementary to it was the release on 30 April by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of its 2013 Annual Report on the State of International Religious Freedom.  USCRIF is an independent federal agency created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad.  Its Chair stated that:

“The state of international religious freedom is increasingly dire due to the presence of forces that fuel instability.  These forces include the rise of violent religious extremism coupled with the actions and inactions of governments.

Extremists target religious minorities and dissenters from majority religious communities for violence, including physical assaults and even murder.  Authoritarian governments also repress religious freedom through intricate webs of discriminatory rules, arbitrary requirements and draconian edicts,”

The 2013 Annual Report recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs because of their “systematic, on-going, and egregious violations of religious freedom”.  These countries are:

Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

to which should be added a further seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should therefore be so designated:

Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

Although most of the Report’s 371 pages are devoted to these fifteen “Tier 1” countries, those of lesser concern, “Tier 2 countries” are also considered, in addition to a number of other countries and regions that are monitored. This latter category includes “Western Europe”, but anyone relying on the three confused paragraphs on Eweida et al as a basis for an essay would probably end up with a “fail”.

Pew Forum research on Islam, politics and society

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, in Washington DC, has published the results of its survey entitled The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. The overall conclusion is that

“… most adherents of … are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters”.

Many Muslims want official status for sharia, though percentages vary widely , from 8 per cent in Azerbaijan to near unanimity (99 per cent) in Afghanistan. However, the survey also finds that even in many countries where there is strong backing for sharia, most Muslims favor religious freedom for people of other faiths.

Same-sex marriage and Northern Ireland: update

We noted the Northern Ireland Assembly debate on a Sinn Féin motion calling on the Executive to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow for same-sex marriage – evidently in response to the 79 per cent majority vote for same-sex marriage at the Irish Constitutional Convention. But, predictably, with only very few exceptions the Unionists were having none of it and, in spite of a compromise amendment proposed by David Ford MLA, leader of the Alliance Party and Minister of Justice in the Executive, both the amendment and the original motion were lost – the latter by an overall majority of 53 votes to 42.

Evidently there is no softening of opinion on the Unionist side and it appears that we are heading for a situation in which same-sex marriage will be implemented both in Ireland (assuming the proposal survives a constitutional referendum) and in Great Britain – but not, in the foreseeable future, at Stormont.

Scotland, equality outcomes and religion

Not a whole lot to do with “law and religion”, but readers may be interested to know that the Scottish Government has just published Equality Outcomes: Religion and Belief Evidence Review, which contains some interesting data on issues such as economic activity, education and health across the various religious groups.

Safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester

On 3 May Lambeth Palace announced the publication of the final report of the Commissaries appointed by Archbishop Rowan to examine progress in the implementation and operation of child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester. Th Commissaries, Bishop John Gladwin and The Revd Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC published a damning interim report on their visitation in July 2012 on which we commented at the time; however, they now express themselves

“… entirely satisfied that the Chichester Diocese is entirely committed … to preventing any further abuse ever occurring and to responding positively and effectively to the ongoing trauma that will necessarily last many years”.

UK Cases at the European Court of Human Rights since 1975

Readers may find useful the House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/IA/5611 which gives brief details of UK cases at the ECHR since 1975. Cases concluded by friendly settlement are included in this note, but Article 41 (previously Article 50) cases, which are concerned with determining “just satisfaction”, are not included.

For cases since September 1997 a hyperlink is provided to the text of the ruling, but the Note warns “some links to material at the ECHR website may prove unstable”, but the International Affairs and Defence Sections will provide assistance in the event of access problems.

Martyrs and Saints

In last week’s round-up we noted “[Pope John Paul II]  canonized over 450 saints – more than all the popes since the Council of Trent combined” and observed that “[w]hilst it is believed that Pope Francis is supportive of the early canonization of John Paul II, his views on beatification and canonization per se are as yet unknown”. We see that in the pontiff’s diary for 12 May, in addition to Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya y Upegui and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, he is planning to canonize Antonio Primaldo and Companions, the latter comprising an estimated 800 Italian laymen killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th century.

As martyrs, Primaldo and Companions required proof of a miracle for their canonization, but not their beatification.  Although this will be the first canonization service undertaken by the Pontiff since he was elected in early March, the decision was made during Benedict XVI’s papacy on 11 February at the  Consistory for Several Causes of Canonization, immediately before he announced his resignation.

Hype and non-news on Richard III

On 1 May, the BBC reported the story “King Richard III burial row heads to High Court which reports an incremental development of the story “Challenge over Richard III Leicester Cathedral burial” it carried on 26 April and reviewed in our last round-up. The ‘new development’ is that the papers for the Judicial Review have now been lodged with the High Court. The Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, may not be a lawyer, but many will concur with his reported sentiments:

“[w]e have had a number of rather silly suggestions, but the particular one that a king who has been buried for 500 years has a human right to a family life is, to put it mildly, rather daft.”

Europe Day, 14 May

For those who are not at the LARSN Conference in Cardiff on 14 May, (details: javier.oliva@manchester.ac.uk), the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust has arranged an Evensong in Westminster Abbey at 5.00 pm to mark Europe Day, (contact: matthew.arnoldi@westminster-abbey.org) – not particularly fortuitous timing in view of the UKIP gains in the local elections this week.  Nevertheless, there is a strong European interest in our choral heritage, and when the choir of SS Peter & Paul, Wantage sang Evensong in the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Erfurt, Germany, it attracted a congregation in excess of 300.  Evensong this year on 26, 27 and 28 July at the Cathedral Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dyfrig, Teilo and Euddogwy, Llandaff will provide an interesting comparison.

Music at weddings and funerals

Prompted by the publication of Church Music: Sound Ministry? the results of a survey by the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) – and its own obscurely titled article “Funerals say yes to milk floats but not combines”, the Church Times chose as its Question of the week

 “Should relatives be given a free choice over music at a funeral?”

Whilst not quite qualifying for our “Stool of Repentance”, it does show a lack of appreciation of canon law – to which, as “The World’s leading Anglican newspaper”, it should perhaps been more sensitive. It is clear from Canon B20: Of the musicians and music of the Church that “the final responsibility and decision in these matters rests with the minister”, although “the minister shall pay due heed to [the organist’s/choirmaster’s/director of music’s] advice and assistance in the choosing of chants, hymns, anthems, and other settings”.

Furthermore, the minister has a duty to ensure that “only such chants, hymns, anthems, and other settings are chosen as are appropriate, both the words and the music”. However, the latter can prove problematic due to the association of certain hymn tunes with different secular words. At one end of the scale, there we seem to have no problem in singing, “The day of resurrection” [1], to the tune Ellacombe, (New English Hymnal No 117), despite its well-known use in a certain rugby song. At the other extreme, the chanson on which the excellent Lassus Mass Entre vous filles de quinze ans [2], is based, might raise some concerns given what some describe as its “frankly obscene” treatment of the subject matter. However, this was not an issue when it was first published in 1581, despite being a parody Mass of the type that the Council of Trent had regulated against two decades earlier.

One area of church music over which the incumbent has little control (if any) is the organist’s extemporisations to provide continuity during the service or as a planned component of it, such as Matthew Martin’s organ Improvisation during Justin Welby’s enthronement. This week John Bingham of the Telegraph warned Beware the wrath of the church organist – musical revenge is sweet”, quoting from Christian Research’s recent survey which found that at least half of the churchgoers have noticed their organist

“… straying from the path of musical orthodoxy at some point – slipping snippets of heavy metal classics, advertising jingles and even nursery rhymes into hymns and anthems. In some cases it can be a means of waging musical war with clerics while in others it is simply an effort by bored organists to make the choir laugh.”

And finally… another one for the Stool of Repentance

On Saturday 27 April the Telegraph ran a piece on ‘Rights’ that make a mockery of our courts (you can guess the content) which included this:

“In 2011, The Sunday Telegraph launched a campaign, End the Human Rights Farce, to expose … examples of manipulation of Article 8. They have not been hard to find. A Bolivian man successfully resisted deportation in 2009 partly on the grounds that he and his boyfriend had a pet cat and that this constituted a family life”.

It certainly did: and the Telegraph story was picked up by the Home Secretary in her speech to the October 2011 Conservative Party conference. Unfortunately, both the Telegraph and Mrs Secretary May were simply wrong.

stool of repentance As Adam Wagner pointed out at the time in the Guardian, the reason for Senior Immigration Judge Gleeson’s decision was that the Home Office had failed to follow its own guidance then in force, specifically paragraph 53.4.1 (Procedures when dealing with an offender who is the unmarried partner of a person present and settled in the UK). The reference in the judgment to the cat was merely a flippant aside that misfired. (David points out that, following normal judicial protocol in sensitive cases, the name of the cat was redacted in the report of the Determination and Reasons. Judge Gleeson also noted that since the earlier determination was upheld “the cat, [        ], need no longer fear having to adapt to Bolivian mice”).

So why should any of this matter to students of law and religion? Because human rights are indivisible, that’s why: and if people are going to attack the ECHR they should at least do so on the basis of fact, not merely by repeating their own self-generated urban myths.


[1] Or “Hail Mary, ever Blessed, Of Walsingham the Queen”. [Walsingham Way , Pilgrim records].

[2] Composed in 1581, and based upon a chanson by Clemens non Papa. [Masses for Five Voices, Naxos].

1 thought on “Religion and Law round up – 5th May

  1. Re music at funerals, my intention is that when I’m cremated they’ll play Malcolm Arnold’s setting of Boney was a Warrior – you can hear it here: starts at 2’17”. No religious content whatsoever.

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