Law and religion round-up – 6th January

And as you pack away the Christmas decorations for another year…

… it’s Brexit (continued)

Advocate General Sharpston has written an extremely helpful Twitter thread on what the UK may and may not do in relation to the notification of withdrawal under Article 50 TFEU over the three months to 29 March 2019. Thread Reader has helpfully rolled up the whole thing into a single page, here.

Vegans not welcome?

The BBC recently reported that The Dorset pub in Lewes, East Sussex, had banned vegans during a Boxing Day hunt, leading to a backlash on social media. Harvey’s, the brewery which owns the pub, said that it was “appalled” and that an employee had been suspended over the “inappropriate” sign. All of which, of itself, is barely credible – but is such a ban legal?

Three weeks ago, we mentioned that a former employee of the League Against Cruel Sports was suing the League for wrongful dismissal. He claims that he was sacked because he disclosed that the League invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing and, further, that he has been discriminated against on the basis of his ethical belief in veganism. The League, for its part, denies that he was dismissed because of his veganism and says that the reason for his dismissal was gross misconduct – but the preliminary issue of whether or not veganism is a “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 will be heard in March. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Leader of Shropshire County Council got in a tizzy about vegan adverts on the local buses and tweeted:
Religion, race and the 2021 Census

On 14 December the Government published a White Paper setting out the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals for the English and Welsh content of the 2021 Census, Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales. The Office for National Statistics has recommended against the inclusion of an additional specific response option for Sikhs or Jews to the 2021 Census ethnic group question. The ONS has concluded that a separate question “would not be acceptable to a proportion of the Sikh population. ONS considers that the estimates of the Sikh population can be met through data from the specific response option in the Sikh religion question” [104]. Likewise, “Research has shown that the Jewish population would prefer to have a Jewish option only in the religion question” [109].

Religion in schools

The Basildon Standard reports that parents are withdrawing their children from religion lessons over objections to the teaching of Islam. The details emerged in a report from the standing advisory council into religious education which is being presented to Thurrock Council. An investigation is expected into how many parents are refusing to allow their children to learn about Islam, as part of their normal religious education lessons, how many are withdrawing from associated school trips , and the reasons behind their decision.

With thanks to Paul de Mello (Jnr) for alerting us to the story. 

Ecclesiastical exemption in Wales

The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Wales) Order 2018 came into force on 1 January. Under the terms of the Order, conservation area consent will no longer be subject to ecclesiastical exemption and listed and unlisted buildings and structures within the curtilage of a listed ecclesiastical building will now be included under the ecclesiastical exemption.

The Order applies to Wales only – planning and listed building consent being devolved matters.

Non-stun slaughter in Belgium

The National Secular Society reports that a ban on the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning came into effect in the Flanders region on New Year’s Day and a similar measure is due to take effect in the Walloon region in September. We suspect that this may surface in the ECtHR sometime in 2020 or thereabouts.

More communications changes at the Vatican

In our last round-up, we reported that il Bollettino had announced the appointment of Dr Andrea Tornielli as Director of the editorial directorate of the Dicastery for Communication. This has been followed by the surprise announcement on 31 December that the Pope had accepted the resignation of the Director and Deputy Director of the Holy See Press Office. Vatican Insider suggests that these changes, which seemed to catch their supervisor by surprise, appear to indicate sharp tensions at the top of the city-state’s complicated communications structure. 

Are botched restorations good for tourism?

Recently, The Guardian carried a fascinating report on the fate of the Ecce Homo wall-painting in Borja, in north-east Spain, executed originally by Elías García Martínez in about 1930 and subjected to a botched restoration by Cecilia Giménez in 2012 [we can’t show you a picture because she holds the copyright]. Artistic disaster or not, the image is now reproduced on a vast array of tourist kitsch such as bookmarks, mugs, T-shirts, and mouse-mats and Borja is currently getting 16,000 visitors a year – more than four times the number who came before the “restoration” went viral.

According to The Guardian, “Not only has the picture’s fame provided jobs for the sanctuary-museum’s two caretakers, it also helps fund places at Borja’s care home for the elderly.” Maybe: but we still think that there’s a lot to be said for the faculty jurisdiction – at least it acts as a backstop to prevent [per Rodgers Ch] “really, really stupid” clergy consigning £20k artworks to the skip because they are too “Catholic” for their sensibilities.

Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est…

Aficionados of the King William’s College General Knowledge Paper (GKP) will recognize this phrase which is printed at the top of each year’s quiz: “The greatest part of knowledge is knowing where to find something”. There is also a warning “using Google or a similar search engine may not always deliver the expected results!” By comparison, our own Boxing Day Quiz is a more modest affair, and most of the answers may be evinced from reading our posts and tweets throughout the year. The answers to the 2018 Quiz were posted yesterday; the 2019 quiz is already in preparation.

Consistory Court judgments 2018

On Friday we posted an index to the consistory court and other judgments we have posted each month during 2018. These have all been modified to remove “dead links” to judgments on the former ELA website which ceased to function in late September. Although the ELA site is back in operation and the majority of the cases has now been reinstated, we are now holding all new consistory court judgments on our site and where appropriate to the context of a post. Our task to remove “dead links” from pre-2018 judgments continues.

Search-engine optimization?

Whilst we do not actively write our posts with a view to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), we tend to follow much of the advice aimed at maximizing our “on-line visibility”. Nevertheless, it comes as a surprise that since Church of England parochial fees 2019 was posted on 18 November 2018 it has topped our quarterly, monthly and weekly statistics. We had been aware that clergy and prospective married couples had been seeking this cost information for some time prior to its official publication on the CofE website, but would have expected the Church’s “wedding pages” to have been a more obvious choice. So there must be at least some aspects of our posts which attracted this attention.

If only we knew what they were …

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