Law and religion round-up – 24th September

A very quiet week – except in Florence…


From the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence on Friday:

“Where there is uncertainty around underlying EU law, I want the UK courts to be able to take into account the judgments of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent interpretation. On this basis, I hope our teams can reach firm agreement quickly.”

So, to update Lord Judge’s explanation of the two Courts to the House of Lords Constitution Committee when he was Lord Chief Justice:

“the distinction will be very clear. Luxembourg Communities—’take account of’; Strasbourg Convention—’take account of’.”

Obstetricians and Gynaecologists call for decriminalisation of abortion

Last week, the Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists adopted the following statement as its formal position on abortion and the criminal law:

The RCOG supports the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK.

We believe that the procedure should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions.

Abortion services should be regulated; however, abortion – for women, doctors and other healthcare professionals – should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal issue.

The College is not calling for any change in gestational limits for abortion which should remain in place through the appropriate regulatory and legislative process.

We have come to this consensus following a discussion at the RCOG Council, where council members voiced a broad range of views during an informed and considered debate on the needs of the women and girls for whom we provide this very necessary service.

New publication

In Secularism, recently published by OUP, “Andrew Copson tells the story of secularism, taking in momentous episodes in world history, such as the great transition of Europe from religious orthodoxy to pluralism, the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and the origins of modernity. He also considers the role of secularism when engaging with some of the most contentious political and legal issues of our time: ‘blasphemy,’ ‘apostasy,’ religious persecution, religious discrimination, religious schools, and freedom of belief and thought in a divided world.”

New Deputy President of the Supreme Court

Lord Mance has been appointed Deputy President of the Supreme Court in succession to Lady Hale.

Queries and comments

On Friday we published a further selection of Recent queries and comments; in it we split the queries into two sections: one relating to general issues; and one where the questions relate to a particular judgment. The cryptic nature of some of the searches requires a certain degree of guesswork in finding where on the blog we have dealt with the topic. To our surprise, this often leads us to long-forgotten posts or comments, such as “140 names ‘Tracey etc’”; nevertheless, we are sometimes stumped to locate an internal reference to some, and had to go elsewhere for “Saxon tub font near Bridlington”.

End of year quiz: 2017

Whilst it is too soon to release this year’s annual quiz (we have compiled 23 questions already), recent events have caused us to change the answer to Q17: What have Theresa May and Kenneth Baker in common, (apart from both being former Home Secretaries)? The revised answer will be published along with the others on 7 January 2018.

What’s in a name?

Following the appointment of the Revd Jonathan Greener as Dean of the Cathedral Church, Exeter, this week, it was pointed out that there are as many cathedral deans called John or Jonathan as there are women in total (6 of each); and 5 named David as well. However, despite the popularity of names for people of a certain age, (see ONS stats on babies’ names), it is the total number of each gender which is significant.

Fisherman’s chapels

A couple of years ago, we commented on the idiosyncratic  La chiesa dei SS Cosma e Damiano in the Aeolian island of Lipari, Italy. Closer to home, last week David visited another fisherman’s chapel, St Julian’s on the harbourside at Tenby, whose initial justification would nowadays generate interesting discussions in the DAC and consistory court.

When the old fisherman’s chapel was demolished in 1840, the fishermen took to worshipping at St Mary’s in the centre of Tenby. However, “the smell of their clothes was offensive to others in the congregation”, and so St Julian’s was built in 1879. “Clergy from St Mary’s were paid in seafood to lead the services, which were cancelled when waves broke over the chapel”. Lobster posts supported the font until a wooden font was obtained in 2003. The chapel was closed in April 2014 after it was declared on account of problems with its electrical systems. It reopened in 2015 following these and some other minor repairs, but more extensive refurbishment plans have been postponed.  There was substantial local opposition to these plans, and after much consultation, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) decided that the money that would be needed to finance the proposal for a complete re-ordering of the church would be better spent elsewhere in the benefice.

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