Law and religion round-up – 17th July

A week of unexpected events, from the premature election of a new Prime Minister to the tragic deaths in Nice and those in the attempted coup in Turkey…

Brexit Basics 4

When it seemed as though there was little else to be said about Brexit and we were contemplating pulling the plug on “Brexit Basics”, the dynamics changed again as a result of the election of Theresa May as Conservative Party Leader on 13 July. The unexpected timing, the subsequent Prime Ministerial appointments in the new government and the proposed rearrangements in Whitehall have added further uncertainty to the proceedings. These will be covered in Brexit Basics 4, to be issued early next week along with the supplement “Brexit means Brexit”, doesn’t it? in which we attempt to throw some light on this question.

The Anglican Church of Canada and same-sex marriage

On Monday the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada appeared to decide by a single vote in the order of clergy not to agree the first stage in amending its Canon on Marriage to permit the solemnisation of same-sex marriages. Or, there again, it didn’t.

In order to pass, the resolution to amend required a two-thirds vote in each order; and after a recount, the Primate, the Rt Revd Fred Hiltz, announced that “It does appear… we did have a 2/3 vote in the order of clergy… A051, amended, is carried”. In a subsequent statement, the General Secretary, The Ven Dr Michael Thompson, explained that the electronic voting system had miscoded his electronic file:

“I was listed, and my vote was counted, as a lay person instead of a priest. This one vote changed the outcome of resolution A051-R2—the resolution to amend the marriage canon. This vote has been difficult for many, and no outcome can address all of our church’s need to live and work together. We have a long road ahead to restore our common life. In the meantime, the whole church has three years to consider and comment on this matter. In 2019, the resolution will come to the General Synod for second reading.”

Bishops in the House of Lords

The e-petition Remove Church of England Bishops from the House of Lords is now closed, having been available for signature for 6 months. It attracted a total of 15,790 signatures and had a “hot spot” of support in the parliamentary constituency of Witney; however, the 61 signatories represented only 0.06% of its constituents. The Cabinet Office response on behalf of government said:

“Changes to the composition of the House of Lords, including Church of England Bishops, are important but, given the very full programme of other constitutional changes, are not a priority at present. The Government has no plans to remove the Church of England Bishops from the House of Lords.

The Government considers that the relationship between the Church and the State in England is an important part of the constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. As senior members of the established Church of England, 26 bishops are appointed to the House of Lords. Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight into the work of the Upper House and while they make no claims to direct representation, they seek to be a voice for all people of faiths. The House of Lords also contains a number of other senior faith representatives.

People have a right to conduct their lives in accordance with their faith insofar as this does not unlawfully interfere with the rights of others and it is important to strike a fair balance between religious freedom of expression and the rights of, for example, lesbian, gay and bisexual people not to be discriminated against. Therefore, the law protects the rights of both these groups. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013, extends marriage to same sex couples in England and Wales, while protecting and promoting religious freedom.”

Caste-based discrimination

On 11 July, a former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, asked what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to combat caste-based discrimination in the United Kingdom, [HL Hansard, 11 July 2016, Vol 774 Col 81]. The National Secular Society summed up the debate: “the Government rebuffed repeated cross-party appeals to legislate specifically to outlaw caste-based discrimination”. In a little more detail, Lord Deben gave a précis of the background [Col 89]:

“ … when we last debated it I was given undertakings by the Government, as a result of which I urged the House not to pass the amendment. The Government told me that if the amendment was not passed they would take measures, do the research and then introduce the changes. I spoke up for the Government on that occasion. The Government lost the debate and have been told by Parliament that they must, by order, introduce this measure by means of secondary legislation. However, the Government are refusing to do that, having promised me that even if we did not pass the measure they would take action”.

Hijabs at work: yes or no?

Last week, Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston issued her opinion in Bougnaoui and ADDH [2016] CJEU C-188/15, a reference by the French Cour de Cassation about an employee who wore a hijab at work. Her opinion appears somewhat to conflict with that of AG Juliane Kokott in Achbita & Anor v G4S Secure Solutions NV [2016] CJEU C-157/15, a reference by the Belgian Cour de Cassation on very similar facts. We note the differences of emphasis here, though we are at a total loss to predict the outcome.

Ad orientem

In an earlier round-up, we carried an item on what appeared to be a literally a 180-degree turn by the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Herald reports that in an interview with the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that the Second Vatican Council did not require priests to celebrate Mass facing the people, and rejected the argument that priests celebrating Mass facing east are turning their backs on the faithful “or against them”. On 11 July, the Holy See Press Office issued the Communiqué: Some clarifications on the celebration of Mass which indicated that:

“It would appear opportune to offer clarification in the light of information circulated in the press after a conference held in London a few days ago by Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of Mass, so as to express appropriately the attitude of respect and adoration for the Eucharistic mystery. Some of his expressions have however been incorrectly interpreted, as if they were intended to announce new indications different to those given so far in the liturgical rules and in the words of the Pope regarding celebration facing the people and the ordinary rite of the Mass.


Therefore, new liturgical directives are not expected from next Advent, as some have incorrectly inferred from some of Cardinal Sarah’s words, and it is better to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform” with reference to the liturgy, given that it may at times give rise to error. All the above was unanimously expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship”.

These different views on which way to turn remind one of Flanders’ and Swann’s song Misalliance.

Annibale Gammarelli

GamarelliOn 14 July, L’Osservatore Romano published the obituary of Commendatore Annibale Gammarelli, who died suddenly on Tuesday. He was the co-owner of the historic firm of ecclesiastical robemakers located in Via di Santa Chiara, near the Pantheon, which is said to be the oldest company in Rome still run by descendants of the founder. In addition to supplying clothes to all the recent Popes from Pius IX onwards, the business has served thousands of priests, and hundreds of bishops and cardinals. The business serves not only the Roman Catholic Church and in the 90s was responsible for craze for wearing red cardinal’s socks, mainly among French tourists following the example of  former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

The Catholic New Agency notes that although Pope Francis eschews much of the “papal tat” worn by his predecessor – the red mozzetta (the papal half-cape of choir dress that buttons in the front and covers the shoulders), the red shoes &c – “Popes typically change their cassocks every couple of months, since the silver cross they wear oxidizes, tending to leave a stain on the white fabric”.

Bro Duncan PBGV, RIP

Whilst on the subject of obituaries, we sadly note the passing of Bro Duncan PBGV, a.k.a Ch. Soletrader Dunc’n Disorderly, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen who, since 2012, has produced a Twitter commentary on all the things Dames Catherine (the Digital Dun) and Lucy (the Quiet Nun) “would love to say but don’t” on the excellent iBenedictines blog. [David and Frank must be content to exchange such thoughts through their daily email correspondence].

Pokémon GO

For those wondering what Pokémon GO has to do with law and religion, this week the Church of England published Why your church needs to know about Pokémon GO; suggesting that “Pokémon Go is … giving churches around the country a great opportunity to meet people from their area who might not normally come to church. However, we all need to be aware that this game means that children under the age of 18 may come into contact with people who may present a risk”. For those, such as David and Frank, who have had little exposure to Pokémon Go, Tallie Proud, the Digital Media Officer, Archbishops’ Council, explains:

“Pokémon GO is a mobile and tablet app game which lets players find Pokémon (Animated creatures, first created in the 90s, which players have to catch, train and battle with). The game takes place in augmented reality (meaning the game combines real life action with virtual gaming) by using GPS as you walk around towns, cities and other locations to find the Pokémon”.

By downloading Pokémon Go onto a mobile or tablet, it is possible to see whether one’s church is a PokéStop or a gym – “you might also spot people standing outside the church on their phones who may be playing the game and at your ‘PokéStop’”. The CofE post continues with suggested possible involvement by churches but acknowledges the advice issued by NSPCC has issued to parents whose children play Pokémon GO and stresses that the first priority as a Church should be to provide a safe place for children and vulnerable adults with regards to Pokémon GO.

The style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man …

Debretts states that “Archbishops and Bishops sign, after a cross, by their Christian names followed by their Province or See, sometimes in Latin, or a Latin abbreviation”, and gives some examples. Wikipedia explains: “Until 1604 the bishops [of Sodor and Man] signed themselves ‘Sodorensis’; from 1604 to 1684, sometimes they used ‘Soderensis’ and sometimes ‘Sodor and Man’; between 1684 and 2007 all bishops signed ‘Sodor and Man’ or ‘Sodor and Mann’. However, the present bishop, Robert Paterson, signs ‘Sodor as Mannin’, the Manx Gaelic equivalent”.

But there is another possible Gilbertian twist: in Patience, Colonel Calverley sings of “the style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man”. It has been proposed by Waterhouse that, contrary to other suggestions, this referred to Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1697 to 1755, whose writing style was admired by Samuel Johnson. However, suppose W S Gilbert was referring to an earlier query about the legal style of the Bishop, as well he might, being a lawyer; this could then still apply to Thomas Wilson, but on account of the change in his style over this period from +Sodorensis to +Sodor and Man, as identified by Wikipedia?

… and of his  consistory court

The Diocese of Sodor and Man has produced its first consistory court judgment of the year: Re St Maughold Maughold [2016] EC Sodor 1. The Diocese was deliberately excluded from the list of neutral citations in the earlier Practice Directions on citation because it is not part of England; and there was a delay in circulating the judgment while a neutral citation format for the Diocese was agreed. The standard citation format is “ECC”  (for England Consistory – or Commissary – Court) plus the first three letters of the name of the diocese; however, they couldn’t use “[2016] EC Man” because the Diocese of Manchester already uses “Man”. And both “[2016] EC Sod” and “[2016] EC S&M” were rejected – presumably on grounds of taste…

Quick links

  • Archdruid Eileen: Liturgy of Recognition of a New Prime Minister: “And so, as Shiny-Face Dave was the future once, now he is the past: He retires to be an elder statesperson/ To speak from above politics, like Major/ Or to sulk cowering in a bunker, like Brown/ To loathe his successor and all her works, like Heath/ Or to loathed and reviled by all, like Blair … History will be his judge”. Enjoy the full Authorized Version.

And finally…

Theresa May became Prime Minister while the Labour Party is still embroiled in a leadership contest. Or as the Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, Ruth Davidson MSP, put it:

“I am pleased to hear that the PLP is about to show how united they are by launching possibly a second unity candidate against the first. All of this has happened in the time that it takes for Theresa to take the crown. That’s kind of the difference between our two parties. You know, Labour’s still fumbling with its flies while the Tories are enjoying a post-coital cigarette after withdrawing our massive Johnson.

Sorry, that’s not even my speech: that’s just a text from Stephen Crabb….”

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