Law and religion round-up – 3rd June

The Genuine Occupational Requirement, safeguarding, another face-veil ban – just a normal week…

The Genuine Occupational Requirement again

On Thursday, Advocate General Wathelet published his Opinion in IR (Social policy – Occupational activities of churches – Opinion) [2018] EUECJ C-68/17 O, on the sacking of a Head Department in a Roman Catholic hospital in Germany after he divorced his first wife and remarried in a civil ceremony without a prior annulment: we noted it here. AGs’ Opinions are merely advisory and do not bind the Court; however, in a recent judgment, Vera Egenberger v Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung eV [2018] EUECJ C-414/16, which we noted here, the Grand Chamber took a hard line in reaffirming that, in cases where religion or belief organisations impose a Genuine Occupational Requirement when recruiting staff, that requirement must be both genuine, legitimate and justifiable. We should be surprised if the Court were to disagree with AG Wathelet on this occasion.

The Diocese of Canterbury, safeguarding and sacramental confession

Last week, we duly reported that the Diocese of Canterbury had issued a clarification to its 2015 safeguarding guidelines in relation to confession, in which it instructed clergy, prior to hearing a confession, to say to the penitent:

“If you touch on any matter in your confession that raises a concern about the wellbeing or safeguarding of another person or yourself, I am duty bound to pass that information on to the relevant agencies, which means that I am unable to keep such information confidential.”

The statement prompted a substantial degree of comment which has been summarized by Thinking Anglicans. On Thursday, Forward in Faith posted a rejoinder on its website in which it described the incitement of clergy to breach canon law as “a very worrying precedent”. FiF also stated that it was “unacceptable for a diocese to pre-empt synodical discussion of whether any aspect of ecclesiastical law should be changed”.

We genuinely have no views on the matter whatsoever, although we are rather baffled by the logic of the Canterbury clarification: but it looks like an issue that will exercise Anglican canon lawyers (and others) for some time to come. The Diocese notes that the issue is being considered nationally and is due to be discussed by the House of Bishops in December.

Bishop Ruhumuliza: the story continues

In last week’s round-up we reported the decision in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Ruhumuliza [2018] EWCA Civ 1178, in which a majority of the Court of Appeal agreed that the Rt Revd Jonathan Ruhumuliza, formerly an honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Worcester, should be granted leave to remain in the UK in spite of his alleged complicity in the Rwandan genocide. The majority decided that whether or not there was any truth in the allegations had been a question for the FTT to answer; and it had concluded that Bishop Ruhumuliza’s record since the genocide – in which he had not been an active participant – was such that he should not now be regarded as unsuitable to remain.

The Times reported (£) yesterday that the Home Office was considering an appeal: it quoted a spokesman as saying that “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and are carefully considering the next steps.”

Northern Ireland and abortion

On Thursday 7 June, the Supreme Court is to hand down judgment in the appeal by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission against the judgment in In the matter of an application by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) and the Reference by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland pursuant to Paragraph 33 of Schedule 10 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Abortion), in which the NICA referred two devolution issues raised by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on the issue of the standing of the Commission to bring the proceedings.

Denmark bans face-veils

Reuters reports that, on Thursday, the Folketing voted for a ban on the wearing of face-veils in public. The Government says that veils are contrary to Danish values, while opponents say that the ban, which will take effect on 1 August, infringes women’s right to dress as they choose. Under the law, police will be able to instruct women to remove their veils or order them to leave public areas. Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen has said that officers would in practice fine them and tell them “to go home”. Fines will range from 1,000 kroner (about £120) for a first offence to 10,000 for a fourth.

Amnesty International called the ban “a discriminatory violation of women’s rights … All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs”.

Project CDM

The Sheldon Hub is “for people in ministry” which has the aim of providing: “an independent supportive online community; live directory of people and places; and a bank of trustworthy advice all for doing healthy ministry together”. It has recently established Project CDM with the objectives of reducing the suffering of defendants and other participants in CDM proceedings, improving confidence and quality in the application of the existing Measure, replacing the Measure with something more fit for purpose and promoting doing healthy ministry together.

The project is proposing a four-pronged approach to action on the CDM:

  • education & support, providing and signposting help, advice and support for CDM respondents;
  • accountability, improving how the existing Measure is operated and research outcomes;
  • review & replacement with a professional conduct framework fit for 21st-century ministry; and
  • listen & learn, with a view to recovering a culture of mutual support freed from a climate of fear.

Readers wishing further information should contact the Sheldon Hub rather than ourselves.

With thanks to Sarah Horsman, Warden, Sheldon, for bringing this initiative to our attention.

Recent judgments

This week we posted our monthly review of recent ecclesiastical court judgments. The present batch included: a case involving the competing requirements of bellringers’ access to a newly-created revised ringing floor (via a trapdoor) against the provision of accessible toilets for the congregation; a waterlogged burial vault requiring a temporary exhumation to permit repairs; a non-standard memorial for a gardener. Conditional approval was also granted for the replacement of a pipe organ with a digital instrument; the possibility of asbestos within the instrument was identified, and this will be examined further in a later post.

The GDPR and the state of the blog

On 25 May, heart-in-mouth, we pulled the plug on our existing e-mail subscribers and asked them to resubscribe in order to make sure that we are compliant with the GDPR. So far, 176 have done so – and we imagine that some of the e-mail addresses that we removed were dead in any case. What one of our correspondents described as our “scorched earth” policy does not appear to have had any great effect on traffic on the site: because we still seem to be getting 800 to 1000 page-views a day, and on “GDPR day” we received an all-time record of 3252. Which is a great relief – there’s no earthly point in writing this stuff if no-one reads it.

Quick links

  • Pew Forum: Being Christian in Western Europe: “The majority of Europe’s Christians are non-practising, but they differ from religiously unaffiliated people in their views on God, attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants, and opinions about religion’s role in society.”
  • Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society (SEIROS): Donating and volunteering behaviour associated with religiosityreport by Deloitte Access Economics on the economic impact of religiosity (specifically, attendance at religious services of organised religious denominations) on giving and volunteering, based on a survey of over 7,000 Australians: Neil Foster notes it here.

And finally…

You can read the whole barmy story here. (And in case you’re wondering what this has to do with law & religion, how about “undue spiritual influence”?)

🎵 Oh Lord, won’t you buy me / A Mercedes-Benz… 🎵

Update: Apparently, Mr Duplantis subsequently told Good Morning America, ‘I only own one airplane now.’ He also said that if his followers buy him a Dassault Falcon 7X his ministry will recycle his old jet to an organisation in need when the new one arrives.

So that’s all right then.

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