Law and religion round-up – 3rd January

OK: enough of the carols and mince pies: back to work…

… well, after the Epiphany carol service this evening.

New Year Honours

There were two names in the New Year Honours list of particular interest for readers of this blog. William Fittall, who recently retired as Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and General Synod of the Church of England, becomes a Knight Batchelor “for services to the Church of England”, while Professor Malcolm Evans OBE, Professor of Public International Law at Bristol and Chair of the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, is awarded the KCMG for “services to torture prevention and religious freedom”. The Church Times has reviewed the list and identified a number of other recipients associated with the Churches – though the piece fails to mention Malcolm Evans.

The Columba Declaration

On Christmas Eve the Church of Scotland and the Church of England issued a statement announcing that they had reached a historic agreement, the Columba Declaration, on their ecumenical partnership and the groundwork for future joint projects: we posted about it here.

But rejoicing has not been universal. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, appears to have serious doubts about exactly where the agreement leaves his Church in relation to the Church of Scotland, pointing out that “The Church of England is not a Scottish Church nor does it have any jurisdiction in Scotland”. In a further post he calls for a pause in the process and writes of the “deep hurt of the Scottish Episcopal Church” at the way events have unfolded.

Reusing burial space

On 22 December Caroline Dinenage, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, replied to a Written Question by Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) as follows:

“The reuse of burial space is a sensitive issue and any potential changes in this area, including any legislation, would require careful consideration. We have been actively engaging with stakeholders and will consider whether there is a need for government to take action in due course.” [20166]

In short, not much progress since the House of Commons’ Standard Note, Reuse of graves, was updated on 15 May 2014, reiterating its earlier understatement “[t]he reuse of graves has been under consideration for some time as a means of addressing this problem.” (And maybe “stakeholders” is not the happiest word in the context of graves and burials, Mr Stoker.)

New burial ground dispute

On 1 January, the Church Times reported that

“Southwark Council is about to remove thousands of gravestones from the Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, situated on One Tree Hill, a nature reserve in Honor Oak, to make way for a new road and 4800 burial plots. The first 740 were due to be excavated before the end of the year … Diggers are on standby to cut down 12 acres of conserved woodland in south London to make way for new burial plots, despite opposition from residents in the area.”

However, the Council indicates that if it takes no action, burial space in Southwark will run out sometime in early to mid-2017. With regard to Camberwell Old Cemetery, on 7 October 2015 the Council issued a “Notice of Extinguishing Exclusive Rights of Burial under the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1975 CAMBERWELL OLD CEMETERY”, here:

“Under the GLC (General Powers) Act 1975 the London Borough of Southwark has been granted powers to extinguish the rights of burial in any grave which contains sufficient space for not less than one further interment, where such a right has not been exercised for 75 years from the date of the latest interment in the grave or, if there have been no interments from the date of the grant of the right of interment.”

It indicates that for this part of the scheme, twenty four interments would be affected.

Consistory courts

The Dean of Arches announced that, as from 1 January, consistory courts in England would adopt a neutral citation system for judgments: we wonder whether Wales will do the same. The citation is to be added at diocesan level and we will incorporate these in our reviews of new judgments as they become available. Last year we compiled an index of the judgments and related posts for 2015, with links to the relevant reviews. This will be updated as newer reviews are posted.

Lord Carloway to head the Scottish judiciary

On 18 December it was confirmed that Lord Carloway, who has been acting head of the Scottish judiciary since the retirement of Lord Gill last May, has been appointed Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General. He was appointed to the Court of Session in February 2000, was elevated to the Inner House in August 2008 and became Lord Justice Clerk in August 2012.

Peter Ball

Following a Freedom of Information request by The Telegraph, on New Year’s Day the Crown Prosecution Service released several letters written by prominent people in January to March 1993 in support of Peter Ball, who was being investigated for sex offences – for which he received a police caution; he was Bishop of Lewes (1977 to 1992) and Bishop of Gloucester (1992 to 1993). Crockford’s indicates that he was given permission to officiate in the Diocese of Bath and Wells between 2001 and 2010 – a decision which the present bishop of Bath and Wells is reported to have criticized.

Essay competition

The J Reuben Clark Law Society at Brigham Young University has announced its seventh annual Religious Liberty Student Writing Competition. Its purpose is to promote legal and academic studies in the field of religious liberty by law students and students pursuing related graduate studies. Students who have graduated from law school but who are not yet practising law “due to clerkships or other similar pursuits” may also submit papers. Papers must be 9,000-13,000 words, including footnotes, and relate to the topic of domestic or international religious liberty, broadly or narrowly construed. They must be typed, thoroughly cited, presented in a format suitable for publication without additional editing and conform to Bluebook requirements. Papers prepared for academic coursework are permitted.

The closing date is 1 July 2016. Papers should be submitted by e-mail, accompanied by a  current resumé, to (to which questions about submission may be directed) in pdf and/or docx formats. Submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail.

First prize is $4,000: fourth prize is $1,000 – and there’s nothing to suggest that entries from the UK are ineligible for consideration. That’s the good news: the bad news is that prizes will be presented at the Religious Liberty Award Dinner in Washington DC on 6 October 6 2016, so if you win fourth prize it’ll cost you more than that to collect it.

[Thanks to the Center for Law and Religion Forum at St John’s University School of Law]

Summoned by Bells – at last

An uneasy relationship often exists between bellringers and the incumbent. Whilst Canon F 8 states “no bell in any church or chapel shall be rung contrary to the direction of the minister”, in practice no bell in any church or chapel can be rung without a team of ringers. The latter has been the issue at the church of St Mary, Bramshott, where the bells fell silent in June 2013 after plans were unveiled to bring forward services from 11:15 to 09:15 – bells are rung 30 minutes before the service and it was claimed that villagers would be disturbed by the new timing. However, the bellringers ended their two-and-a-half year strike when the service time was put back fifteen minutes to 09:30, and today (3 January) marks the first occasion on which bells will be rung. Those au fait with the nature of village politics might see some logic behind the issue – we couldn’t possibly comment.

Quick links

  • Queen’s Law Research Papers: The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World: an interesting holiday read (particularly for Janeites) from Martha Bailey of Queen’s University Faculty of Law, Kingston, Ontario.
  • Church of England Newspaper: Charity facing closure over bus ad campaign: Mike Davidson, the leader of the Core Issues Trust – the Northern Ireland group that took Transport for London to court over the Mayor of London’s refusal to approve the ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert – stated that action had been taken by the other side for recovery of its costs, which meant all the resources of the charity are now in possession of the Enforcement of Judgements Office; on 10 June 2015 in the Court of Appeal Sullivan LJ had refused leave to appeal further. We posted on this long-running saga here and here.
  • The Living Church: Primatial option for the [Anglican] Covenant: “Something very much like the Covenant remains … ‘the only game in town’ (originally said of The Windsor Report), for the simple reason that it delivers a synthesis of Anglican thinking about the Church wrought as a vision for the future”.

And finally… Matrimonio alla Bolognese?

Notice in the New Zealand Gazette on 10 December certifies that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, aka the Pastafarians, has been approved under the Marriage Act 1955 to nominate persons to solemnise marriages. To qualify under the statute, “one of the principal objects of the organisation” must be “to uphold or promote religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions.” The Registrar-General was satisfied that the Church’s purposes of educating and training people, particularly “atheists and superstitious people”, about Flying Spaghetti principles and practices fulfilled the criteria for recognition. [Thanks to Paul de Mello Jr and Howard Friedman.]

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