A week in which “kippergate” took over from “catgate” and there were cryptic messages in Hansard and on the new £50 note…
….none of which has direct relevance to law and religion (apart from supplying potential questions for the Boxing Day Quiz). However, we and our guest contributors have been hard at work to provide plenty of reading material for our readers. And in addition, we have
… Abortion, same-sex marriage and gambling in Northern Ireland
Last week, we reported that the Commons had added two New Clauses to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill 2017-19, the effect of which would be to oblige the Westminster Government to bring forward legislative proposals to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law and to make provision for same-sex marriage unless a Northern Ireland Executive is formed before 21 October 2019.
On 15 July, the Government accepted an amendment tabled in the Lords by the Bishop of St Albans opening the way for possible alignment of gambling regulation between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain. Amendment 7A adds gambling legislation to a number of areas on which the Government would be required to produce a report by September as part of moves to restore the devolved Executive. The Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, told peers that the current inconsistency meant that reforms introduced in mainland Britain – such as the cap on the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) – do not apply in Northern Ireland.
The Commons considered Lords Amendments on 18 July. Lords Amendment 1 was further amended by the Commons and the remaining Lords Amendments were agreed to. The Bill will return to the Lords on 22 July for consideration of a Commons Amendment.
Mental capacity and marriage
On Wednesday, Hayden J handed down his considered judgment in London Borough of Tower Hamlets v NB (consent to sex)  EWCOP 27, having given an earlier interim judgment in the case ex tempore: Re NB (Consent to sex) EWCOP 17.
We noted the latest judgment here. If it demonstrates nothing else, it is a stark reminder of the sheer human misery that underlies many of the cases that come before the Court of Protection and the difficulty of striking the right balance between protection and individual autonomy. As Hayden J expresses it at :
“The omnipresent danger in the Court of Protection is that of emphasising the obligation to protect the incapacitous, whilst losing sight of the fundamental principle that the promotion of autonomous decision-making is itself a facet of protection.”
Women in the episcopate
On 15 July, No 10 announced that the Queen had approved the nomination of the Venerable Olivia Josephine Graham to the Suffragan See of Reading. The Press Release on the Oxford diocesan website notes that “When Olivia is consecrated in November, she will become the 24th female bishop in the Church of England and the first female bishop in the Diocese of Oxford” with “just over half (54%) of those entering training for ordination last year were women”. Whilst it comments “[t]he future is bright”, there are still 18 dioceses without a female bishop and only five diocesan bishops in total.
Methodist and Nonconformist chapels in Cornwall
Historic England, in collaboration with Cornwall Council and the Methodist Church, has produced guidance to help congregations, new owners and professional advisors make informed decisions about how to adapt and make changes to Nonconformist chapels. The document is aimed at: congregations that are looking to use their buildings differently; new owners in cases where worship has ceased, who are considering alternative uses; and professional advisors who are helping to inform congregations or new owners on the approach to change. The focus of the guidance is on Cornwall, which has a rich Methodist history but is experiencing a growing trend of chapel closures. Accompanying the Guidance is an Appendix which provides an illustrated guide to the historic character and significance of chapels.
The posts with which we started the week – Re AB: Termination of pregnancy by Simon Hunter of Three Stone Chambers, and Religion and Civil Partnerships: The Next Steps in a Turbulent Saga – serve as a reminder that we welcome guest posts, the criteria for which are summarized in our General Terms and Conditions. The copyright in individual posts in Law and Religion UK, including cross-posted items, is reserved to their authors, including guest authors, and we very much welcome the cross-posting of items on L&RUK, subject to our T&C.
- Jonathan Chaplin, The Conversation: The Church of England needs to speak out about Brexit – here’s why: but does it? Adiaphora, maybe?
- The Guardian editorial: The Guardian view on atheism: good without God: “If organised mainstream Christianity is on the way out, what will replace it?”
- House of Commons Library: Humanist Marriage Ceremonies: considers the status of humanist marriage ceremonies across the UK and the calls for the law to be changed to allow humanist celebrants to conduct legal marriages.
- Meg Munn, Chair of the C of E National Safeguarding Panel: Presenting to the Synod.
- Hans-Martien ten Napel, LSE Religion and Global Society: The Natural Law and Natural Rights Tradition: A Foundation for Religious Freedom.
- House of Commons Library: Prorogation of Parliament, Briefing Paper, Number 8589, 11 June 2019; and Summary.
On Thursday, The Guardian reported that the Supreme Court of Tasmania had refused to buy the argument of a “Christian family” that they were not obliged to pay rates or taxes because it was “against God’s will”, and ordered them to pay $2.3M: about £1.3M, so they can hardly be described as poor.
At which Neil Foster tweeted, “Religious freedom claims do not extend to a general objection to paying taxes. Jesus made this quite clear: ‘Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Matt 22:21; see also Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). See also Halliday v Commonwealth of Australia  FCA 950 https://bit.ly/2YXFjbt.”
The Times (£) reported on Monday that supplies of the resin from Boswellia, a genus of trees and shrubs from the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula and India that constitutes the effective ingredient of incense “are in danger of collapse … the trees from which it comes are being destroyed by cattle farming, drought, war and a scramble to meet booming demand in the West, where it is marketed as an antidote to anxiety”. The ANCS indicates that the source of this information is “a report in a sustainability journal”.