Religion and law round-up – 16th August

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 [2014] 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 [2015] 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.

Quick links

  • 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.

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

3 thoughts on “Religion and law round-up – 16th August

  1. I am by nature an optimist, which is as well as only for months after ordination, when I was 47 years old, I received an injury which eventually lead to a major change in my ability to walk, it also left me in constant pain. Anyway to add insult to injury, (pardon the pun) having been forced to retire on medical grounds, I found myself celebrating my 50 birthday then within a month I had the first of eight strokes. All changing me a little each time. But I remain upbeat at 51 years of age even though I cannot longer follow my great passions of walking and cycling. So you would think there was little that could get me down.
    Well there is. This total dysfunctionality within God’s church, this ability to fall out over everything instead of loving and praying for each other. Why do we have to fear what the other person or persons will do next? We all have to acknowledge that we are each destroying God’s plan, we all have to understand that unless we stand by each other regardless of whether we agree with each other Satan wins. This is not to say that we compromise what we believe, but surely in love standing shoulder by shoulder we will find the truth. I am differently abled to the person I once was, or if you prefer in common parlance; I am ‘disabled’; now there are those in my own church the Church of England who would hold that I am like this because I am a great sinner, well yes I am. But I am also a human created in God’s image and God created us all to be ‘Good’ – not perfect.
    Entrenched type Conflict has no place in God’s church, so shame on those who do not see and understand this. We have to move forwards together, instead of this petty childish behaviour that we see when some complain that yes I knew the law then I entered a same sex marriage but now it’s unfair that I cannot minister so I am leaving, don’t go! Stay! We love you, We need you! You must stay and be heard it may be that the Holy Spirit is speaking through you. Or maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking through the Bishop and in time you may hear, but if you leave how will this get sorted, but we still love you. And what about the silly complaints about what a woman bishop might do; or some saying it’s not fair that a woman bishop cannot do this or that. Heaven help us, literally.
    I either walk using two sticks, or on a bad day have to use a wheel chair, now I cannot recall seeing a bishop recently in a wheelchair, with a guide-dog, or even an NSM bishop. I see a lot on the front of the Church Times running around playing cricket, and inside in fine robes meeting royalty. But I am not running around complaining, no, I am staying and praying for God to lead us through this unholy mess. But let us not forget He does answer us through each other, synod, PCC’s etc. the fact we do not like the response is part of our growth in faith should we choose to live and learn by that response. Amen

  2. …an historic moment in the movement towards the recognition of same-sex marriages by the Scottish Episcopal Church..

    This was not the first as can be seen in a reference to Songs of Praise in the recent Inspires Online:

    The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow featured in the BBC’s Songs of Praise programme on Weddings – broadcast on Sunday 26 July. You can see the programme here

    • Thanks, I’ll amend the text. The news item was taken from the Dundee Courier and also reported in Pink News. Also Changing Attitude Scotland tweeted “Article is accurate, headline is misleading[i.e. re: marriage]” dp

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