Law and religion round-up – 8th January

Oh well, back to work…

Religious observance in Scottish schools

The Times reports (£) that an online poll by YouGov for its Scottish edition has found that (55 per cent of Scots believes that children should not be made to participate in religious observance at school. 38 per cent of all Scots (and 48 per cent of SNP voters) feels that there should be no place for collective worship in the Scottish education system and a further 17 per cent wants children to be able to opt out, even without parental consent. [Thanks to British Religion in Numberssee below.]

Church and State in Scandinavia

We noted the change in the status of the Church of Norway on New Year’s Day – and the slight degree of confusion as to what had changed. Subsequent Twitter comments led us to think that a roundup on the current status of the other Scandinavian Churches might be helpful. It appears to look like this:

  • The Church of Denmark remains one of the last quasi-Erastian Churches in existence (and a Danish academic acquaintance of Frank once told him that she wasn’t so sure about the “quasi-” qualification). Article 4 of the Constitution declares that “The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and as such shall be supported by the State.” Parliament is the legislative authority for the Church and most bills are presented by the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs, who is a member of the Government.
  • The Church of the Faroes became a separate State Church on 29 July 2007, St Olav’s Day – the day on which Faroese Parliament opens its new session. Prior to that, it had been a diocese of the Church of Denmark.
  • The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland is governed by a General Synod chaired by the Archbishop. It makes key decisions relating to the Church’s doctrine and ministry and is also broadly responsible for its buildings, administration and finances. Not unlike the General Synod of the Church of England, it makes legislation for the Church which is then presented to Parliament for approval or rejection.
  • The Orthodox Church of Finland has a special legal position and is recognised as Finland’s second National Church. It is regulated by Act of Parliament but spiritual and doctrinal matters are the preserve of the Church’s Synod.
  • Article 62 of the Constitution of Iceland declares that “The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the State Church in Iceland and, as such, it shall be supported and protected by the State. This may be amended by law.” In 1997, the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs handed most administrative functions of the National Church over to the Bishop’s Office, the Church Headquarters, on the basis of an agreement of transfer of the land properties of the Church to the State.
  • The Church of Sweden was disestablished as from New Year’s Day 2000.

Brexit and Article 127

In a “Stop Press” addition to our round-up of 11 December 2016, we noted the possibility of a new legal challenge which hinges on whether, in addition to triggering Article 50 TEU, the Government must also trigger Article 127 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area in order to quit the Single Market. On 6 January 2017, Joshua Rozenberg noted on Facebook

“an application for permission to seek judicial review was lodged on 29 December. Having heard from one side only, Mr Justice Knowles refused the claimants permission a day later. But on the assumption that they would want to renew their application for permission — as indeed they do — the judge ordered an oral hearing during the week beginning 16 January, at which the government will have a chance to respond. That’s expected to last for no more than an hour and if permission is then granted it’s expected that there will be a full hearing within a few weeks”.

Withdraw from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016-17

Peter Bone’s Withdrawal form the European Union (Article 50) Bill is expected to have its second reading debate in the Commons on Friday 13 January. This is “A Bill to require Her Majesty’s Government to notify the European Council by 31 March 2017 of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union”, i.e. to fulfil the promise made by the Prime Minister to Party Conference in October 2016. If no member shouts “object” when the name of the Bill is read by the Clerk, the bill will proceed to its committee stage. [Update: the second reading has been rescheduled for 27 January].

Potential for increased lead theft

An item of general importance in the Archdeacons’ News, Bulletin no. 20 December 2016, below, concerns the price of lead which “is about to reach an all-time high, and is currently trading at over £2,000 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, a doubling of the price in just over 6 months”. Our post Lead theft – future threats in parishes and parliament explains the need for vigilance at the parish level and active involvement at the national level in the low-profile government review of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, a copy of which may be found on the website of the Heritage Alliance.

Forthcoming judgment: Osmanoğlu and Kocabaş v Switzerland

The applicants, both Muslims, refused to allow their daughters to take part in compulsory school swimming lessons because mixed bathing was contrary to their religious beliefs. As a result, in 2010 they were fined for acting in breach of their parental duty and their subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. They allege that the requirement to send their daughters to mixed swimming lessons in violation of their religious convictions breaches Article 9 ECHR (thought, conscience and religion). Judgment is to be handed down on 10 January.

Visitation Charge: Peterborough Cathedral

The word “Bishop’s” was added to the title of our Friday post Bishop’s Visitation Charge: Peterborough Cathedral as we (belatedly) thought that search engines might confuse the legal issues raised by the recent  Bishop’s Charge to the cathedral, with a story about the entrance charges to the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew. Incidentally, paragraph 21 of the Charge states “all reasonable efforts, short of charging for general admission, shall be made to increase the income from property and events”.

The Peterborough Charge is important since in addition to internal issues, “Directions and Recommendations to the Cathedral Chapter“, it includes “Reflections for the House of Bishops and the National Church Institutions”. This concludes [emphasis added]:

“I urge the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners, and the House of Bishops, to look at whether the current [1999] Cathedrals Measure is adequate, and to consider revising it. The Peterborough situation has convinced me that the high degree of independence currently enjoyed by Cathedrals poses serious risks to the reputation of the whole Church, and thus to our effectiveness in mission. A closer working relationship of Cathedrals with their Bishop and Diocese would be of benefit to all, both practically and spiritually.”

Quick links

  • National Secular Society: Rethinking religion and belief in public life: argues, unsurprisingly, for a secular state in which “there is no established state religion; everyone is equal before the law, regardless of religion, belief or non-belief” etc…

Saturday 7 January

Yesterday was the feast day of Raymond of Penyafort OP, patron saint of canon lawyers, who compiled the Decretals of Gregory IX. Wikipedia suggests that “he is the unofficial patron saint of making a superb exit, due to the nature of his most famous miracle” – sailing from Majorca to Barcelona on a “boat” fashioned from his cappa (the long black cloak the Dominicans wear over the white tunic and scapular), and his walking staff.

And finally…

Nothing to do with religion (except, perhaps, for those who don’t quite get the distinction between G-O-D and D-O-G), but we stumbled across a judgment in a Saskatchewan divorce dispute that was by turns fairly scathing and very funny. In Henderson v Henderson 2016 SKQB 282 (CanLII) Danyliuk J was clearly not in the least amused at being invited to adjudicate on custody arrangements for the estranged couple’s pooches:

“Dogs are wonderful creatures. They are often highly intelligent, sensitive and active, and are our constant and faithful companions. Many dogs are treated as members of the family with whom they live. But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law, it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law, it enjoys no familial rights” [1 & 2: emphasis added].

And he then goes on to explain why. Enjoy.

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