Law and religion round-up – 12th June [repost]

A mixed bag: same-sex marriage & the SEC, abortion (or its absence) in Ireland, religion in UK schools, the start of Ramadan – and its effect on soft drinks sales… 

The Scottish Episcopal Church and marriage

On Friday, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church gave the first reading to the proposal to amend s 1 of its Canon 31 (of the solemnization of holy matrimony) “to remove from the Canon the doctrinal statement regarding marriage that marriage is to be understood as a union ‘of one man and one woman’.” The proposed change will now be sent down to the dioceses for discussion and will return to the Synod in 2017, when it will require a two-thirds majority in all three Houses to obtain a second reading. For a full report, see Thinking Anglicans.

The Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion

The afternoon business of General Synod on 9 June 2016 began with a presentation from The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Primus, on the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in January, on which we commented here. The Primus made a number of observations on the operation of the Communion and the actions of its some of its members; he stated:

“I believe that the Primates Meeting has acted beyond its powers. That is not an issue about Human Sexuality but about Anglican polity and governance.  Some of us now – but all of us eventually – will have to address issues of human sexuality.  To adopt a sanctions-based approach to the internal discipline of the Anglican Communion – when we have already rejected the Anglican Covenant – seems to me to be a real pity”.

He described “different understandings of collegiality and leadership”: “the Primates [had] agreed to ‘walk together’, although some almost immediately … walked away; and “the American Church has put its autonomy ahead of catholicity”. These actions were further reinforced by an offer of the Gafcon UK Panel of Bishops on 11 June “to provide alternative episcopal oversight [to Scottish Anglicans], and thereby your recognition as faithful Anglicans by the worldwide Gafcon movement, which represents the majority of Anglicans worldwide”.

Ireland’s stance on abortion

The UN Human Rights Committee has held that Ms Amanda Mellet’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were violated by her having to travel outside Ireland for an abortion in a situation of fatal foetal abnormality.

The Government argued that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution represented “the profound moral choices of the Irish people” but also noted that Ireland had acknowledged the right of its citizens to travel to other jurisdictions to obtain a termination – so there wasn’t really any problem. The Committee, however, was unimpressed: for further details, see the posts by Fiona de Londras and Máiréad Enright on Human Rights in Ireland.

Religion in schools in the UK

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland [download here], in which it is critical of compulsory religious worship in state schools. More on the report later this week.

Ramadan 2016

Monday 6 June 2016 marked the commencement of Ramadan 1437 Hijri and details of the timetable in various UK cities are given in the Ramadan.UK web pages. The observance of Ramadan and its start and end dates is dependent upon the sighting of the moon and is therefore location-specific; the timetable applicable for London, provided by the East London Mosque, is here. The BBC notes that, in terms of fasting, this will be the “longest” for 33 years because the holy month coincides with the summer solstice, i.e. longer days of fasting.

One news item that has not been covered widely is that after decades of disputes over when to observe religious holidays in the Islamic world, the International Hijri Calendar Union Congress in Istanbul concluded on 30 May 2016 with an agreement to adopt a single Islamic lunar calendar. The event, hosted by Turkey’s state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), considered two proposals in the end: a single calendar; or a dual calendar system with a separate calendar for the western hemisphere or specifically, for Muslims in North and South America. Although the problem has not been solved in its entirety, the agreement is a first step; and DİB officials were reported to be pleased “to see scholars from around the world agree with them on ‘a right decision’ for calendar unity”.

The week in the ECtHR

Judgment was handed down in four cases of interest: Enver Aydemir v Turkey [2016] ECHR 490 was about conscientious objection to military service for political reasons, on which we posted separately. We also posted on Chapin and Charpentier v France [2016] ECHR, a somewhat inconclusive judgment on same-sex marriage. As to the others:

  • In RBAB & Ors v The Netherlands [2016] ECHR 492 the Third Section held that there was no real risk of a girl or woman being subjected to FGM in Sudan. Whether a girl or young woman would be subjected to FGM was mainly a matter of parental choice. With that in mind, the Court did not believe that the applicants would be exposed to a real risk of FGM if returned to Sudan and, accordingly, their removal would not give rise to a violation of Article 3 ECHR.
  • In CICAD v Switzerland [2016] ECHR 495 the applicant association, Coordination Intercommunautaire Contre l’Antisémitisme et la Diffamation, complained that civil sanctions imposed on it for describing as anti-Semitic the views of Professor William Ossipow, as expressed in Israël et l’autre, had violated its right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR. The Third Section concluded that there had been no such violation: the reasons given by the Swiss courts to justify the interference with CICAD’s right to freedom of expression were “relevant and sufficient” for the purposes of Article 10 §2: application dismissed.

Church of England ministry statistics 2015

This week we cross-posted Do we have enough vicars?: Ian Paul’s post, with additional comments by Peter Ould, from his Psephizo blog. Ian points out that one of the most notable issues, absent in other reports, is the distribution of older clergy across dioceses, and that those with the greatest numbers are likely to face some serious challenges in the next 5 to 10 years; the proportion of clergy aged over 60 varies from 9% in Bristol to 41% in Canterbury.

We suspect that this is a situation faced by most if not all of the “traditional” Churches. The Church of Scotland, for example, has about 900 ministers in active service. According to the Kirk’s Ministries Council, there are currently 30 candidates in training for full-time ministry and 12 trainee OLMs. Its clergy normally retire at 65, not at 70 as in the C of E; and the report of the Ministries Council to the 2016 General Assembly pointed out that by 2010, “well over 80% of Church of Scotland parish ministers were over the age of 50, with more than 600 due to retire by 2025” [1.2.2.2].

In Renewal and Reform – why vocations are important, William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, commented on the C of E statistics as follows:

“Even assuming we achieve the aspiration to increase vocations by 50%, this means that the total number of stipendiaries will continue to fall for a number of years before starting to rise again. Getting back up to the present 8,000, say, will depend not just on more vocations, but on the age profile of ordinands and of retirements.

Of course, having more clergy – or ‘enough’ clergy – isn’t sufficient to turn us into a hopeful, growing church. The last time we had 9,000 clergy, in 2004, we were on a path of decline. There is no right number for how many clergy England needs. Though note that in 2004 the population of England was 50 million, whereas in 2030 it is projected to be over 60 million. We will need enough clergy to maintain our mission of being available for all the people of England, in every place”.

Regius Professorships

On 6 June, the Cabinet Office announced that Her Majesty the Queen will honour twelve of the UK’s leading universities by creating Regius Professorships as part of her 90th birthday celebrations. The new Regius Chairs were included in the 2015 Budget Productivity Plan and ”will celebrate the increasingly important role of academic research in driving growth and improving productivity over the past 90 years”. It is therefore unsurprising that canon law does not feature in the recent announcement.

However, two Regius Professorships underpinning the present teaching of canon law were created by Henry VIII; in 1540 he created Regius Professorships in Civil Law at the two universities, following the visitation of Richard Layton and John Tregonwell to Oxford, and Thomas Legh and John ap Rice (or Price) in September and October 1535, respectively. In a letter to Thomas Cromwell following his visit to Oxford, Layton indicated that lectures on canon law had been replaced with lectures on the civil law in every college, hall, and inn; the canon law school had been closed down; and he had confronted the students from religious orders and forbidden them to enter taverns and have women ‘within the gates and much less within their chamber’ [see: F D Logan, “The First Royal Visitation of the English Universities, 1535”, [1991] English Historical Review 861-888].

This set the scene for the next 450 or so years until Cardiff University introduced the LLM Canon Law in 1991, which was the first degree of its type at a British university since the Reformation.

[Frank did wonder about the new Regius Chair of Precision Medicine at Glasgow – as opposed, presumably, to the DrugsULike Chair of Just Dishing Out Pills.]

Quick links

  • Lord Sumption JSC: Family law at a distance: in which he suggests that “legal specialisations are essentially bogus” and that “law is, or at least should be, a coherent system” to which judges and advocates apply a range of common techniques such as statutory construction and the interpretation of case-law. All of which leads us to ask ourselves, “So how bogus is ‘law and religion’?” – maybe something for a future post…
  • Strasbourg Observers: S.A.S. v France as a problematic precedent: Eva Brems on the dangers inherent in the ECtHR’s acceptance of the promotion of “living together” as a legitimate ground for restricting fundamental rights.
  • Venice Commission: Rule of Law Checklist: a tool for “an objective, thorough, transparent and equal assessment” of a state’s adherence to the rule of law from the viewpoint of its constitutional and legal structures, its legislation and its case-law.
  • BBC: The mystery of the ‘legal name fraud’ billboards: report of a bizarre outbreak of posters telling the world that it is illegal to use the name you were registered with at birth without permission because it’s Crown Copyright: the perpetrator clearly has more money than sense and seems to know as much about the law as we do about mediaeval Catalan lyric poetry. Warning: may contain nuts.

Topical questions

Mr Vaizey: “… While we are talking about culture, it is important to mark today as the anniversary of the publication of the first Book of Common Prayer by Archbishop Cranmer on 9 June 1569, following the Anglican Church’s break with Europe—I mean Rome!” [09 June 2016 Vol 611 Col 1329].

On being informed that Archbishop Cranmer died in 1555, the Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills tweeted “Slip of the tongue”; perhaps the other slip was a Freudian one.

And finally …

This week The Guardian reported Vimto sales set to surge as Ramadan begins: “[the] Lancastrian cordial has become hugely popular in the Middle East, selling 35M bottles a year with a major spike [in demand] during holy month … Muslims in the Middle East traditionally break their Ramadan fast by eating a date, but these days the date that signals the start of the nightly iftar feast is washed down with an energising glass of Vimto”.

Michael Ainsworth reminds us that Vimto has a long association with abstinence from alcohol and was created in 1908 at 19 Granby Row in the centre of Manchester by (John) Noel Nichols of Blackburn, Lancashire (1883–1966); a wholesaler of herbs, spices and medicines, he saw the market opening for soft drinks due to the temperance movement and the passage of the Licensing Act 1908. Vimto is now manufactured in Derbyshire and Yorkshire on behalf of Vimto Soft Drinks, a division of Nichols plc, and elsewhere under licence.

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