Law and religion round-up – 25th September

A fairly brief roundup of a very quiet week…

Challenge to religious observance in Scottish schools

Last week, The Guardian reported that Lord Pentland, sitting in the Outer House of the Court of Session, had approved the initial draft of an application by Humanist Society Scotland for judicial review of the provision under which school pupils aged 16 and above have no right to opt out of religious observance. It will now be remitted to the Scottish Government for a response. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that parents were already legally entitled to withdraw children from religious observance but that allowing pupils to withdraw was a matter for schools’ discretion. The Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said that the Council supported calls by HSS for religious observance at school assemblies to be replaced by a non-religious time for reflection.

Presumably because this was an interim proceeding there is no formal report of Lord Pentland’s decision.

Northern Ireland, devolution and Brexit

Readers will recall that, quite apart from the proceedings in London, there are two quite separate judicial review proceedings in train in Northern Ireland, brought by Mr Raymond McCord and a group of  MLAs. The MLAs, led by Steven Agnew of the Green Party,  contend that Article 50 cannot be triggered without the formal approval of the Westminster Parliament and the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

On Friday, the matter came before Maguire J in the High Court in Belfast and it was agreed that a Notice of Devolution should be served on the Attorney General, John Larkin QC. A final ruling on what issues will be tried at the hearing on 4-5 October is due to be made by Maguire J on 27 September – all this before the hearing in the Divisional Court in London.

Brexit skeleton argument published

Monckton Chambers reported that on 23 September the People’s Challenge Interested Parties released their skeleton argument for the Article 50 TEU litigation to be heard in the Divisional Court on 13 and 17 October 2016. This group is the first to publish its position so that the general public can see the arguments in this historic and important piece of litigation. However, parts of the skeleton argument are redacted because the Government has not agreed to publication of the content of the Secretary of State’s detailed grounds.

New regulation of beatification and canonization

In our March 2016 post New saints to cost less?, we reported that Pope Francis had approved revised regulations for the beatification and canonization process. Further to these new norms relating the associated administration of [assets] goods, on 23 September il Bollettinno announced revised regulations relating to the appointment and administration of medical consultants. These new provisions are summarized in Vatican Insider and include the following: a requirement for a qualified majority of opinion of medical experts, 5/7 or 4/6, rather than a simple majority (although the qualified majority was already adopted under Benedict XVI); a rule that a case cannot be examined more than three times; a requirement for a new commission composed of new members for the re-examination of a reported miracle; that payments be made to the current accounts of experst rather than in cash; and that there is no retroactive effect on beatifications and canonizations approved in the past.

Safeguarding yet again

The Charity Commission published its regulatory report about safeguarding failures at Bristol Community Church Trust. If nothing else, it points up the need for relgiious organisations to have robust safeguarding policies in place and the need for charity trustees to treat safeguarding as one of their core duties. One might have thought that the  mere existence of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was warning enough.

Cathedral statistics 2015 

The Church of England has reported that the attendance at cathedral worship has continued to increase with mid-week attendance rising and Sunday attendance stable in 2015, according to the latest Cathedral Statistics; the figures confirm the trend of gradual growth in cathedral attendance noted in the report From Anecdote to Evidence published in 2014.

The strength of the Church’s musical tradition is reflected in these figures. In 2015, Cathedral choirs included 1,490 child choristers and 550 lay clerks and choral scholars; a further 600 children and 1,410 adults were involved in voluntary choirs. The cathedrals have, between them, 40 male, 30 female and 80 mixed cathedral choirs: 790 visiting choirs sang in one service or a week of services and more than 1,140 regular and 620 occasional musicians were involved in services in 2015.

Put out more flags?

The Department for Exiting the EU has responded to an e-petition suggesting that all European Union flags, emblems and logos be removed from all public buildings, which has currently attracted just under 17,000 signatures:

“Flag flying is deregulated and any individual or organisation may fly any flag they wish to do so at any time, as long as they have the necessary planning permission. While the UK is a member of the EU it is in order for EU flags and symbols to be used in UK Government buildings”.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for informing UK Government Buildings of the designated days. This response is not the personal opinion of one of the Brexit ministers, so no “clarification” from No 10 has been necessary.

Quick links

  • Steven Erlanger, New York TimesFinding His Place, Reluctantly, in the Tribe of Judaism: fascinating profile of Professor Philippe Sands QC:  “I don’t want to be treated as Sands the Brit, Sands the European, Sands the liberal, Sands the Jew. I just want to be treated as Sands. And we all want that. But actually it’s never going to happen. It’s never going to happen.”

And finally…

… Vatican Bank agrees joint venture with Admiral Insurance …

pope-hma© – to whom our apologies.

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