Religion and law round up – 3rd August

It turned out to be a busier week than we’d anticipated, so we decided to post a round-up after all…

Choosing diocesan bishops in the C of E

Our week began with a long guest post by Peter Owen, a former member of General Synod and part of the teams that publish Thinking Anglicans and Anglicans Online, on the process of appointment to vacant sees. It’s a fairly complex process but, as one would expect from a member of the Liverpool Vacancy in See Committee at the time of the last two vacancies, it is both authoritative and a model of clarity.

International Religious Freedom Reports 2013

The US Department of State submitted its annual International Religious Freedom Report to Congress. The Report, submitted pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act 1998, describes the status of religious freedom in every country individually and covers government policies that violate religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals.

One would hope (though probably in vain) that it would make pretty uncomfortable reading for some regimes – but it’s a mine of information for students of law and religion.

Ireland and crucifixes 

On 28 July the Irish Times carried an interesting comment piece by Ronan McCrea of UCL, Kerry County Council crucifix a challenge to religious diversity, about the rather extraordinary decision of Kerry County Council to install a crucifix in its newly-refurbished council chamber. The instigator of the move was Councillor John-Joe Culloty, whose supporters reportedly argued that they were “tired of apologising” for their religion and passed a motion calling for the erection of the crucifix “in light of our Christian faith and the strong Christian values contained within our Constitution”.

Dr McCrea points out that the upshot of the Grand Chamber judgment in Lautsi & Ors v Italy [2011] ECHR 2412 is that no-one has the right not to be exposed to religious symbols with which they may disagree; and in Lautsi the GC held that the presence of the crucifix merely perpetuated a preexisting cultural tradition. However, he feels that Kerry County Council’s decision is quite different because it means that

“… the values of a particular faith would have predominance in an institution meant to make rules for all the people of Kerry. This has nothing to do with tradition or identity, but with the promotion of a particular faith by a State institution. State bodies should not promote Catholicism, Islam or atheism, but be committed to co-existence and equal respect for those of all faiths and none”.

To which there is nothing we can usefully add.

Property matters

We noted the on-going DECC consultation on hydraulic fracturing, the short inquiry by the House of Commons Justice Committee on the abolition of manorial rights and the Private Members’ Bill on the abolition of Chancel Repair Liability. The three are unconnected, as David’s post explains.

Same-sex marriage and conversion of civil partnerships

On 30 July the Lords held a short debate on the operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 arising from an oral Question from Lord (Norman) Fowler (Con). It drifted into a discussion on the attitude of the Church of England to members of its clergy who enter into same-sex marriages.

Earlier in the week the Government withdrew the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations and the Draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) (No. 2) Order 2014 after pressure from the Quakers, inter alia, who objected that the proposal would deny those who wished to convert their civil partnerships from having a proper wedding and a secular marriage certificate.

“Outing” gay bishops?

Paul Johnson, of the University of York, published an interesting piece on the ECHR Sexual Orientation Blogspot asking Do Church of England ‘gay bishops’ have a human right not to be ‘outed’? in response to the news that Peter Tatchell is “considering outing gay C of E bishops who discipline gay clergy who marry”. You can read our take on it here.

The ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban

On a somewhat similar theme, we noted that after the further hearing. In R (Core Issues Trust Ltd) v Transport for London & Anor [2014] EWHC 2628 (Admin) Lang J had dismissed the claim, on the grounds that Boris Johnson, as Mayor, had not exercised his statutory power to issue any written instructions or directions to TfL on the advertisement and TfL made the decision not to run the advertisements. Though Mr Johnson had communicated a strongly-expressed opinion that the advertisements were offensive and should not appear on London buses he was not motivated by the improper purpose of seeking to advance his Mayoral election campaign” [para 143].

Are matters of doctrine justiciable?

We noted the recent Californian decision in Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St Mary of the Angels’ Parish v Anglican Church in America (CA App., July 23, 2014), in which the State Court of Appeal had to decide to what extent a dispute over control of a “continuing Anglican” parish could be resolved “resolved without reference to religious doctrine, and can instead be resolved by application of neutral principles of law”. The court decided that it could  very much in line with the recent Supreme Court judgment in Shergill & Ors v Khaira & Ors [2014] UKSC 33.

Mba v London Borough of Merton UKSC 2014/0031

It has only just come to our notice that leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused on 10 July on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time bearing in mind the facts as found by the Tribunal”.

Quick links

A few links to recent items that readers may wish to follow up:

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