Law and religion round-up – 30th July

A busy week, dominated by the tragic case of Charlie Gard.

Charlie Gard

We have been following the recent Charlie Gard case, but we refrained from reporting on day-to-day developments in the case because we felt that the issues involved were beyond our remit and the medical aspects were well outside our specific expertise. In his judgment in Great Ormond Street Hospital v Gard [2017] EWHC 1909 (Fam) Mr Justice Francis commented:

“A lot of things have been said, particularly in recent days, by those who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions. Many opinions have been expressed based on feelings rather than facts” [1].

“The world of social media doubtless has very many benefits but one of its pitfalls, I suggest, is that when cases such as this go viral, the watching world feels entitled to express opinions, whether or not they are evidence-based” [11].

Which is exactly why we avoided expressing them. However, an outstanding contribution to the understanding of events as they unfolded was made by Joshua Rozenberg’s live Twitter commentary on the recent court proceedings [funded by @SkyNews] which provided an insight to the arguments raised by the lawyers and their acceptance or rejection by the Court. But that said, several aspects of Francis J’s judgment have wider and more general implications which we considered in our post, Charlie Gard: the wider implications.

Another Irish Bake Off

The Irish Times reported that the sexual preferences of cakes had become an issue in Dublin as well as in Belfast, where someone ordered a cake from a bakery iced with the words: “BY THE GRACE OF THE GOOD LORD … ‘GAY MARRIAGE’ IS A PERVERSION OF EQUALITY”, and the bakery refused his order. The case came before the Workplace Relations Commission: he lost. We noted it here.

Frank’s initial version had expressed doubt as to whether the appeal in the Ashers Baking case would ever come before the Supreme Court. An unexpected consequence of the post, however, was that the Christian Institute confirmed on Twitter that there will be a hearing of an application for permission to appeal later in the year – and we updated the post accordingly.

Controlled drugs, religion and Article 9

In Beneficent Spiritist Center União Do Vegetal v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWHC 1963 (Admin), the claimant, a recognised religious group in Brazil, challenged a decision of the Secretary of State in November 2016 to refuse its application for a licence to import, possess and supply hoasca tea for the purposes of consumption by its congregation on the grounds that the tea contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a class A drug controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The claimant’s  challenge under Article 9 ECHR was rejected: we intend to publish a note on the case later in the week.

HS2: HS2: Exhumation of remains from St James’s Gardens, Camden

Lord Framlingham received the following response to one of his written questions on HS2, HL972,

Question to Department for Transport on 18 July 2017: Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of estimates that over 60,000 bodies will need to be exhumed from St James Gardens, Camden, to facilitate the building of HS2.

Answer by Lord Callanan on 27 July 2017: All human remains affected by Phase One of HS2 will be afforded due dignity, care and respect.

The St James’s Gardens burial ground was assessed as part of the environmental impact assessment for the project. Information was presented in the Environmental Statement that was submitted to Parliament in support the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons and House of Lords Select committees respectively.

Since then, further research has been undertaken into the history and development of the St. James’s burial ground to inform the development of design. Archival material relating to the burial ground includes burial records, plans of the layout of the ground, land transfer agreements, newspapers and letters.

An example of the tactic “you must respond to the question, but you don’t have to answer it”.


This week the BBC reported that the Orange Order has asked its members to stop using the term ‘RIP’ to express grief or sympathy after a death. It said, “the phrase is unbiblical, un-Protestant, and a form of superstition connected to Catholicism”. In a publication marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Order called on Protestants to stop using the phrase, following a Facebook post by the secretary of Evangelical Protestants Northern Ireland, Wallace Thompson.

[On first seeing the picture that heads up the BBC report, Frank genuinely wondered why on earth an umpire would be dressed like that … but having lived a short time in Larkhall,  it was no surprise to David.]

Sexual Offences Act 1967 

Thursday 27 July 2017 marked the 50th Anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales with the passage of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement to mark the occasion. The decriminalization was partial, it addressed male homosexual acts in private and was limited to England and Wales but excluded the Merchant Navy and the Armed Forces. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in Scotland by s80 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

The Archbishops’ statement drew criticism from both liberals and traditionalists, as evident from the comments on the Thinking Anglicans website and the statement from Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Convenor for Anglican Mainstream. Archbishops Welby and Sentamu say in their statement:

“Sin is not a characteristic of a particular group of people. Sin is the same for all of us. And the challenge to take onto ourselves the obligation to be yoked with Christ, to bear the load he gives us, is the same for all of us”.

Noting “a classic way of stigmatizing gay people – talking about sin, even if sins of all”, Kelvin Holdsworth further tweeted that the statement contained “74 words about decriminalization, 311 words about sin and burdens”. ‏

In Husborne Crawley, the different approaches to sin were neatly satirized by Archdruid Eileen (a.k.a. Revd Gary Alderson) in 50th Anniversary of the Decriminalization of Something We’d Rather Not Think AboutAnd for an unbiased overview, readers could do worse that go to Michael Sadgrove’s After the Act – 50 Years On.

Hate crime

The BBC reports that graffiti daubed on St Thomas’s Church in Hitchin Road, Stopsley, Luton, is being treated by police as a “hate crime”. The graffiti, in large white letters, appeared sometime between midnight and 08:00 BST on 23 July, officers said; the vicar arrived to find the paint still wet on Sunday morning. Slogans including “Hell awaits you. Repent” and “Beware the beast” were painted across the exterior walls; there was also references to transhumanism – a movement that believes in using technology to improve intellectual, physical and psychological capacities.

However, graffiti is not new to the C of E. As we have noted earlier; after the establishment of the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) in 1848 by Fr William John Butler, Vicar of Wantage, one of the Sisters’ early morning tasks was to remove the “No Popery” graffiti from the walls around the town, where there was a hostile reaction to his Oxford Movement views.

Alevis, cemevis and electricity bills

Hürriyet Daily News reports that Turkey’s Council of State has ruled in a landmark decision that the state should cover the electricity expenses of cemevis, Alevi houses of worship that are not officially recognised as such by the Turkish state. The 13th Chamber of the Council upheld a local court ruling that the electricity bills of the Erenler Education and Cultural Center Foundation should be paid by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), as is the case for mosques.

The general issue of previous refusals by the Religious Affairs Directorate to pay the electricity bills of cemevis was considered by the ECtHR in Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v Turkey [2014] ECHR 1346, which we noted most recently here.

Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2017

The Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2017 was published: it comes into effect on 1 January 2018.

Quick links

And finally…I

Strangely, there was no reaction to David’s tweet “Enjoyed a strangled priest in street in Reading”. Perhaps it’s not an uncommon occurrence in Reading, or perhaps others have also sampled the excellent Strozzapreti Pugliese at Strada. It certainly beats that other delicacy of Puglia, Rape ‘nfucate “Drowned turnip tops”.

And finally…II

Lawyers complaining of a harassing day in court should read the Times of India: it reports:

“a tiger turned up a mere 250 yards from the district court in Pilibhit while it was in session on Thursday, triggering panic. District judge DK Sharma took ‘serious cognizance’ of the matter and directed the forest authorities to ensure tigers do not come near the court in future”.

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