Law and religion round-up – 24th April

A fairly quiet week in which President Obama said that the US wouldn’t bail out the UK if it left the EU. But apart from that and a certain 90th birthday …

Religious objection to filing online

This week saw another ruling by the First-tier Tribunal (Tax) on a refusal on ostensibly religious grounds to file his VAT returns electronically. TJ Allatt rejected the appeal in Harvey (T/A Sun Ice Air Conditioning) v Revenue & Customs (VAT – APPEALS: Other) [2016] UKFTT 266 (TC): we noted it here. So far as we are aware, this is the third such appeal in as many years. You wait all that time for an appeal  against online filing and three come along at once…

Railways and the Church

On Monday, we published a guest post by Michael Ainsworth on the law, railways and religion. It was an offer we wouldn’t dream of refusing and, needless to say, it proved extremely popular, with 550+ page views since publication. Which leads us to wonder, what is it about railways that seems to grab the attention of religious folk, especially (so far as we can see) Anglican clergy?  The (quasi-) liturgical colours of the liveries? The ritual complexities of timetables? The desire to be in complete control of something, even if it’s in miniature? (oops, shouldn’t have said that).

Michael’s reference to William McGonagall, poetry’s answer to Florence Foster Jenkins, brings to mind another of his works, The Tragic Death of the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie, a.k.a. “the martyr of St Alban’s (Holborn)”, on account of his prosecution and forced resignation for Ritualist practices. Coincidentally, Mackonochie was a curate at Michael’s former church, St George’s-in-the-East, 1858-62.

At the end of the article, Michael included a mini-quiz, the answers to which we will include in our next round-up. David admits to having an “inside track” on this one, having looked after environmental issues on London Underground for a couple of years, including the Jubilee Line Depot at Stratford Market – another example of  “church and railways”, as this was built upon the site of the Cistercian Stratford Langthorne Abbey (founded 1135); a total of 647 skeletons had to be exhumed before building could commence.

More issues with headstones

Following the refusal of a chancellor to grant a faculty to allow a coloured engraving of Thomas the Tank Engine on a memorial to a three year old child, Re St. Bartholomew Wick [2016] ECC Bri 3, a potentially more sensitive issue has arisen in Re The Churchyard of Quarrington Hill [2016] ECC Dur 1 concerning the installation of memorial including features not mentioned in the memorial application – black stone; gold lettering; a photo plaque; the insignia of a football club; and the club colours (red and white) painted in alternate stripes along the edges of the memorial. Whilst the headstone is clearly in breach of the Churchyard Regulations, of which the petitioner and the monumental mason should have been aware at the time of her application, greater attention to detail by those involved might have precluded the development of the present situation. A number of other graves within the churchyard are in breach of the Regulations.

Faced with the trespass of the unauthorized headstone, the Chancellor directed that the edges of the memorial should be painted black, and the photo plaque should be removed or replaced with an incised, uncoloured portrait. In default of the amendments being made within three months, he directed that the memorial should be removed from the churchyard. However, the petitioner has initiated a local petition for retention in its present form, and has indicated to the media that she would consider moving her son’s body if this is not achieved. This would be very difficult for a court to grant, but an early solution to the present impasse does not appear to be likely and some mediation is clearly required.


Following the announcement on 12 April that the Rt Rev Steven Croft is to be the next bishop of Oxford, we explored the tortuous procedure leading to his enthronement in Oxford Cathedral, and the point at which +Steven Sheffield becomes in law +Steven Oxon:. A follow-up piece on suffragan and associate bishops is in preparation.

Further to our comments in last week’s round-up on the unfortunate phrasing of the announcement by the Press Office at No 10, i.e. “The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft as Her Majesty’s Bishop of Oxford”, we are pleased to announce that not only has this now been corrected, but in addition last year’s announcement on “Her Majesty’s Bishop of Newcastle” has be put into a more acceptable form. So the remaining issue in this area is the style of address of women bishops in the House of Lords, which we suggested might be “The Right Reverend Prelate the Lady Bishop of [Barchester]” – but we aren’t holding our breath.

This week, Blackwell’s Music Shop was promoting the Merton College’s CD which features Patrick Gowers’ Viri Galilaei: “A large-scale work for double choir and two organists (RSCM)” which at one point divides into 18 parts. Since the piece was commissioned for the consecration of Richard Harries as Bishop of Oxford in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1987, we wondered whether there was a connection with last week’s announcement re Bishop Steven as the next Bishop of Oxford. Er … no: the recording marked the 750th Anniversary of Merton College!

Forthcoming Grand Chamber judgment on religious discrimination

On Tuesday, the Grand Chamber will be delivering its judgment in the case of İzzettin Doğan & Ors v Turkey (no. 62649/10), about the domestic authorities’ refusal to provide the applicants, followers of the Alevi faith, with the same religious public service as that provided to the Sunni Muslims. Watch this space.

Quick links

  • Maclay Murray & Spens LLP: Scottish Court IP Jargon: a useful guide to Scots legal terms and their English equivalents – ostensibly on intellectually property law but useful for Scots civil law generally, eg, how do you pronounce “assoilzie”?
  • BBC: Scottish ‘mince’ makes it into Hansard: the above guide would not have assisted the Hansard reporters who queried the adjectival usage of “mince” by SNP MP Kirsty Blackman. We are assured that it is in common usage in Scotland – and it’s now recorded in the Commons Hansard for 14 April.
  • UK FCO: Travel Advice, United States: the FCO cautions: “The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign”.
  • House of Commons Procedure Committee: Private Members’ bills: sweeping proposals to reform the system by which individual MPs can bring in legislation, on which the BBC asks, “Are we about to see the end of the Friday filibuster, and backbench MPs droning bills to death, while their supporters seethe with impotent fury?” Further information is available in the recent Commons Library Briefing Paper.

And finally …

It had to happen. The Guardian reports that the world’s first Pastafarian wedding has been held in New Zealand, where the Government approved the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to conduct legal marriages in 2015. The ceremony was held aboard a reconstruction of a pirate ship. Er, would you like Parmesan with that?

3 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 24th April

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