Law and religion round-up – 28th August

Another fairly quiet week in the UK

…although our thoughts are with victims and survivors of Wednesday’s earthquake in Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche, about 105 km north-east of Rome, which was centred on Amatrice and Accumoli. A mass funeral took place on Saturday for 35 of the 290 people killed in the 6.2-magnitude quake; in Scheggino, a few kilometres up the valley from the earthquake’s epicentre, the choir of St Mary’s, Maldon (UK) sang Choral Evensong, including a setting of the Pie Jesu specially composed over by James Davy (Director of Choristers, Chelmsford Cathedral) in remembrance of the victims of the earthquake.

The “British Bill of Rights” saga grinds on

On Monday, Justice Secretary Liz Truss told presenter Nick Robinson on the Today programme that the Government had not ditched plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights:“We’re committed to that. That is a manifesto commitment, Nick.” When asked whether there would be a British Bill of Rights, her response was “Absolutely“; however, she would not make any commitment about timing. You can listen to the full interview here, from 2:18:20. [With thanks to RightsInfo.]

Hijabs on television news – and on the beat

On Monday, The Guardian reported that Ofcom had rejected complaints that it was inappropriate for Channel 4 News to allow a Muslim journalist to present coverage of the Nice truck attack. Ofcom had received 17 complaints about Channel 4 using Fatima Manji – who wears a hijab – to present news of the killings. Channel 4 News had previously made it clear that Ms Manji had been rostered ten days previously to present on the day of the Nice killings. Said a spokesman for Ofcom:

“We received a small number of complaints that it was inappropriate for a presenter wearing a hijab to present a report on the attack in Nice. We won’t be taking the matter forward for investigation. The selection of a presenter is an editorial matter for the broadcaster, and the way in which the presenter chose to dress in this case did not raise any issues under our rules.”

Coincidentally, Police Scotland announced that the hijab is now an optional part of the official Scottish police uniform. According to its website, its officers and staff have always had the option to wear religious headgear, but the latest announcement is a formal ratification of that position.

Quite right too.

And burkinis on the beach

On Friday, the urgent applications judge of the Conseil d’État  suspended a ban imposed by the Mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes) on wearing the burkini on the town’s beaches. We intend to post a note on the judgment later this week.

Archbishop of Wales to retire

Dr Barry Morgan, who succeeded Archbishop Rowan Willams as Archbishop of Wales and is the longest-serving Primate in the Anglican Communion, will retire on his 70th birthday at the end of January after nearly 14 years as Archbishop and 24 as a bishop.

Leaving the Church of Norway

The Church of Norway has 3.8 million members: about 73 percent of the country’s population. Since 15 August, however, it has lost at least 15,000 of them – and it will probably have lost more by the time you read this, after it became possible to join or leave the Church by registering or deregistering on the Church’s website. According to a report in VG News, the Praeses, Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien, was not surprised that many took the opportunity to opt out:

“We were prepared for a significant number of resignations and have great respect for the individual’s choice. We take these signals seriously. Our task will be to pass on the Christian message and to convey the important role the Church can have in people’s lives.”

She is concerned that, for the future, the Church of Norway should continue to be aware of its responsibility as an open National Church which, she believes, “has been and will remain a very important task, especially for the local church.”

Bank holiday news

According to the Office of Nations Statistics, yesterday, i.e. the Saturday of August bank holiday weekend, is the favourite date on which to get married in England and Wales. However, one of its visualizations stated “this year it falls on the 26th August” – the date on which it published What’s the best time for a wedding?. This includes “2 new pieces on Visual.ONS…that push our beta site into new storytelling and data visualisation territory. These 2 pieces are 2 sides of the same coin – 2 approaches to the same data set”. The data include information based upon: the number of marriages, 1841 to 2013; UK house prices to Q2 2016; Retail Prices Index to 2015: and Employment Rates, to Apr-Jun 2013. Overall, Saturday was the most popular day to get married; Friday was the second most popular wedding day, although if the Friday fell on the 13th the number of weddings dropped by 49%.

Valentine’s Day or other bank holiday weekends are also favourites, and the least popular day to get married was Christmas day, despite the popularity of other days either side of Christmas. In 2013 there were 240,854 weddings in England and Wales – a 9% decrease on the number in 2012: Was this down to the fear of 13 (triskaidekaphobia) or just a continuation of the long term decrease in marriages since 1972 when there were over 400,000 weddings?:

Church Treasure

Ximénez: “Cardinal Fang! Fetch…THE COMFY CHAIR!

John Bingham had some fun at the expense of the Coventry consistory court and its judgment Re Holy Trinity Long Itchington [2016] ECC Cov 7. Whilst agreeing that the pews in the Grade II* church could be replaced by chairs, directed that padded, wine-coloured Alpha A1LSE chairs were not appropriate: “[t]he faculty will be granted in terms that authorise the introduction of unupholstered chairs of an appearance and design which are confirmed by the Diocesan Advisory Committee to be appropriate or which are approved by this Court in the event that the Petitioners and that Committee are unable to agree” [26]. However, the article was peppered with journalistic hyperbole – “Now the use of comfortable seating has become a test of orthodoxy in real life after an ecclesiastical court banned the use of padded chairs in a church on the grounds that they were verging on the ungodly”, “woodworm-infested Victorian pews” [a fact which was not referred to in the judgment], and other comments by the churchwardens – “[a]pparently they’re not going to allow any church now to have padded seats, at least that’s what they’ve said to us”.

For a much more factual account, readers should read Ruth Gledhill’s piece in Christian Today (or even wait for our monthly round-up of consistory cases). Earlier in August we posted Pews, perceptions and practicalities which noted that in number of recent cases, whilst the petitioners have sought chairs of a particular design, upholstered in a given colour (based on their perceptions of need), the faculty granted has been for unupholstered chairs of a different design (based upon the courts’ assessment), for example: Re Holy Trinity Long Itchington [2016] ECC Cov 7Re St Matthew Salford Priors [2016] ECC Cov 4Re All Saints Shawell [2016] ECC Lei 3Re S. Peter & St Paul Rustington [2016] ECC Chi 6. In cases such as these, the courts’ primary concern is the decision whether or not to remove the pews, rather than a particular choice of chair. Although national guidance has been issued by ChurchCare, the courts’ assessments are made on a case-specific basis.

Quick links

  • J-F Bayart, MediapartLa laïcité, nouvelle religion nationale: Nicolas Sarkozy and Manuel Valls both have an affection for the Camargue which, the author suggests, may be why the two have developed a virile and aggressive, “bullfighting” vision of secularism, each in a different style. Sarkozy has spoken of a “positive secularism”, both better to control Islam and to reconnect with the roots of France, while Valls advocates an “intransigent defence of secularism”, believing that “the veil, which forbids women to be what they are, must remain an essential struggle for the Republic.”
  • International Humanist and Ethical Union: This is not our secularism / Ce n’est pas notre laïcité: statement criticising the “burkini ban”.

And finally (I)…

From Richard Holloway’s new book, A Little History of Religion:

“Because they are history’s great organisers and rarely take a day off, legalists usually get the upper hand in religion and society and set about imposing their will on others. And if they have to, they’ll even wage war to get their own way.” [85-86]

Oh dear: so that’s us told. (But, even so, it’s well worth a read.)

And finally (II)…

The important policy developments were summed up in a David Allen Green tweet:

“The minister picks up a blank sheet paper.

‘The wrong one, minister. That’s the British Bill of Rights. Here, this is the Brexit plan’.”

Consequently, relatively little new material was added to our embryo Brexit Basics 8 and it will probably be posted in early September.

2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 28th August

  1. If you’re going to call the mention of ‘woodworm infested Victorian pews’ – in the Telegraph – ‘journalistic hyperbole’, you should also mention that Ruth Gledhill uses the same phrase in the Christian Today piece you praise as much more factual.

  2. Pingback: Ecclesiastical court judgments – August/late summer | Law & Religion UK

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