Law and religion round-up – 29th December

And apart from the presents and mince pies…

Constitutional reform

The President of the Law Society of England and Wales, Simon Davis, has expressed concern that the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission announced in the Queen’s Speech must not upset the “delicate balance that underpins our unwritten constitution”. Last Sunday’s Observer reports him as follows:

“An independent legal profession and a government accountable to the people are fundamental elements of a nation rooted in the rule of law. We must preserve and protect these principles at all costs. Our court system and our judges are there so the law laid down by parliament can be interpreted. In a mature democracy, it is crucial that the independence of this process is maintained.

“These pillars are intrinsic to the prosperity of the country and to its international standing. And while the precise content of the government’s plans remains unclear it is important for the Law Society to say from the outset that the independence of our judiciary must be safeguarded in this review.”

Highgate Cemetery – again

Further to our recent item on Highgate Cemetery development, The Guardian ran a story entitled CCTV installed at Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate cemetery, in which a tourist from “just outside Berlin” is quoted as saying “In Germany this wouldn’t be possible” in a reference to Germany’s restrictive laws on CCTV cameras. However, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is (currently) effective in the UK and, as an EU Regulation, is directly applicable in all Member States. The Regulation underpins the Data Protection Act 2018, which replaces the earlier provisions, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a Code of Practice: In the Picture: a data protection code of practice for surveillance cameras and personal information

The decision to install the cameras was made by the Marx Grave Trust, which owns the monument after consultation with security experts and Historic England. However, the article stated, “visitors to Marx’s tomb had not noticed the newly installed cameras until they were pointed out by the Guardian”. Ian Dungavell, the chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, said: “They are discreet but not invisible and intended as a deterrent. If people are worried about the security of their graves we are always happy to accommodate them.” He also revealed there were plans to put up notices to alert visitors to Marx’s tomb that they were being filmed.

In our post Parishes and the “GDPR” we emphasized that CCTV when used on a property, even that of a domestic householder, will be subject to the Data Protection Act if it captures footage of individuals outside the property. It is then necessary to register as a data controller and pay the appropriate annual fee. The installation of the appropriate signage is also required. The potential implications within the faculty jurisdictions were considered in CCTV in Churches – windows into men’s souls?; we reviewed a recent judgment in the diocese of Canterbury which addressed the use and storage of CCTV footage, data protection, and recommended what criteria might be adopted in the future.

Law and religion in India

A helpful roundup from Religion Clause on developments in India over the last twelve months, some of which we noted:

  • in Arunkumar v Inspector General of Registration [2019] HCt of Madras WP(MD) No 4125 of 2019 and WMP(MD) No 3220 of 2019), the High Court held that a marriage solemnized between a Hindu male and a Hindu trans woman was a valid marriage under s.5 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, given that the Supreme Court had previously upheld the right of transgender persons to decide their self-identified gender;
  • in Bhattacharjee v State of Tripura [2019] HCt of Tripura, the High Court banned animal sacrifice;
  • in Fernandes v State of Goa & Ors [2019] HCt of Bombay & Goa No 351 of 2017, the High Court struck down as unconstitutional a provision of Portuguese law that restricted it from reviewing orders made by ecclesiastical courts annulling marriages between Roman Catholics in the former Portuguese colony;
  • in a unanimous decision in Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v Mahant Suresh Das & Ors [2019] SCI Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, the Supreme Court awarded the bitterly-disputed site of a mosque in Ayodhya that had been destroyed to the Hindus for building a temple and directed that the Muslim community should be compensated by being allowed to build a new mosque elsewhere.

To which we would add the continuing controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 approved by Parliament on 11 December. The Act creates an expedited path to citizenship for migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered illegally on or before 31 December 2014 – but only if they are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Jains or Parsis. Muslims are notably absent from the list; and on 13 December, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a press release that described the Act as “fundamentally discriminatory”. The Act is to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Church property disputes in Montenegro

Reuters reports that, on Friday, the Parliament of Montenegro approved a law on religious communities despite street protests that will oblige religious communities to prove that they have owned their property from before 1918. Critics of the legislation see it as an attempt to promote the interests of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is not recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarch, at the expense of the much larger Serbian Orthodox Church. The BBC subsequently reported that eighteen MPs were arrested by police during a disturbance in Parliament, during which bottles and. allegedly, a firecracker or tear gas canister were thrown. [With thanks to Howard Friedman.]

New Year Honours

Our congratulations to Stephen Slack, the Church of England’s former Chief Legal Adviser, who has received a CBE and to Andrew Brown, soon to retire from the post of Chief Executive of the Church Commissioners, who has been appointed OBE.

Boxing Day Quiz

Anyone still puzzling over our Boxing Day Quiz will find that there are two clues before you reach the first question. All the answers on Thursday 2 January 2020 Saturday 2 January 2020.

Quick links

And finally...I

From a recent CDM Decision,

“The Respondent put forward a number of lines of defence. He said that he had not received training or supports in the approach to completing the [marriage] registers and that he should have received this in the circumstances …”

verb. sap.

And finally…II

From the Archdeacon of Tonbridge:

1 thought on “Law and religion round-up – 29th December

  1. And finally (1)
    I used to do a deacons’ training day, mainly on practicalities of presiding at the eucharist (recognising the variety of styles but arguing for coherent – and legal! – behaviour) but with a final session on completing marriage registers. It was clear that most training incumbents, with a few honourable exceptions, had done nothing on either of these. But I don’t think such sessions continue.

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