Law and religion round-up – 21st May

And as the Election campaign grinds on… 

General Election 2017

The three main UK parties’ manifestos are now published: Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat. Unsurprisingly, there is little about “religion” in any of them; however, the Lib Dems have said that, if elected, they will introduce opposite-sex civil partnerships, while the Tories seem to have put the “British Bill of Rights” on the back burner for the whole of the next Parliament.

Prime Minister answers LGBT questions from Pink News readers

Theresa May answered questions posted by Pink News readers on a range of LGBT issues ahead of the General Election.She made commitments to reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to move away from medical checks and create a system that better works for trans people. In addition, called for an independent investigation into the persecution of gay men in Chechnya, and shared her own Gay Icon, “our own Ruth Davidson, who is doing a brilliant job in Scotland and is a superb role model”.

Premier’s report of the Q&A focused on the Prime Minister’s comments in which she ruled out forcing the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages, saying she respects the “deeply-held views” many Anglicans have on the matter: “As the established church, it is in a different legal position from other churches or faith groups, so the law equalising marriage had to recognise that. I strongly support equal marriage, and I know that these debates will continue.” She continued (slightly disingenuously) that it would be “for the Church as a whole to decide if it wants to make a change to its canon law”.

In fact, as subsection (5) of the new section 26A inserted into the Marriage Act 1949 by section 4 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 makes clear, the ability to opt in to same-sex marriage does not apply in respect of marriages conducted according to the rites of the Church of England – Maria Miller’s famous “quadruple lock” – and though it would be possible to amend the legislation by Measure, Realpolitik might favour amending legislation by Parliament itself rather than the General Synod.

In response to another question, she replied:

“We were very clear when we introduced the equal marriage legislation that it was not about forcing the Church of England to conduct marriage ceremonies but removing a legal injustice.”

Mrs May refused to commit the UK to remain in the European Convention on Human Rights beyond the end of the next Parliament – on which, for another view, see below – but insisted that LGBT rights would be protected “regardless of any changes to the legal framework”.

Niqabs in Germany

In April, the Bundestag passed a sector-specific bill regulating the wearing of face-veils. Under its proposals, they would not be permitted for civil servants, judges, soldiers in the line of duty and those offering direct services. The bill would also extend to situations where identification was necessary and advisable. The Bundesrat approved the measure on 12 May. [Thanks to Religion – Weltanschauung – Recht.]

Kirpans in Italy

According to a report in ANSA, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation has refused to quash the conviction of a Sikh immigrant fined €2,000 for carrying a kirpan in public, declaring that immigrants who have chosen to live in the Western world must conform to the values of Western society and that “it is not tolerable that attachment to their own values, albeit legitimate according to the laws in force in the country of origin, leads to a conscious violation of those of the host society”. The ruling continues:

“In a multiethnic society, coexistence between people of different ethnicities necessarily requires the identification of a common core [of values] which immigrants and the host society must recognise. If integration does not imply the abandonment of the culture of origin, in accordance with the provision of Article 2 of the Constitution which values social pluralism, the essential limitation is respect for human rights and the legal order [civiltà giuridica] of the host society.”

The appellant claimed that his knife, like his turban, was a symbol of his religion and that he carried it in fulfilment of his religious duty. But, according to the report, the knife was nearly 20 cm long…

Delayed disposal of remains – I

Following the release by the coroner of the body of Ian Brady to his lawyer/executor on Thursday, following his assurance that the cremation ashes would not be scattered on Saddleworth Moor, there is a degree of uncertainty regarding subsequent events. On Friday, the BBC reported that Glasgow City Council had said it would refuse any request for Brady to be cremated in the area. A spokesman is quoted as saying: “We have not had such a request but we would refuse that request; “We would advise the private crematoria not to accept the request or any such request should it be forthcoming. There has not been any request made.”

However, this is not consistent with earlier statements made by the coroner. In addition to concerns regarding the scattering of ashes, he sought assurances on the identification of a funeral director willing to deal with the funeral and a crematorium willing and able to cremate the body. It seems unlikely that the body would be been released without satisfying these requirements.

Delayed disposal of remains – II

The Church Times reports (£) that the legend of a “Pickled Parson” has been enlisted to boost visitor numbers at a historic church in north-east England. Kev Stevens, an artist and graphic designer, was commissioned by St Edmund’s Church, Sedgefield, to illustrate the church’s new guidebook, which features the locally well-known legend of the Revd John Garnage MA, the Rector of Sedgefield.

The annual tithes from the Church’s parishioners were due was to be paid on 20 December but, in the absence of an incumbent, they reverted to the bishopric of Durham. Inconveniently for his wife, Mr Garnage died in the second week of December in 1747, leaving his family with the prospect of dire poverty; in that era, deceased clergymen’s families had starved when the tithe money ran out. However, she preserved his body with salt until 20 December and the day after the tithes had all been paid, she summoned the local doctor, who pronounced him dead and recently deceased.

It sounds to us like the common law offence of “preventing lawful and decent burial”, but is nevertheless a good story for a guidebook, particularly when coupled with alleged hauntings by the parson since “his body had been delayed in receiving a proper Christian burial, [and his] soul could not enter Heaven”.

Bishops sans frontières – et en Colombie-Britannique

The rumblings over the consecration of the curate of Jesmond Parish Church, the Revd Jonathan Pryke, as “a bishop in the Church of God” continued to rumble on – so much so that we posted a consolidated update of our previous posts. That, we hope, is our last word on the matter.

Meanwhile in Canada, the House of Bishops of the Province of British Columbia & Yukon registered a formal objection to the election of the Revd Jacob Worley as Bishop of Caledonia, citing Canon 4(b)vi: “That he or she teaches or holds or within five years previously taught or held anything contrary to the Doctrine or Discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada.” Further background then emerged, on which we reported here.

Failed miracle” was fake news

Early in the week, a number of news outlets ran the story “Zimbabwean pastor demonstrating how Jesus walked on water for his congregation is eaten alive by three CROCODILES”, as the now-withdrawn headline of the Daily Mail put it. However, as the Sun pointed out in its “CROC AND BULL STORY” that “A quick Google search would have shown that the story was written by a satirical news site back in February … Scores of news websites, including The Daily Mail, The Independent and The Metro were taken in by the unlikely yarn. The Sun did not publish a version of the improbable tale”.

And neither did we, although we noted that the story had echoes of Harold Davidson, Rector of Stiffkey, (a.k.a. “the Prostitutes’ Padre”) who, following his banishment from the Church of England, joined a fair to preach from the lion’s den. However, he trod on the lion’s tail, which was how he met his end. Now that’s a story so improbable you couldn’t make it up.

Reformation Summer School in Wittenberg

This summer, from 24 July to 20 August, representatives from academia, politics, economics, and religious institutions will come together in Wittenberg to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. There will be a series of seminars, workshops, public presentations and talks. More than 500 students and doctoral students from all over the world and over 100 lecturers are expected to attend.

The Summer School 2017 is run by the Protestant Scholarship Organisation Villigst, the Reformationsjubiläum 2017 Association and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

Quick links

  •  @ChurchMatters: Twitter feed provides a link to Ecclesiastical’s web pages that give a month-by-month planner on “how to look after your church” and identify potential risks. For May, the focus is on “planning church events”. 
  • Andrew Copson, Humanist LifeOffended? That’s the price of freedom: “We have all had our most cherished beliefs, identities, or ways of life subject to ridicule at one time or another … Our duty as citizens in a liberal society is to either engage with our detractors and attempt to persuade them to our way of thinking, or to shrug and ignore it.”
  • Neil Foster, Law and Religion AustraliaPrinting T-Shirts and Religious Freedom: comment on a judgment of the Kentucky Court of Appeals that it was not unlawful for a Christian small business owner to decline to print a T-shirt celebrating Gay Pride.
  • Lambeth Palace Library: The culminating day of my official life: Archbishop Lang and the Coronation of George VI: a few months after George VI and Queen Elizabeth were crowned in Westminster Abbey by Lang, he produced an aide-mémoire of preparations and proceedings to aid future archbishops, having found the records from the previous coronation (for George V in 1911) frustratingly disordered: this complements other volumes of correspondence and minutes relating to George VI’s coronation in the Lang papers.

And finally…I 

The admirable Sir Henry Brooke, former Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, has recently been appointed a Knight of the Order of Skanderbeg by the President of Albania in recognition of his work on the reform and strengthening of the Albanian judicial system. Commenting on the honour, Sir Henry concludes as follows:

“In our present unhappy political climate, some people speak carelessly of our leaving the Council of Europe – as well as the European Union – as victories to be won if we are to re-establish so-called control of our affairs. From my experience in Eastern Europe – and not only in Albania – it would be nothing short of tragic if we were to do so because it gives us a means of proselytising about the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in a manner which would lack conviction if we were to slam the door on the Council of Europe, too.”

Any further comment by us would be superfluous.

And finally…II 

Comment on Twitter from @waltonandy: “When I saw Jesmond trending I wondered if we had yet another new bishop. Turns out it’s a burst water main”.

2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 21st May

  1. Mrs May supports “equal marriage” yet no proposals for defining or recognising consummation or grounds for adultery in same-sex unions have been brought forward almost as if a union between two people of the same sex is different to union between two people of the “opposite sex”?

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