Law and religion round-up – 8th September

Another week dominated by the B-word…

Brexit in Parliament

The Lords sat until 1:30 on Thursday morning on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, with a series of votes on amendments – then the Government Chief Whip, Lord Ashton of Hyde, and Baroness Smith, Labour leader in the Lords, announced that peace had broken out. The bill was passed by the Lords without amendment and is expected to receive Royal Assent tomorrow, 9 September. On the motion ‘That the bill do now pass’, the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, Lord Callanan, said: “I reiterate, as we have stated many times, that the Government have been clear that we will of course adhere to the law.” Nevertheless, the Prime Minister declared that he would rather be dead in a ditch than seek to delay Brexit – on which see David Allen Green, below. And on Saturday, Amber Rudd both resigned as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and ceased to take the Conservative whip.

All of which might have helped clear the way for another General Election. Brenda Parsons will be ecstatic – we don’t think.

Brexit in the courts

  • in England & Wales, the High Court (Lord Burnett LCJ, Sharp P and Etherton MR) rejected Gina Miller’s petition for judicial review. She was granted leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court and we understand that the hearing will be on 17 September.
  • In Scotland, Lord Doherty rejected the petition of Joanna Cherry QC MP and her co-petitioners. They reclaimed, and on Thursday the Inner House made avizandum (ie reserved judgment). It refused to grant the interim orders sought by the petitioners and is hoping to advise its decision on 11 September. The summary of the oral submissions at the hearing of the petitioners’ reclaiming motion is here.
  • In Northern Ireland, the High Court began hearing Raymond McCord’s petition for judicial review: the hearing continues tomorrow.

Brexit and religion

It was pointed out by Adam Wagner and others that if a General Election were called for 14 October, religious Jews would be unable to vote because it would be on the first day of the festival of Sukkot and because it is “work”, no writing would be allowed: likewise until after 6:57 pm on 15 October. Similarly, synagogues could not be used as polling stations.

Until the 1980s there was special statutory provision for Jews to vote on Shabbat, but Schedule 1 to the Representation of the People Act 1983 now limits votes marked by the presiding officer to someone who is incapacitated by blindness or other disability from voting in manner directed by the rules or who declares orally that he or she is unable to read. The solution would appear to be to apply for a postal vote: the relevant application form must be returned by 5 pm, 11 working days before the poll, or by midnight, 12 working days before the poll (England, Wales and Scotland only).

Brexit and marriage registration

There is currently a tranche of new legislation which, although it has been granted Royal Assent, requires a Commencement Order or further secondary legislation to be passed before it is fully effective; the on-going Brexit debate and the prospect of a general election is delaying such regulations being laid before Parliament. The Church Representation and Ministers Measure 2019 falls within the former group of measures and the Civil Partnerships, Marriage and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 (“the Act”) is entirely dependent upon secondary legislation. As we have noted earlier, it is the component of the Act which relates to opposite sex civil partnerships that has a “sunset clause” requiring regulations extending eligibility to be in force no later than 31 December 2019.

However, it is the provisions relating to changes to the registration of marriage that have attracted most headlines and comment on social media, not least from the clergy who will be required to implement them. On Friday, Dr Sandra Millar, the Church of England’s Head of Life Events, discussed the possibility of changes to marriage registration systems stating that the Church is currently in discussion on both the timeframe and the detail of the changes so that they can be effectively implemented for all clergy; the C of E has also undertaken to provide further updates when more is known. Beyond that, there is little further that can be said until the regulations are laid.

EU initiative: “Global Exchange on Religion in Society”

On Friday, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini at the launched the EU’s new initiative “Global Exchange on Religion in Society”. The EU website describes the project like this:

“The ‘Global Exchange on Religion in Society’ will be open to civil society practitioners of diverse backgrounds (including faith-based actors), who are already working on issues at the intersection of faith and social inclusion. The new initiative will connect community actors inside and outside Europe, allowing them to learn from each other, explore partnerships, acquire new skills, and to scale-up positive experiences of coexistence among people of different faiths in pluralistic societies.

The new initiative will be entrusted to an organisation through an open call for tenders. The Global Exchange on Religion in Society is expected to be operational in the first half of 2020 and will be funded by the Partnership Instrument.”

Church of Scotland appoints its first Chief Officer

The Church of Scotland has announced the appointment of Dave Kendall as its first Chief Officer, to take overall executive responsibility for the Trustees’ employees and budgets.  Kendall, an elder at West Kirk East Kilbride, is currently Director of Programmes at the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre of the University of Strathclyde. It is expected that he will take up his new role ‪on 1 November.

Parochial Fees 2020 – advance notice

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) released July Consumer Price Index figures for July on 14 August, at which point the CPI 12-month rate was 2.1% in July 2019, increasing from 2.0% in June 2019. The next release is scheduled for 19 September 2019, and as we noted in our post Church of England Parochial Fees – Changes for 2020 to 2024, it is on these August figures that the Parochial Fees for 2020 will be calculated; officials at the Archbishops’ Council will undertake the necessary calculations and publish a table showing the fees that are payable for 2020.

Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, announced that she will retire as an MP at the next General Election. The Archbishop of Canterbury said that “[i]n her role as Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline’s advice and support have been unfailing and invaluable, her political courage and determination outstanding. She will be deeply missed from her current role, and we will value her contributions until the next election.”

Consistory court judgments

The Ecclesiastical Law Association has produced a list of judgments by diocese of all the consistory court judgments held on its web site as at 5 September 2019. An index to these judgments, with links, is available here.

Appointment of Hospitaller at St Barts

The Rector of Great St Bartholomew in the City of London is seeking to appoint “an intelligent, lively, and pastoral colleague to hold the office of Hospitaller”. The Priory and Hospital of St Bartholomew, both founded in 1123,  are looking to revive the ancient office of Hospitaller: “to be a full member of the chapter of clergy at the Priory Church and to be a part of the chaplaincy team in the Hospital. A priest who can proclaim the faith passionately and articulately in the pulpit and the pub, and communicate the love of God pastorally at the hospital bed, is the kind of cleric who will enjoy this position. Tweeting would also be an advantage”. A copy of the job description is here and further background was provided in a letter to The Times (£) by Sir Marcus Setchell of St Bartholomew’s Heritage, London.

The position will be full-time and will be stipendiary under Regulation 29 of the Clergy Terms of Service. This is a time-limited post for three-years, although an extension may be possible subject to funding. The post-holder will be a full member of the clergy team at the Parish of Great St Bartholomew, sharing responsibility for St Bartholomew the Less with the Rector, to whom he or she will report. Although based exclusively at Barts Hospital, the post-holder is expected to work within a multi-faith chaplaincy team based across the Trust and to establish and maintain positive interpersonal relationships with other staff.

Recording religion in Greece

Kathimerini reports that Greece’s Data Protection Authority ruled on Wednesday that keeping records of the religious affiliation and nationality of schoolchildren violates the Constitution and the ECHR. It further ruled that it is illegal to ask parents to submit an official statement declaring that their child is not an Orthodox Christian in order to be exempted from religion classes. The ruling was in response to a complaint from the Hellenic League for Human Rights and the Union of Atheists.

We can’t help wondering whether it might be a violation of the General Data Protection Regulation as well.

Quick links

And finally…

There were a couple of interesting judgments last week from Strasbourg:

  • Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Kryvyi Rih’s Ternivsky District v Ukraine [2019] ECHR 602, which we noted here; and
  • Theodorou and Tsotsorou v Greece [2019] ECHR 611, noted here.

It was such a pleasure to do some proper law for a change.

2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 8th September

  1. I am the Hospitaller of Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, a post which began (possibly) at the foundation of St Maty’s Overie in 1105. The two extant organisations at Southwark Cathedral and St Thomas’ Hospital.

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