Religion and law round-up – 12th July

A week dominated by the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings and the Summer Budget, but with a smattering of law and religion news

7/7 remembered

Reports on services held to remember the London bombings a decade ago were summarized in the CofE’s Daily Digest; the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a forward-looking statement linking the events of 7/7 with the much more recent shootings in Tunisia; and a minute’s silence was observed as survivors and relatives of the victims gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral. Notable amongst the blog comments were the 7/7 Reflections of John Valentine, Rector of St George’s Church, Queen Square, one of the few to give a first-hand account of events around the bombings.

Equally poignant were the #WalkTogether trends on Twitter, created by think-tank British Future along with 15 interfaith groups including the Islamic Society of Britain, Amnesty International UK, City Sikhs and St John Ambulance. Commuters were encouraged to finish their journey one stop early and walk the remainder of the way to work. In addition to remembering those killed and injured on 7/7, it was a demonstration of solidarity between commuters, recalling the post-bombing events in which those of us leaving the carnage and darkness of the bombed trains continued on foot in the bright sunlight of a virtually traffic-free London.

On a more analytical level, the British Religion in Numbers post Ten years on summarized seven new pieces of research touching on inter-religious relations in Britain ten years on from the London bombings on 7 July 2005 and in the aftermath of the recent Islamist massacre of British tourists in Tunisia.

The Trinity Western saga continues

On 2 July the Divisional Court of Ontario handed down judgment in Trinity Western University v The Law Society of Upper Canada 2015 ONSC 4250. The Court dismissed the application for judicial review of the Law Society’s decision not to accredit TWU’s law school. The Law Society’s decision did not violate TWU students’ freedom of association or freedom of expression; and while TWU was not subject to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Law Society was subject to it. Although the Law Society’s decision interfered with religious freedom, it ultimately applied a proper balancing of Charter rights and came to a reasonable conclusion:

“In exercising its mandate to advance the cause of justice, to maintain the rule of law and to act in the public interest, the respondent was entitled to balance the applicants’ rights to freedom of religion with the equality rights of its future members, who include members from two historically disadvantaged minorities (LGBTQ persons and women). It was entitled to consider the impact on those equality rights of accrediting TWU’s law school, and thereby appear to give recognition and approval to institutional discrimination against those same minorities. Condoning discrimination can be ever much as harmful as the act of discrimination itself” [116].

Presumably the decision will be appealed.

Sunday trading

In his Summer Budget 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that a consultation would be held on devolving powers on Sunday trading to city mayors and local authorities, which would “look at allowing mayors or councils to extend Sunday trading for additional hours within parameters that they would determine.” By opting for a measure that would influence local rather than national trading hours, this “divide and rule” tactic will have a greater chance of success, although unless accompanied by a rationalization of existing legislation, the situation could become even more complex.

None of this applies to Scotland, where there are no restrictions on Sunday trading – though if you aim to drive around Lewis and Harris on a Sunday it’s a very good idea to fill up on Saturday evening…


In June we considered the investigations that had taken place in Scotland following the Mortonhall inquiry and in England and Wales after events in Shropshire. On Thursday there were important developments in each: prior to a Westminster Hall debate on the subject, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Family Justice, Caroline Dinenage, issued a Written Statement which said that the Government would consult on proposals for a number of changes to the relevant legislation, the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008, later in the year.

In a separate press release the MoJ said that a review would be carried out of the out-of-hours services provided by coroners in England and Wales “to make sure they are sensitive to the needs of the whole community, including those whose beliefs require burials to take place quickly”. At the same time, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that an additional review would be launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government into the adequacy of existing crematorium facilities.

Also on 9 July, the Scottish Government announced the publication of “Responses to consultation on a proposed Bill relating to burial and cremation and other matters in Scotland”. The pdf of the Consultation Report is here and the Consultation Responses here. We will follow with interest the developments in each.

Freedom of Panorama: update

On Thursday the European Parliament rejected the (barmy) proposal by its Legal Affairs Committee to place copyright restrictions on photos of public places, drastically limiting the so-called Freedom of Panorama. As we reported in last week’s round-up, the proposals would have forced members of the public to secure permission from architects or rightsholders before sharing selfies taken in front of architectural landmarks on social media – and, much more serious for bloggers like us and for large numbers of church websites, before posting an image of any building or artwork without prior permission where the designer or creator was still alive or had died within the past 70 years. 502 MEPs voted against the proposals, which were part of a move towards streamlining European-wide copyright law.

The admirable Julia Reda, sole MEP for the Germany Pirate Party, welcomed the fact that the Plenary had removed the offending addition to the text of her original report but warned that:

“… the fact that the attack on freedom of panorama for a time enjoyed the support of a majority demonstrates that many MEPs have yet to fully understand the cultural shift caused by the Internet and its consequences for copyright. Much work remains until we have a European copyright framework fit for the digital age.”

All we can say is, she’s not wrong. But EU intellectual property law is evidently in something of a mess; and we have a suspicion that that is not the end of the matter.

Criminal jurisdiction in the Vatican

The trial of former Archbishop Józef Wesołowski before the Vatican City State criminal tribunal on charges of child abuse was due to begin yesterday. However, at the opening of the trial, the Promoter of Justice announced that the defendant was not present in court as he had been admitted to hospital where he was in the intensive care unit. The Tribunal suspended the trial and postponed it until a later date, awaiting the termination of the cause that has given rise to the postponement.

Neil Addison’s post Vatican City – Trial of Józef Wesołowski explains the complexities introduced as a consequence of Wesołowski’s diplomatic status and his Vatican citizenship, and the aspects of international, civil and ecclesiastical law involved.

Quick links

Okilly-dokilly, neighborinos – Ned is saved!

Whilst most readers will be aware that Eccles is saved, and the character Nedward “Ned” Flanders in The Simpsons sincerely believes he will be saved having “done everything the Bible says — even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!” However, his future and that of other key characters employing the voice of Harry Shearer has been in doubt since the 71-year-old actor announced in May that he was leaving the series after 26 seasons.

Whilst matters have now been resolved and Shearer has been signed up for the 27th series, a problem remains with the so-called “Ned Flanders Effect.” The Daily Telegraph reports that psychologists at Oxford University, the University of Maryland in the US and University of Otago in New Zealand, have found evidence that stereotypes about religious people in secular western countries actively make them seem less attractive to non-believers.

Their study of dating habits suggests “people seen as religious could find it more difficult to attract a partner because of a ‘Ned Flanders’ effect in which they are assumed to be rigid and traditionalist even if they are not”. Perhaps further research is necessary (isn’t it always?) on the truth behind Homer Simpson’s comment “I’m having the best day of my life, and I owe it all to not going to Church!”

And finally … the company bosses who pray

The BBC website carries a report on Chinese real estate giant Tentimes Group, where the board prays before taking important decisions. Chairman Wang Ruoxiong says it’s not he but God running the firm: “He controls everything. I am merely a housekeeper of Jesus, assisting him in taking care of the company,”

Why Our Lord, who drove the money-changers from the Temple, would be particularly interested in Chinese real estate is not entirely clear: #wonkytheology. But it does lend a whole new dimension to manifesting religion in the workplace…

2 thoughts on “Religion and law round-up – 12th July

  1. Company bosses who pray
    It is also interesting that Ruth Kelly, one time Minister of Education in the Bair Administration and member of Opus Dei who opened the way to the creation of hundreds of state funded sectarian schools in England is now “working for God” in the banking industry.

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