Religion and law round up – 29th September

Women bishops and “taint”, an unfair dismissal case, another case about reinterment and yet more on Richard III

The Church of Ireland’s first woman bishop

Last week came the news that the Revd Pat Storey is to be consecrated by the Church of Ireland as the first female Anglican bishop in the UK and Ireland. In response, Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal and Vicar of St Paul’s, Winchmore Hill, contributed a guest post pointing out that deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy under the law applying to the Church of England.

That means that the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England. – which leads Dr Adam to suggest that, though there may be public policy reasons why the bishops of the Church of England might decide not to delegate any of their episcopal functions to a woman bishop from the Church of Ireland, it is difficult to see how they could prevent deacons and priests ordained by her from ministering in their dioceses and generated discussion on this and a number of other blogs.

So much for “taint“. And all very interesting (if you’re an Anglican) – so much so that Will’s post has had over 500 page-views

More news on bishops

During the past week Thinking Anglicans has provided a number of useful updates concerning the Church of England episcopate:

  • Schedule for the meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission at which appointments to vacant Sees will be discussed, including: Bath and Wells; Leeds; Exeter; Hereford; and Liverpool.

In addition, this week the Church of South India elected its first women to the episcopate.

Yet another persecuted Christian? – perhaps not

We reported the case of Dr David Drew, a paediatric consultant working in a multicultural and multi-faith department, whose habit of using overtly Christian references in e-mails to his colleagues allegedly irritated them so much that it led to his eventual dismissal. In Drew v Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust [2013] UKEAT 0378 12 2009 the EAT dismissed his appeal, concluding that the lower tribunal had used the correct comparator and that its conclusion that he had not been unfairly dismissed was neither perverse nor based on an error of law. Earlier reports suggested that Dr Drew was considering a further appeal but he later told the Wolverhampton Express & Star that he was calling it a day.

Perhaps the most sensible comment on the case was by Chris Hadrill, a member of the employment team at Redmans Solicitors, Richmond, who suggested that the case “shows how grievances at work can escalate and can cause the employment relationship to become fundamentally toxic”.

Richard III – the inside story

The details of Leicester Cathedral’s submission to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England concerning the necessary changes to the fabric that will be required for the re-interment of King Richard III, were published this week, here, and here. The technical details of the interment are:

– Richard III’s bones will be placed in a small lead ossuary, minimising the air around them, completely sealed, and if necessary, protected with inert material;

– The ossuary will be securely placed within a normal sized oak or elm coffin, which will sit within a brick vault on spacers to keep it off the floor and allow air movement;

– The vault will be formed within the floor of the chancel, sufficiently big to have some space around the coffin, and covered by a tombstone, which will physically close the vault.

It is anticipated that the thermal inertia of the ground will maintain an environment of relatively constant temperature and humidity, and the ossuary, coffin and vault will further moderate any changes in the environment to maintain a stable and safe environment for the remains.

Religion and the judiciary

Owen Bowcott reports in The Guardian  that ahead of the beginning of the new legal year on 1 October Peter Fisher, until recently a civil servant in the MoJ, and John Butcher, a Conservative member of Elmbridge Borough Council, have written to the Secretary of State for Justice calling for the abolition of the service in Westminster Abbey that traditionally precedes the annual Lord Chancellor’s Breakfast on the grounds that it

“prejudices judicial decisions on religious matters … The judge trying such a case is placed in a difficult position if [he or she] has attended the judges’ service [and] may appear to have prejudged the religious issue by publicly appearing to support particular beliefs.”

They also note the controversy surrounding the Scottish practice of holding two judges’ services at the start of the legal year – the Kirking of the Court at St Giles and the Roman Catholic “red mass” (red for a votive mass of the Holy Spirit) – about which the National Secular Society has complained that judges’ attendance may not be in accordance with the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary.

Strange how times change: maybe it’s the Zeitgeist. During the events leading up to the Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843 one of the leading Evangelicals in the Kirk was Lord Moncreiff, who became a Senator of the College of Justice in 1829 but continued to attend the General Assembly of the Church and was one of the prime movers behind the Assembly’s Veto Act of 1834 against patronage. The Veto Act was duly struck down – by the Court of Session – and at the Disruption Moncreiff joined the Free Kirk. And no-one seemed to think any of this at all odd.

Reinterment for reburial – the presumption of permanence

In Re Ivy Gertrude Brisbane deceased [2013] Lincoln Cons Ct (Mark Bishop Ch.), a faculty was refused for the exhumation of the cremated remains of Mrs Brisbane, where almost 28 years ago she was buried with her parents in a family grave in the churchyard of St Peter’s Foston, Lincolnshire, and their reinterment in All Saints’ Church, Beeston Regis, Norfolk, where her husband was buried in 2012. The initial decision to bury Mrs Brisbane at St Peter’s was made by her sister Eileen since Mr Brisbane, the Petitioners’ father, was in no fit emotional state to make a considered decision about the burial of his wife’s remains. As time went by, Mr Brisbane became distressed with the decision made by Eileen, although she would not agree to the removal of the remains to Norfolk where he lived, about 100 miles away.

The Chancellor considered the facts in the light of the note prepared by the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, then Bishop of Stafford, on the theology of burial [1] and the associated decision of the Court of Arches in relation to Re Blagdon Cemetery. In refusing the application the Chancellor noted that almost 27 years had elapsed since the interment, during which no application was made by Mr Brisbane, notwithstanding requests by his family that he should do so, and that any distress that Mr Brisbane had experienced during his lifetime regarding his late wife’s ashes were no longer relevant following his death.

The opportunity to reunite the ashes of both parents in the Foston family grave was not made in 2012, and consequently, there would be no greater economic use of land by granting the application. Whilst some existing family members were in favour of exhumation, one close member, Mrs Brisbane’s sister, remained opposed to that during her lifetime.

Finally, he noted that an application to exhume based on seeking to achieve what a deceased partner wanted in his life, but yet took no steps himself to achieve, was a significantly weaker than one made by that partner during his lifetime; and the convenience of existing family members in visiting a parental grave was not a reason to displace the presumption of permanence.

And finally…

The BBC News Magazine is running a fascinating piece on Cookisto, an idea which has spread from Greece. Home cooks produce extra helpings of the food they are preparing that day, upload details of the dishes online, then wait for people from their locality to order portions for that evening’s supper. In Athens the price of a portion is usually between three and four euros (£2.50 to £3.40); and the Greek website has attracted 12,000 cooks in the last few months. It presses all the right buttons: sharing, community, frugality, good stewardship, avoiding waste…

What attracted Frank’s interest, as a pretty serious day-to-day cook, was the news that Cookisto is coming to London. Then, as a veteran of the Great Jam-jar Controversy the horrible thought occurred, “Er, but what about the Food Hygiene Regulations? Or liability if someone ends up with food-poisoning?” So we’re sorry to disappoint prospective customers, but L&RUK will not be cooking extra portions of venison casserole with herb dumplings and red cabbage any time soon.


[1]  An extended form of the Note is published as: C Hill, “A Note on the theology of burial in relation to some contemporary questions”, (2004) 7 Ecc Law Soc (35) 447

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