Religion and law round-up – 23rd August

A very quiet week, dominated by the publication of the McLellan Commission’s report on safeguarding in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland…

McLellan Commission

This week, the Commission chaired by the Very Revd Dr Andrew McLellan CBE, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland from 2002 until 2009 published A Review of the Current Safeguarding Policies, Procedures and Practice within the Catholic Church in Scotland. We posted a summary here.

The Commission was established “to review all aspects of safeguarding policy, procedure and practice within the Catholic Church in Scotland and to make recommendations for improvement that will assist the church in being a safe place for all”. As one might have expected, initial reaction has varied from the welcoming to the critical.

French school lunches and religious observance

Schools in France often offer substitutes for pork to those who have religious objections to eating it; but there is no national rule about that. In 2008 Lyon became the first major city to impose an alternative meatless menu in schools and in recent months several mayors of medium-sized towns have announced their intention to do the same. Recently however, Gilles Platret, the Mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône near Dijon, decided to remove pork substitutes from school menus and his decision was upheld by the local court. He was not the first to do so: in 2014 Marcel Mortreau, Mayor of Sargé-lès-Le Mans, did the same, arguing that his decision accorded with the “principle of Republican neutrality” – laïcité.

Unsurprisingly, given that France is home to western Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, the ruling caused a major outcry; and the New York Times now reports that Yves Jégo, a member of the National Assembly and Mayor of Montereau-Fault-Yonne in Seine-et-Marne, is to introduce a bill next month to oblige schools to serve vegetarian meals in addition to existing menus. “Can we force a Catholic child to eat meat on Good Friday because nothing else is proposed, or a Jew or a Muslim to eat pork?” he asked in an online petition launched last week. Jégo says that the vegetarian alternative is a “quite simple and fully secular solution” to end a “religious dispute” and “allow those who don’t want meat or fish, for whatever reason, to eat a balanced diet.” Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem accused Platret of “taking children hostage”; however, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll criticised Jégo’s proposal as harmful to the French livestock industry – perhaps not unconnected with the fact that there have been major protests by farmers in recent weeks over low pork prices.

A 2011 government order specifies that school menus must be composed of meat, fish or eggs to “ensure sufficient iron and mineral nutrients intakes” — but makes no mention of a meatless option. We suspect that this is not the end of the story.

But has it been commenced?

In Prospective legislation — urban myth and fact, David looked at the problem of unwarranted assumptions about the implications of prospective legislation. It’s a very common mistake to assume that just because an Act of Parliament has been given Royal Assent and published, it’s operative law. Statutes sometimes become law immediately at Royal Assent or on a specified date after it: but complex legislation — particularly where transitional arrangements are needed to avoid creating holes in the administrative road — tends to be brought into operation by one or more commencement orders.

Perhaps the classic example of what might be termed “sleeping legislation” is the Easter Act 1928, s 1 of which provides that “Easter-day shall, in the calendar year next but one after the commencement of this Act and in all subsequent years, be the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April”. Or, there again, maybe not. It still languishes unrepealed on the statute-book, so in some sense it must be “law”. But it has never been commenced  nor, we would guess, will it ever be.

Quick links

  • Office of National Statistics: Baby Names, England and Wales, 2014 and 10 pop culture influences on baby names. Whilst Oliver and Amelia were the most popular first names given to babies born in England and Wales in 2014, when considering spelling variations in the top 100, Mohammed totalled 7,240, compared with Oliver at 6,649. The BBC commented that in 1986, a Chesterfield couple had their daughter “christened with 140 [names]. Even this represented a bit of a climb-down on their behalf as their original list had been 270 names long. The vicar struggled manfully on through the two minutes required to read out her full name, although the child is now known as simply as ‘Tracey etc’”.
  • Church of England: Church of England’s Cathedral Research and Statistics report. These new figures show that more than 10 million people visited cathedrals in England in 2014. Research shows that the highest motivating factors for cathedral attendance were peace and contemplation, worship and music and friendly atmosphere. Further links here.
  • Prospect: Scrapping the Human Rights Act will hurt the UK: Dominic Grieve explains why, in his view, “this unnecessary change will damage the UK’s reputation and undermine the most effective tool in history for promoting human rights”.
  • Writing for Research: How to write a blogpost from your journal article: Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE makes an interesting case for blogging a 1,000-word summary of your latest journal article – potential guest-posters, please note – and also offers some very good advice for writing bog posts generally.

And finally … for once on a serious note

Sadly, this week Neil Addison announced that he was closing his blog because, “over the last year or so the number of cases has reduced even if their importance has increased. Unfortunately a blog which is as intermittent as this one has become is increasingly less and less valuable to its readers”.

Which is a great pity, because Neil has come at issues from a rather different perspective from ours, and there isn’t so much intelligent law and religion comment on the blogosphere that we can afford to lose a serious contributor. He will leave a gap in the coverage of law and religion that we will have difficulty in filling (neither of us being Roman Catholics or barristers), although Neil has indicated to us that he will write the occasional guest post for L&RUK.

3 thoughts on “Religion and law round-up – 23rd August

  1. ONS Baby Names
    If you allow variant forms of names then:
    Henry/Harry/Harrison…………11,165 (stretching a bit)

    All of which exceed the score for Mohammed variants. However, as the ONS only lists the top 100 I cannot claim this as definitive.

  2. Pingback: Pork, school lunches and laïcité in Chalon-sur-Saône | Law & Religion UK

  3. Pingback: Recent queries and comments – 22nd September | Law & Religion UK

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