Religion and law round-up – 26th July

Parliament is in recess and cathedral choirs have begun their summer tours. Nevertheless there are plenty “quick links” as a respite from…

Laudato si’…

… which is apparently having a negative impact on the popularity ratings of Pope Francis.

Religion New Service reports that “growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favourability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year. Among conservatives, the drop-off has been especially sharp: Just 45 per cent view Francis favourably today, as opposed to 72 per cent a year ago. The commentator Art Swift has suggested “his decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs.”

Back in the UK, the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environment analyst observes that Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been criticised ahead of a climate speech. Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to lead the world to a climate change deal at a summit in Paris in November, Chancellor George Osborne has announced a slew of policy changes which will increase UK emissions: scrapping of subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar — the two cheapest forms of clean energy; cutting the energy efficiency budget; ending the tax break for clean cars; abolishing rules on zero carbon housing; lowering taxes on polluting firms; and introducing a tax on clean energy.

These measures will impact on the Church of England in relation to measures for the reduction of its own carbon footprint, and also its investment decisions. More widely, critics have said that previously the UK Climate Change Act has been regarded as a world-leading climate policy but that accolade is now seriously in doubt — if a country as rich as the UK finds clean energy unaffordable, what hope is there for most of the rest of the world?

In the courts

There were three important judgments this week:

  • In R (AM) v The General Medical Council [2015] EWHC 2096 (Admin) the Administrative Court considered the tragic case of ‘Martin’, a fifty-year-old man suffering from ‘locked in’ syndrome making his latest attempt to secure a change in the law to enable him to obtain assistance to end his life. Elias LJ (with whom Collins J concurred) dismissed the application: he could see no reason why the GMC had to ameliorate its guidance in order to ensure that the United Kingdom complied with Article 8 ECHR; nor was the guidance Wednesbury unreasonable. We posted on the judgment here.
  • In R (A (A Child) & Anor ) v Secretary of State for Health [2015] EWCA Civ 771 the Court of Appeal upheld the policy of the Secretary of State for Health not to allow free NHS abortions for women who travel to England and Wales from Northern Ireland: further details here.
  • In Oliari & Ors v Italy [2015] ECHR 716 the ECtHR held unanimously that the absence of any provision in Italian law for legal recognition of same-sex partnerships violated Article 8 ECHR (private and family life) – though it was not prepared to go so far as to find a breach of Article 12 (right to marry): summary tomorrow.

Age for marriage

This week Spain raised the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16: before the age was raised, boys and girls could marry at 14 with the permission of a judge. The Government had announced its intention to alter the law in April 2013 and, according to El Pais, there were 365 marriages involving under-16s between 2000 and 2014, with only five in 2014. In the 1990s, however, there were 2,678 marriages involving at least one party under 16, and 12,867 in the 1980s.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) states that, “[t]he betrothal and the marriage of a child have no legal effect” and requires states parties “to specify a minimum age of marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.” As we have observed before:

  • the UN Committees on CEDAW and on the Rights of the Child regularly recommend raising the minimum age for marriage to 18; and
  • we can’t imagine any government in any of the three UK jurisdictions doing so.

Quick links

And finally …

On Thursday, the CofE Daily Digest provided a link to a “light-hearted letter [to The Times] on naming (??) babies with unusual names at Christenings”. Describing the difficulties experienced during baptism services in interpreting some of the more unusual names given by parents a vicar revealed that his most challenging was “Spindonna”. At the last moment he realised the mother was repeatedly saying: “It’s pinned on her.”

2 thoughts on “Religion and law round-up – 26th July

  1. Pingback: “Henry VIII powers” for the bishops? | Law & Religion UK

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