Law and religion round-up – 17th February

The ECHR again, Holocaust denial, marriages of EEA nationals after Brexit, some interesting thoughts from the ICLR on family law…

“What next for the Human Rights Act?

On Wednesday, there was a debate in Westminster Hall initiated by Tommy Shepherd (SNP, Edinburgh East) about the future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. On the assumption that some of our readers would be interested, we published the reply of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Edward Argar, in full, minus the opening and closing courtesies – but without comment. Perhaps the key passage from his speech was this:

“As we made clear in the Chequers White Paper, and as is clear in the political declaration, the UK is committed to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and will remain a party to it after we have left the European Union. The Lord Chancellor, and in this Chamber, the shadow Minister and others, read out the wording of our manifesto commitment on the matter. Our future relationship with the EU should be underpinned by our shared values of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. As reflected in my opening comments, the UK is committed to human rights. Our exit from the EU does not change that or signal a desire to reduce human rights protections” [emphasis added].

Significantly, there was no mention of the possible repeal of the HRA 1998. We would like to believe that the matter is now closed – though, given some of the previous remarks by Ministers, we continue to have our doubts as to how enthusiastic they really are about the Convention and the Court. Remember Theresa May and the cat? And see:

Holocaust denial and antisemitism

On 13 February, Alison Chabloz lost her appeal against three convictions under s. 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 for what were held by the Court to be “grossly offensive” antisemitic songs posted on YouTube: we noted the case here. There was a certain amount of confused reporting of the conviction: though Ms Chabloz is an adherent of what she described as “a revisionist view of history in relation to the Holocaust” (which we take to mean that she denies that it happened), Holocaust denial as such is not a crime in England and Wales. But posting “grossly offensive” (as opposed to merely “offensive”) material certainly is.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons is to debate “Anti-Semitism in Modern Society”. It will be interesting to see whether the Chabloz conviction is mentioned.

Marriage of EEA nationals after 29 March 2019

The Diocese of Oxford posted a helpful note on the marriage of EEA nationals after Brexit.  It reports that the Home Office is not intending to make any immediate changes to rules for EEA and Swiss nationals, which means that they can continue to be married by Banns or Common Licence for at least the remainder of 2019, assuming the couple has a legal link to the parish or church, either under the Marriage Act 1949 (residence in the parish or membership of the Electoral Roll) or the Marriage Measures 2008 and 2012 (by way of qualifying connection). The Diocese also reports that the Home Office will consult all ‘interested parties’, including the Church of England (and, presumably, the Church in Wales), before making any changes to marriage preliminaries for EEA and Swiss nationals.

Church and State in Greece

Greek City Times reports that the Greek Government has announced that it has reached an agreement with the Greek Orthodox Church that will allow priests to remain on the civil service payroll. At the end of a meeting with representatives of the Church, the Minister, Kostas Gavroglou, described the discussions as “extremely constructive” and noted that this “strengthens the rationalisation of state-church relations.” Further meetings were scheduled between representatives of the Church and the Government, to discuss new proposals to be made by the Church on the final reform of the plan for Church-State separation, and with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. [With thanks to Daniel Hill.]

Protest against women bishops in Sweden

The Local reports that a male priest has been removed from office after protesting against the consecration of a woman as Bishop of Gothenburg. Susanne Rappmann became the first woman Bishop of Gothenburg in November 2017, twenty years after the first such consecration – Christina Odenberg, who became Bishop of Lund in 1997.

After Bishop Rappmann’s election, the priest wrote a letter to the cathedral chapter [domkapitel] saying that a woman priest could never be a spiritual leader “for us priests who take a classical view of the position”. The chapter, which has jurisdiction over diocesan clergy, ruled that the priest should be relieved of his duties on the grounds that he had broken his oath of loyalty. According to the report,  Karin Burstrand from the chapter told Göteborgs-Posten, “Every priest and deacon who is ordained into the Swedish church is under the bishop’s supervision. If you say, ‘no, I am not able to recognize the bishop’, then you have said no to the whole system.”

Bishop Rappmann, who normally chairs the chapter, took no part in the decision because her involvement would have been a conflict of interest. The unnamed priest has appealed. [With thanks to Simon Sarmiento.]

GDPR and Church Electoral Rolls again

After receiving an e-mail from a slightly-bemused bishop who couldn’t locate the guidance and privacy notice in relation to Church of England electoral rolls on the C of E’s (award-winning) website, we posted the locations on the blog. We’ll do it again: you can find them here:

Vatican news

On 14 February, Pope Francis appointed His Eminence Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. The Catholic Herald explains “The Camerlengo is one of two head officials of the Roman Curia who do not lose their office while the papacy is vacant. The position of Camerlengo, which is regulated by the apostolic constitutions Pastor bonus and Universi dominici gregis, administers Church finances and property during the interregnum”. The post of camerlengo has been vacant since the death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran in July 2018, although too much should not be read into the recent appointment. The nomination of Camerlengo is restricted to the Pope, although he has the option of leaving it vacant; if there is a vacancy at the start of the sede vacante, the College of Cardinals would hold an election to fill the position.

On 16 February 2019 we reported that former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been removed from the priesthood after Vatican officials had found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing Confession. Incidentally, Farrell served as an auxiliary bishop under the former cardinal in Washington, DC, as well as moderator of the curia and vicar general, a chief advisory role to the disgraced archbishop.

Ecclesiastical Law Journal

The latest issue of the Ecc LJ has just been published. In addition to the usual reviews and conference reports, the principal articles are:

  • Jane Steen: Archdeacons and the Law.
  • Sion Hughes Carew: The Convocations of Canterbury and York.
  • Kaushik Paul: Lachiri v Belgium and Bans on Wearing Islamic Dress in the Courtroom: An Emerging Trend.

Quick links

And finally…

Greg Hands, Secretary of State for Education, in an interview with Conservative Home:

“Look, this is a Christian country. I mean these days it is a multicultural country as well, and there are many different faiths represented, and vast numbers of people who have no religious faith. But it still has, at the core of its institutions, traditions which are rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”

True that the UK has institutions that are “rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition”. But the 2011 Census revealed that Christians, though the largest religious group in England and Wales, still accounted for only 59 per cent of the population, which leaves an awful lot of people who wouldn’t describe themselves as Christians at all – so does that make England and Wales “a Christian country”?


2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 17th February

  1. Re the Greg Hands ‘Conservative Home’ comment featured.

    The UK is not a country, but a POLITICAL CONFEDERATION of FOUR countries, not ONE. Amongst these four, Wales has not had any State Church at all since 1920, and the State Church in Scotland is different to the one in England.

    It’s the old, old arrogant and ignorant English Nationalist narrative of ‘Britain is England, and England is Britain’.

    P.S. Since when was Jesus born in Canterbury?

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