Law and religion round-up – 17th April

A week during which names seem to have been a recurring theme…

Are there limits to what a parent can name a child?

“Yes!” said the Court of Appeal, in a very complex judgment of which this is only a very brief taster. The twins in C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 374 “were said to have been conceived as a result of rape and there [was] no known respondent father” [4]. Their mother, who has a long-standing diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia [5], wanted to call the boy “Preacher” (which she described as “a strong spiritual name”) and the girl “Cyanide” (which she described as “a lovely pretty name”) [12].

The Court was having none of it and dismissed the appeal from the Family Court. King LJ concluded that this was “one of those rare cases where the court, in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction, should intervene to protect the girl twin from the emotional harm that I am satisfied she would suffer if called ‘Cyanide'” [109]. She concluded that, though there was nothing inherently objectionable about the name “Preacher”, “the girl twin’s welfare can only met by neither she nor her brother having the names chosen for them by their mother” [115]. And quite right too.

New Lord Justice Clerk

Lady Dorrian is to be the new Lord Justice Clerk in succession to Lord Carloway, who recently became Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session. In case the Scots judiciary is not your starter for ten, we should perhaps explain that the Lord Justice Clerk is the second most senior judge in Scotland and presides over the Second Division of the Inner House (the appeal division) of the Court of Session. Whether Lady Dorrian will be styled “Lady Justice Clerk” remains to be seen.

Scientologists in Belgium: no further proceedings

On 13 March we reported that the Tribunal de Première Instance Francophone de Bruxelles had thrown out the prosecution of the Church of Scientology Belgium for a series of alleged criminal activities, including being a criminal organisation, fraud, illegal practice of medicine, violation of privacy and extortion. The presiding judge, Yves Régimont, had been fairly critical of the decision to prosecute; and De Standaard now reports that there is to be no appeal against the acquittal. Thierry Werts, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said: “We have neither the capacity nor the resources”. [Thanks to Jonny Jacobsen]

Italian regional “anti-mosques law” declared unconstitutional

Lombardy’s Regional Law (n. 2/2015) adopted on 27 January 2015, which established new planning regulations for religious buildings, included a number of preconditions for building places of worship. It applied only to denominations other than the Roman Catholic Church and, it was felt, bore particularly harshly on Muslims. The Regional Government argued that the regulation originated directly from the constitutional principles of laicità and freedom of religion.

The Corte Costituzionale has declared the regional law unconstitutional. There is to be no discrimination in matters of religion between denominations that have an agreement [intesa] with the State and those that have not. Opening a place of worship is an expression of religious freedom and cannot, therefore, depend on any prior agreement. Giancarlo Anello has an interesting post on the judgment on Verfassungsblog.

Church of Norway votes for same-sex marriage

On Monday the Synod of the Church of Norway voted in favour of providing a liturgy for church wedding of same-sex couples. The Bishops’ Conference had presented a proposal to the Synod and 88 of the 115 members voted to approve it. The new liturgy will be adopted at the next meeting of Synod in January 2017.


… or for those of us with more time, Amoris Laetitia – Too Long, Didn’t Read? On 12 April, The Catholic Herald carried comment by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith When apostolic exhortations are too long all we are left with is spin, in which he quite plausibly suggested that given the length of Amoris Laetitia, most Roman Catholics would be relying on second-hand readings of the text. He says:

“St Paul’s letter to the Romans is 7,111 words long in the original Greek. It is generally agreed to be the most profound work in Pauline canon. St Augustine constantly reread it, but claimed not to understand it. It has probably caused more theological controversy than any other book in the Bible. Two thousand years after it was written, it is still generating discussion.

Meanwhile, the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia weighs in at 60,000 words or thereabouts. According to Fr Raymond de Souza, this makes Amoris Laetitia the longest document of the Papal Magisterium ever. The encyclicals of St John Paul II, which have been of lasting value to the Church, are long by the standards of his predecessors, but Amoris Laetitia beats all records.”

Fr Lucie-Smith’s comments echo those we made in relation to understanding the Paris Climate Change Agreement following COP21 in December, in which we noted the suggestion that the jargon used in environmental discussions might be putting people off the subject rather than enthusing them, [“the 21st Century equivalent of Latin being recited to the public in church”]. The corollary to this is that very few will have grasped the subtleties of the document and much reliance was placed on the assessment of commentators, few of whom could be regarded as experts.

Whereas for the bulk of the population, the Paris Agreement is but a distant memory, for Roman Catholics a number of the issues raised in AL will be a continuing concern, particularly in view of the various interpretations on its application.

Quick links

  • ECtHR: Factsheets: extremely useful thematic factsheets on the Court’s case-law and pending cases, with latest updates.

And finally…

… to come full circle, what else is in a name? This week we learned that to avoid confusion for people inside and outside the Church of England, after two years being known as the ‘Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales’ the name is to change to the ‘Diocese of Leeds’. Equally, it is probably confusing people inside and outside the Church for the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek and the Rt Revd Christine Hardman to be styled “the Lord Bishop” of Gloucester and of Newcastle respectively. It took six years for Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to be styled “My Lady, Lady Justice Butler-Sloss”; we hope that Bishops Rachel and Christine will not have to wait that long.

On 2 September 2015, the No 10 website announced that “[t]he Venerable Christine Hardman is appointed as Her Majesty’s Bishop in the diocese of Newcastle”. We and others thought this might be a one-off slip, until this week’s Press Release stated: “The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft as Her Majesty’s Bishop of Oxford.” Perhaps the Second Church Estates Commissioner should have a quiet word with No 10’s Press Office?

4 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 17th April

    • I see that the Press Office has amended the announcement which now reads: “The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft for election as Bishop of Oxford”. Likewise, its announcement of 2 September 2015 now reads “The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Christine Hardman for election as Bishop of Newcastle”.
      Perhaps someone had a quiet word.

    • John Henry Newman would no doubt have been right: in his day, bishops were appointed by HM without any further ado. But that was then, and this is now.

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