Law and religion round-up – 14th May

Reciprocal heresy trials”, an episcopus vagans and Matthew 6:3

At the end of a week of fast-moving events following the consecration in Newcastle of the Revd Jonathan Pryke as a “bishop in the Church of God” by the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA), here, here, and elsewhere, we are left with little clarity on how events will be progressed by GAFCON, GAFCON-UK, AMiE or even the Church of England, which – no doubt wisely – has adopted a low-key approach to the situation.

The piecemeal release of statements &c has been followed by commentators, and many identifying themselves as evangelicals have been critical of the initiative and of the organizations concerned: Order! Order!”: Reflections on The Jesmond Consecration, Andrew Goddard, FulcrumShould evangelicals be embarrassed by Newcastle?, Ian Paul/Peter Carrell, Psephizo; and Why now? The deeply strange timing of the renegade conservative Anglicans, Andy Walton, Christian Today. Legal issues have been addressed by Andrew Goddard’s observations, supra, and Philip Jones’ piece A Rogue Bishop.   

[Update: This evening, Thinking Anglicans included a copy of the Q and A document handed out in the morning at Jesmond Parish Church about its reasons for the episcopal consecration. Legal issues are not addressed, although it states inter alia [emphasis added]:

“such [New Style] bishops need to be faithful to 1) the biblical miracles of the virginal conception of Jesus and his Resurrection and empty tomb; 2) the biblical ethic that sex should be reserved for lifelong heterosexual monogamous marriage; and 3) the biblical principle that means bishops should be male – all issues in the North East in recent years“.


“the aim is not to create a new denomination. No! This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation. This is not a step of ‘leaving the Church of England’ It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have ‘left the Church of England’ doctrinally. This is a step to preserve the Church of England’s heritage and mission which we have received”.]

A report in Christian Today on 9 May commented, “The Archbishop of York … is being kept informed but is yet to make a formal response”. We await developments with interest.

More about bishops

Following its final meeting in Dublin in 2016, Members of the Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers held a reunion at the Venerable English College in Rome on Wednesday evening 10th May. On the occasion of the reunion this week, the participants heard six papers about bishops: the election of bishops, the functions of bishops, and the discipline of bishops. But, apparently not episcopi vagantes.

Humanist marriage in Northern Ireland

There is currently no mechanism for holding a legally-valid humanist wedding in Northern Ireland; a couple wishing to have a humanist ceremony must also have a separate civil registration for their marriage to be legally recognised. A humanist couple, Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane, have been given permission to seek judicial review of the current law. Colton J held that there was an arguable case and that the application raised an important matter of public interest and a full hearing is scheduled for 26 May.

The Great Irish Bake-off

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the Supreme Court is to hear an appeal in the Ashers Baking case,  Lee v McArthur & Ors [2016] NICA 29. According to the report, the Court has listed the appeal for a two-day hearing in October.

Ireland, blasphemy and Stephen Fry

On Monday we reported the news that the Gardaí were investigating remarks made by Stephen Fry in 2015 on RTÉ with a view to prosecuting him for blasphemy under s 36 Defamation Act 2009. Common sense prevailed, however, and later that day The Irish Times reported that a decision had been taken not to prosecute after all. The report also stated that the Department of Justice had announced that preparatory work had begun on a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Constitution.

Not before time, given that a pledge to hold a referendum on the matter was made in a statement to Dáil Éireann as long ago as 2 October 2014.

Swiss canton says “no” to burqa ban

SWI reports that at its annual assembly [Landsgemeinde] the Swiss canton of Glarus voted in the traditional manner – by a show of hands – to reject a proposal launched in 2015 by a member of the right-wing People’s Party [Schweizerische Volkspartei] for a ban on wearing the burqa in public.

Glarus, with a population of 40,000, is one of only two remaining cantons to hold a Landsgemeinde: the other is Appenzell Innerrhoden. The People’s Party is the biggest of nine political groups in Glarus; but both the Glarus cantonal government and the parliament had advised voters to reject the proposal, arguing that it would be preferable to wait and see whether efforts to introduce a nationwide ban would be successful. The only Swiss canton with a burqa ban is Italian-speaking Ticino, where it was approved in 2013.

Ritual slaughter, infant circumcision, hijabs and burkinis – again

In recent weeks, the environment committee of the Parliament of Wallonia has voted unanimously to ban the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning. If the Parliament’s plenary approves the ban later this month, local supply of kosher and halal meat will come to an end in September 2019 and Christian Today suggests that the Flemish Parliament is likely to follow suit. Interestingly, the fact that Ultra-Orthodox Jews in France could import glatt kosher meat from Belgium was one of the reasons why the ECtHR dismissed the claim in Cha’are Shalom Ve Tsedek v France [2000] ECHR 351. Denmark and Switzerland already prohibit ritual slaughter.

Meanwhile, last weekend in Norway the Progress Party (FrP) – which is part of the ruling coalition – voted at its annual conference to ban the non-therapeutic circumcision of boys under the age of 16 and the wearing of hijabs in public schools. Previously, one of the party’s deputies, Aina Stenersen, had called for a ban on burkinis. In a somewhat confused statement, however, the party’s leader, Siv Jensen, told Aftenposten that she opposed forbidding circumcision and insisted that the move was not designed to target minorities.

All this provoked a very crisp response from European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. Speaking to the Conference of European Rabbis, he said:

“You don’t get to say how someone else worships, and they don’t tell you how to worship. I will defend that principle and this also applies to religious practices. These are not practices you can simply drop if they are an integral part of what you see as your religion, and if religious slaughter is done according to the rules by certified people, that should never be a problem in any society.”

He added that the same principle applied to ritual circumcision.

Minister-making in Hull

On 13 May, Holy Trinity, Hull (a.k.a. The Church of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, The Parish of Kingston upon Hull) was designated Hull Minster, following a “Minster-making” ceremony led by the Archbishop of York. The Archbishop travelled down the River Humber on board the William Riley, an historic Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) heritage lifeboat for the five-mile journey down the River Humber from Hessle Haven to Hull Marina, with a crew from the RNLI at the oars. On arrival, Dr Sentamu joined the Bishop of Hull, Alison White, in a procession to the revamped Trinity Square, a public space outside the church, for an open-air minster-making service. The lantern was then taken inside the newly-designated minister where it was be used to light a symbolic candle.

Ecclesiastical Law Journal

The latest Ecc LJ has just been published. Contents include:

  • Mark Hill and Norman Doe on ‘Principles of Christian Law’;
  • Nicholas Schofield’s 2016 Lyndwood Lecture on ‘A Church Without Bishops: Governance of the English Catholic Mission, 1594–1685’;
  • Rupert Bursell on ‘Aspects of Burial and Exhumation’;
  • Charlotte I Wright on ‘The English Canon Law Relating to Suicide Victims’;
  • Stephen Coleman on ‘The Process of Appointment of Bishops in the Church of England: A Historical and Legal Critique’; and
  • Richard Helmholz on ‘William Somner (c 1598–1669)’, in the Notable Ecclesiastical Lawyers series.

Plus the usual reviews and case-notes.

News from Trumpton

Thirteen judges of the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, have heard oral argument in International Refugee Assistance Project v Trump. The appeal is from a Maryland federal district court judgment granting a nationwide preliminary injunction barring enforcement of s 2(c) of President Trump’s second Executive Order imposing a 90-day suspension on entry into the US of nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The district court had concluded that there was a likelihood that the travel ban violated the Establishment Clause. [Thanks to Howard Friedman.] 

Quick links

And finally… I

“Archbishop of Canterbury denies pre-election movement to the right, as bishops must move diagonally.” [With thanks to HaveIGotNewsForYou‏ @haveigotnews.]

And finally… II

5 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 14th May

  1. The Great Irish Bake-off:
    Although the Supreme Court website has yet to publish the details, the following news item in this week’s e-bulletin from the Christian Institute (who are backing the McArthurs) has this report:

    “The Ashers Baking Company case is to go before judges at the highest court in the United Kingdom.

    The UK Supreme Court has listed a hearing to consider a possible appeal by the Belfast-based bakers, over their refusal to bake a cake bearing the campaign slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

    The Christian-owned company, operated by the McArthur family, has been dragged through the courts in Northern Ireland for more than two years by the country’s state-funded equality watchdog, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).

    Legal fees
    After an estimated £200,000 in legal bills were incurred by Ashers, the company was ordered to pay £500 damages to gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who tried to order the cake which would have cost a mere £36.50.

    However, in December 2016 the Court of Appeal in Belfast – which rubber-stamped the original County Court judgment – left the way open for the firm to take the matter further when Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stated: “We consider the matter should be properly left to the Supreme Court.”

    Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear legal arguments at a hearing scheduled to take place over two days in October.

    ’Very encouraging’
    Last night Daniel McArthur, General Manager of Ashers, welcomed the decision, saying: “The fact that the Supreme Court is willing to hear arguments is very encouraging and reflects the importance of the issues and the high-profile nature of the case.”

    The family has been supported throughout by The Christian Institute, which has funded their legal defence.

    Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute Simon Calvert said: “This is a very important development. The Supreme Court does not consider every case which is brought to its attention and our legal team has already started to prepare for the crucial hearings which lie ahead.

    ’Vitally important case’
    “We understand the Supreme Court will hear initial arguments from which they will then determine if they are to grant a full appeal hearing.

    “If the judges agree to the appeal it will take place immediately during the two days set aside for the case to be discussed.

    He added: “This is a vitally important case. The ruling in the Belfast court undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.”

    It is understood the Supreme Court will also hear arguments from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, who entered the case and who has argued in relation to the validity of the laws that were used against the bakery.”

    Particularly in the light of certain extra-judicial comments by Baroness Hale post Preddy v Bull [2013] UKSC 73, [2013] 1 WLR 3741, it will be of particular interest to see the constitution of the panel nominated to hear the application/appeal.

  2. I am afraid that the link for ‘reunion’ in ‘Members of the Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers held a reunion’ doesn’t seem to work. Many thanks for a great blog post, and the continuing great service provided by the blog.

  3. Pingback: Bishops sans frontières | Law & Religion UK

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