Religion and law round-up – 27th September

Faculties (& total ignorance), copyright, sharia, toe-curling church music – and that news story: a mixed week

Bishops in the House of Lords

House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30 pm. Bishop Rachel’s details are here. The new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, will take the place vacated by the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, who retires next week after forty years of ministry.

Bishop Christine’s Confirmation of Election Service took place after Evensong at York Minster on 22 September; the Consecration Service will be held on 30 November at York Minster; and the Inauguration Service in the Diocese of Newcastle will be held at St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle on Saturday 12 December.

Further examples of clergy disregard for faculty jurisdiction

The cases reviewed in our September round-up of consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations all contained examples of clergy disregard for the faculty jurisdiction, to a greater or lesser degree, and all involved works under the provisions of an archdeacon’s licence. In Re St Peter & St Paul Bassingbourn [2015] Ely Const Ct, David Etherington Ch temporary changes under an archdeacon’s licence resulted in “Heath Robinson” arrangements for screen and projector, the latter “[sitting] on a dinner tray set on top of a temporary board placed on top of the pews”, and poor electrical installation for which “a hole cut in the Rood Screen with exposed cabling [was] but one example”.

A strong message was sent by Chancellor Mark Hill QC to the diocese in the judgment Re St Thomas Sutton-in-Craven [2015] West Yorkshire & The Dales Const Ct Mark Hill Ch, which concluded:

“This judgment is disproportionately lengthy for what is a relatively straightforward petition. It has thrown up several procedural matters, the exploration of which may not have been dispositive, but they have been addressed and explained as way marks in the legal landscape in which the consistory court of the newly-formed diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales must operate, in common with every other diocese in the Church of England.”

Complete disregard for the faculty jurisdiction resulted in a censure for the priest and PCC in Re St Bartholomew Kirby Muxloe [2015] Leicester Const Ct David Rees Dep Ch but as in the other cases, one wonders whether these situations would have arisen had there been the “rigorous enforcement … expected from archdeacons.”


Coincident with David handing over his PCC copyright responsibilities this week was the news from the US District Court in California in relation to the song frequently sung, impromptu, at the end of Mass and on all sorts of other ecclesiastical occasion, “Happy Birthday”: see Rupa Marya et al v Warner Chappell Music Inc, et al US Dist CV04460 (CD Cal) 2015. As Jack of Kent points out,

“The court ruled that Warner Chappell could not establish that it had copyright in the lyrics to the song. (The parties agreed that the melody was already public domain, and so the judge did not decide that point either, as it was not in contention.)

What the court did not decide (and was careful not to decide) was whether the lyrics were ‘public domain’. The judgment left open the possibility – perhaps a theoretical one – that somebody somewhere had copyright in the lyrics.”

Government review of sharia

Readers may recall that before the general election the Government announced that it proposed to carry out a review of the operation of sharia tribunals. The issue seemed to have gone quiet; and the Bishop of St Albans asked about progress. He got the following Written Answer from Lord Bates, Minister of State at the Home Office, on Thursday:

Sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way. That is why, as part of the forthcoming Counter-Extremism Strategy, Government will commission a full, independent investigation to assess to what extent sharia is being applied in a manner that is unacceptable. The review will commence following the appointment of an independent chair. The Terms of Reference for the review and its duration will be determined at that point. We will act on any evidence of its application which is outside of the law.”

Two views of L&R blogging

We often liken blogging on law and religion to writing on “the graffiti wall of death”, since after pressing “publish” our views are instantly accessible for comment worldwide – and if we make a mess of something, someone will let us know pdq. It was therefore interesting to see that on 22 September Dr Ed Peters wrote on his FaceBook page:

“Sometimes I feel like a canary in a canonical coal mine. I do react strongly to some things others don’t even notice. Problem is, the poor canary is usually dead before others realize it’s maybe time to save some lives. Oh well, back to the cage.”

Dr Peters is a world-acknowledged expert on Roman Catholic canon law whose Twitter profile shows that whereas he has 3,884 followers, he only follows one: Papa Franciscus@Pontifex_ln. With the broader coverage of L&RUK, it is necessary for us to keep track of developments over a wider range of issues: we currently have 792 Twitter followers and follow 69. However, our expertise, such as it is, is necessarily spread more thinly, and we always welcome comments and offers of guest posts particularly from experts working outwith our “comfort zone”. So Ed Peters’ metaphor certainly has a very strong resonance for us.

Quick links

  • Faculty of Advocates & Bar Council of England and Wales: Is the European Convention Working? Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve’s Rule of Law Lecture answers the question with a resounding “yes”, describing the ECHR as “arguably the single most important legal and political instrument for promoting human rights on our planet”. A must-read.
  • Ian Paul, Psephizo: Synod, representation and gender: Diocese-by-diocese analysis of the candidates standing for General Synod, on which Ian notes: “… the most striking thing about these numbers is the low representation of women, particularly for the House of Clergy. There are nearly three times as many men standing as women (299 to 99) and five dioceses have no women standing at all, (Bristol, Ely, Portsmouth, Sodor and Man and Southwell and Nottingham)”. Overall there are 2.24 clergy candidates per place and 2.48 lay.
  • Damian Thompson, Catholic Herald: Can a great composer revive a tone-deaf Church? “In the 1960s, everything except the deposit of faith was updated. … New churches were vaguely modernist, suburban rather than striking. “Folk Masses” were a hybrid of deracinated folk and rock music, with a few nods in the direction of chant … This aesthetic, uninspiring to begin with, quickly dated. But the hierarchy didn’t notice, or care, because it was controlled by committees whose tone deafness extended to language as well as music. Despite some improvements to the liturgy, that is still the case”. This is not an issue on which an Anglican or a Quaker can offer any insights, particularly since both of us have a strong preference for “Byrd over Bernadette Farrell”. [Except, points out Frank, that Anglicans are by no means innocent bystanders: one of the first “Folk Masses” was written by Fr Geoffrey Beaumont CR and it was immensely popular in the 1960s – though he could never understand why.]
  • OUPblog, Beyond the ‘God Wars’: Anna Strhan and Lois Lee on the degree of common ground between religious and nonreligious people and groups – even when they’re at odds.

And finally …

… Offensa cujus nominatio crimen est

The issues surrounding this week’s Cameron/Ashcroft story are peripheral to L&RUK and the associated legal aspects are a bit of a non-story. But here they are: Ed Peters pointed out in an earlier post that although the specificity within the Pio-Benedictine Code has been removed [1917 CIC 2359], “such conduct by a cleric would still be punishable under Canon 1395 [1983 CIC] … even though it is not expressly named in the canon. But bestiality is not a canonical crime for lay persons—any more than pimping or producing pornography is.”

Likewise, writing in The Independent, Myles Jackman has suggested that the alleged act would not be contrary to secular provisions: ss 69, 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, s 63 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 or the common law offence of outraging public decency, unless it was “committed in a place accessible to or within view of the public.”

Err, that’s it; neither the RC Church nor the state can touch you for it, unless you’re  cleric or one fails to draw the blinds. However, the possibility of using the issue as a spoiler to the Conservative Party Conference raises a Catch-22 situation in relation to the provision of documentary proof, should it exist: the offence under s 63 of the 2008 Act relates to the possession of the alleged image; it does not extend to its production.

3 thoughts on “Religion and law round-up – 27th September

  1. Pingback: Church music, Vatican II and the Council of Trent | Law & Religion UK

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