Our blog stats indicated great interest in the second report from Sir Philip Mawer, the Church of England’s Independent Reviewer. Elsewhere, however, it’s the silly season…
Beneficed clergy appointments
On 10 August 2015, the Church of England’s Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer, issued his second report on following a letter from Dr Colin Podmore, Director of Forward in Faith, enclosing an expression of concern about the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration in respect of the Parish of All Saints, Cheltenham in the Diocese of Gloucester. As with his earlier report on 31 July, the grievance was not raised following the passing of an appropriate resolution by the PCC of the parish concerned, as was intention of the Regulation, but was considered to be within the vires of the Independent Reviewer as it raised issues of general application, here “not only legal issues about the authorization of assistant clergy in multi-parish benefices but potentially also an important question of principle concerning the need for clarity in relation to how such authorizations are granted.”
In addition to recommending a review of the licences of the two NSMs concerned, the report clarifies the position in relation to Resolutions A and B. It also outlines a procedure in relation to the appointment of a woman to minister otherwise than as a member of the team in a multi-parish benefice in which one or more parishes has, or is deemed to have, passed the resolution set out in paragraph 20 of the House of Bishops’ Declaration.
More on invasive autopsies
BAILII posted the judgment of 2014 in R (Goldstein) v Her Majesty’s Coroner for Inner London District Greater London  EWHC 3889 (Admin), in which Mitting J and HHJ Peter Thornton, the Chief Coroner, considered the issue of religious objections to invasive autopsies. We are still hoping to see a transcript of their recent judgment in Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London  EWHC (Admin), in the hope of producing a comprehensive post on the issue. Failing that, however, we shall post a note on Goldstein on its own.
Piskies bless same-sex marriage
The Dundee Courier reported an historic moment in the movement towards the recognition of same-sex marriages by the Scottish Episcopal Church, when after their marriage in the Dundee register office, a service of blessing was held for Paul Hastie and Steven Gray in St Paul’s Cathedral. [See Kennedy Fraser’s comment, below].The Church has not yet agreed to solemnise same-sex marriages but on 12 June 2015, its General Synod voted to start a process that could allow same-sex couples to be married in church: it instructed the Church’s Faith and Order Board to begin the two-year process which may lead towards canonical change that would potentially allow the marriage of same-gendered couples in Church in late 2017.
Another PTO to be withdrawn
Within the UK, however, the Church of England took a step backwards when Jeremy Timm, the new National Coordinator at Changing Attitude, announced that his Permission to Officiate (PTO) as a reader in the Howden Team Ministry will be withdrawn “with immediate effect” when he and his partner change the status of their relationship from civil partnership to marriage. This decision by the Archbishop of York was received with surprise by many since this appears to be the first occasion on which action has been taken against some outside the “three orders of Ministry” outlined the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, issued earlier this year. Ironically, since Jeremy Timm and his partner are currently in a civil partnership, on conversion to a marriage, they will be deemed in law to have been married since the date of the civil partnership in 2009.
Self-starvation as suicide?
According to a report in the Calcutta Telegraph, the Rajasthan High Court has held that Santhara, the traditional Jain practice of starving oneself to death in order to attain salvation, is suicide and that s 306 (abetting of suicide) and s 309 (attempted suicide) of the Indian Penal Code therefore apply to the practice. The court said in part that the respondents had failed to establish that Santhara was “an essential religious practice without which the following of Jain religion is not permissible”.
According to report, the petitioner who filed the suit claimed that Santhara was “a way devised by the family to get rid of the economic burden of caring for its elderly”. Jain organisations have said that they will appeal.
With thanks to Religion Clause for the lead.
Wedding cakes and same-sex couples, US-style
As we await the result of the appeal in Ashers Bakery, an appellate court in Colorado has handed down judgment in a rather similar case.
In Craig v Masterpiece Cakeshop Inc. CO App Aug 13 2015 the court upheld the decision of the state’s Civil Rights Commission that a bakery’s refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple violated Colorado’s public accommodation law and that the Commission’s “cease and desist” order did not infringe the bakery owner’s free exercise or free speech rights. The court rejected the bakery’s claim that its refusal to create the cake was “because of” its opposition to same-sex marriage rather than because of its opposition to the plaintiffs’ sexual orientation, holding that because same-sex marriage was entered into only (or predominantly) by gays, lesbians and bisexuals, the conduct could not be divorced from status. The free speech issue was not “sufficiently expressive to warrant First Amendment protections”, while the “cease and desist” order did not violate the Christian owner’s free exercise rights under the state and federal constitutions because the Colorado Law Against Discrimination was a neutral law of general applicability.
With thanks – again – to Religion Clause.
Graveyards as recreation grounds
This week the BBC’s Magazine reported the apparent row about a fitness club owned by former British Olympic athlete Daley Thompson holding part of an exercise class in Putney Old Burial Ground in south-west London. David, whose running regularly takes him through churchyards in Oxfordshire, tried to bring a little black-letter law to bear on the problem, here.
- Huffington Post: Freedom of Religion or Belief Is the Most Basic Right of All, It Affects Us All, And It Is Under Increasing Threat Worldwide: Benedict Rogers, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, explain why.
- Civil Society reports that last year the Charity Commission had open cases and inquiries about 379 religious charities, of which 153 were Christian and 85 were Muslim, according to the Commission’s own statistics published this week. The figures, covering open cases for the year to 31 March 2015, include both operational compliance cases and statutory inquiries. Which is hardly surprising, given that there are massively more Christian charities than Muslim ones: about 16,000 Church of England PCCs just for a start.
- Rightsinfo: The European Court of Human Rights uncovered: utterly brilliant infographic on the statistics of cases before the ECtHR – the bottom line of which is that the UK was found to have violated the Convention in just one per cent of cases that made it to a full hearing.
- House of Commons Library: The voluntary sector and the Big Society. This note provides further background to the Big Society; the role of the voluntary and community sector; some of the Government’s initiatives; and a selection of comment. A January 2015 “Big Society Audit” by Civil Exchange argued that while there had been some “genuinely positive initiatives”, the Big Society had not reached those who needed it most – those with least power and influence. The Cabinet Office replied that the Civil Exchange report did not fairly reflect “the significant progress made” on initiatives such as the National Citizen Service, Big Society Capital, public service mutuals and asset transfer to the sector.
- Church of England: Psalms on the go – CofE launches new mobile app. New App launched by Church House Publishing on 11 August.
And finally …
… is the Pope a Catholic? Not according to the Credo column in The Times, which on 8 August described Karol Wojtyła as “the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years.” However, Correction and Clarifications on 11 August stated “This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian’. We apologise for the error”. Oops.
With thanks to Rachel Caldin for the lead