Law and religion round-up – 5th April

‘Someone’s got to be summonsed!’
So that was decided upon

The Lion and Albert, Marriott Edgar

Easter eggs?

Professor David Mead, of UEA Law School, suggests that leaving home solely to buy them is not permitted and is unconvinced about the relevance of Article 9: “I struggle to see how Easter eggs become basic necessities as a result simply of my (non) religious beliefs – how it is such a manifestation?” Adam Wagner suggests that a more pertinent Article 9 example might be food for Passover, which begins this week “We have a ‘seder’, a ritual meal, which includes pretty odd items such as a burned lamb’s bone. This would be a ‘basic necessity’ if interpreted with Art 9 in mind”. While Student Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber just sends up the whole thing something rotten, here.

Our own view, FWIW, is that since hot-cross buns seem to be a year-round supermarket staple, their religious significance is precisely zilch (if they ever had any outside the bounds of folk-religion, that is).

Methodist Conference to meet “in an alternative form”

The Methodist Council has announced that it will not be possible for the Conference to meet as planned in June and will look at ways for the Conference to meet in an alternative form. The officers of the Conference will bring proposals for the functioning of this alternative meeting to an additional meeting of the Council. The restriction on groups meeting has meant that some Synods have not been able to meet and give full consideration to God in Love Unites Us, and the Council has therefore also agreed that the debate and voting on the provisional resolutions will be deferred until the 2021 Conference. This also means that any other business (eg memorials) relating to those resolutions will not be considered this year.

Vicarious liability

On 1 April, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous judgment in WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants [2020] UKSC 12, holding that Morrison’s was not vicariously liable for the criminal wrongdoing of an employee who, as an act of “revenge”, had uploaded the personal data of 98,998 of Morrison’s employees to a publicly-accessible file-sharing website. We noted the case here: it will be interesting to see what effect – if any – the judgment might have on future claims of based on historical sexual abuse by members of religious organisations.

In which connexion, the Titus Trust – the successor to the Iwerne Trust – announced on Friday that it had reached a settlement with three men “who have suffered for many years because of the appalling abuse of John Smyth”. Further:

“We are sorry that the Titus Trust’s earlier public statements were inadequate as explanations of the relevant facts and history and that some of the language the Trust has used in public statements about these matters has prompted anger on the part of some survivors and others. We recognise the impact that this guarded use of language has caused, and apologise if this has contributed in any way to the anguish experienced by the survivors and their families.”

The response from victims of the Titus Trust and John Smyth QC was to call for the Titus Trust to cease its activities immediately and to disband.

In our post Review: Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Church Wimbledon in December 2019, we noted that when the Makin review was announced earlier in the year, the Titus Trust issued a statement that indicating that it was ‘”… very happy to be involved in a review and seek to be as transparent and supportive as we can be’ but that ‘we remain restricted by on-going legal action.’ We look forward to being able to participate in the review process to an even greater extent once the legal proceedings relating to the case are over.”

Faculty jurisdiction

Also on 1 April, The Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2019 came into force. They make a number of important changes to the earlier Rules, including the substitution of a new Part 4 dealing with consultation and advice; revision and expansion of Lists A and B; extension of the Archdeacon’s jurisdiction for temporary minor re-ordering and various other amendments to improve the operation of the Rules. These changes are summarized in our post Faculty Jurisdiction – further amendments, April 2020, and the many changes to Lists A and B are helpfully identified the Explanatory Note to General Synod, GS 2137X which underlines all the additions and modifications.

During the government restrictions imposed as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, the consistory courts are continuing to operate as normal. Cases involving hearings are very rare and are likely to be postponed during the outbreak. The vast majority of petitions are now dealt with on the online system, which facilitates remote working by Chancellors and others involved. This and other aspects of the operation of the faculty jurisdiction are explored in our post Faculty petitions under the coronavirus restrictions.

Qualifying connections

An update on the Faculty Office page on Marriage Law News provides information on the legal implications of the current restrictions which have been imposed in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Since a wedding requires a minimum of five people to be present – the priest, bride and groom, and two witnesses – and this exceeds the numbers which the Government restrictions currently permit to gather together in one place.

The Faculty Office is continuing to facilitate the issue of a Special Marriage Licence for a Church of England/Church in Wales wedding to proceed in a hospital, hospice or at home where one of the parties is terminally ill (whether through COVID-19 or otherwise). Any decision to proceed with a wedding in these circumstances will, as always, be one for the clergy and parties and will need to be based upon medical advice and with social distancing policies and guidance applied as regards the officiant and witnesses. The permission of the hospital or hospice authorities will always be required in writing.

For couples who do not have the legal entitlement to be married in the church where they wish to be married, the option via a “qualifying connection” based upon the attendance at services in the parish at least once a month for six months or more, is not available now that services have been suspended as there will be insufficient time for their “qualifying attendance” between services resuming and their intended wedding date. In such situations, an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Marriage Licence is likely to be required, and the Faculty Office will be very sympathetic where couples have shown a willingness and commitment to create a qualifying connection with their chosen church and have been prevented from completing their six months qualifying attendance due solely to the suspension of public worship.

Captain Matthew Flinders

Further to our post Exhumation and reburial of Captain Matthew Flinders concerning the remains of Captain Flinders remains, discovered during the archaeological investigation at Euston Station, London, and their reburial in rural Lincolnshire, at the Privy Council on 3 April, Her Majesty was pleased to order that notwithstanding the discontinuance of burials in St Mary and Holy Rood Church and Churchyard, Donington, Lincolnshire, the exception to be added in that the body of Captain Matthew Flinders be interred under the North [Aisle] of St Mary and Holy Rood Church. The Daily Telegraph noted that this was the first ‘virtual’ Privy Council in history due to coronavirus; she was joined in the video call by four privy counsellors who gathered in a secure Cabinet Office briefing room.

Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

Gethin Rhys, of Cytûn, kindly pointed out that there was a duff link to the Regulations in our post on Coronavirus updates – index. We have corrected it in the original post: the Regulations are here.

Assisted dying and the Royal College of Physicians

The Royal College of Physicians has issued a press statement as follows:

“In early 2019 the RCP carried out an online survey of its members’ and fellows’ views on the subject of assisted dying. 43.4% of respondents said that the RCP should be opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying, 31.6% said the RCP should support a change in the law, and 25% said the RCP should be neutral. Based on these results RCP Council adopted a position of neutrality on 21st March 2019.

Neutrality was defined as neither supporting nor opposing a change in the law, to try to represent the breadth of views within its membership.  Regrettably, this position has been interpreted by some as suggesting that the College is either indifferent to legal change or is supportive of a change in the law.

So that there can be no doubt, the RCP clarifies that it does not support a change in the law to permit assisted dying at the present time.”

£14 million funding for security at Jewish institutions 

On 1 April, the Home Office announced that it had granted the Community Security Trust (CST) £14 million for security measures to help keep members of the Jewish community safe in their daily lives. The grant will cover protective security for the next financial year at Jewish institutions such as schools and synagogues. CST, a charity that monitors and helps protect against antisemitism, recorded 1,805 anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in 2019, a 7% increase on the previous year.

The grant was introduced in 2015 following a series of terror attacks against Jewish targets across Europe. It has been renewed yearly following security assessments by the Home Office. The grant was introduced in 2015 following a series of terror attacks against Jewish targets across Europe. It has been renewed yearly following security assessments by the Home Office.

In addition to the protective security grant, the Home Office also runs the Places of Worship Scheme, which provides funding to improve physical security for non-Jewish places of worship. The Home Office has also recently launched a consultation to see what more can be done by the Government to improve security for faith groups.

Advance Notice: ELS Annual Conference 2021

The Thirty-Fourth Annual Conference will take place in the County Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne, 19-21 March 2021. The theme will be The Solemnization of Matrimony: Past, Preset and Future, and speakers will include: Professor Nick Hopkins, Law Commission; Professor Rebecca Probert, Exeter University; Stephen Borton, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Faculty Office; Sir Andrew MacFarlane, President of the Family Division of the High Court; Sandra Millar, Head of Life Events, Church of England; Professor Helen Berry, Newcastle University; and The Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle. Booking will commence when the current public health emergency has eased.

Introduction to the ECHR

As part of its HELP programme – Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals – the Council of Europe has launched an updated version of its free online “Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights”, a five-hour interactive training course aimed at legal professionals, public authorities, civil society and students.

It updates the initial version of the course developed in 2016 and includes modules on the ECHR, the ECtHR and – for the first time – the execution of Strasbourg judgments. The updated course is currently available in English, with several other language versions due to be released in the coming months. Frank has signed up for it: well worth a look.

Quick links

And finally…I

Perhaps Mr G was never a chorister, spending time during the sermon working out the date from only the Golden Number, the Sunday Letter, and the BCP?. [Really: is that what they did? When I was a treble I used to pass the time reading the naughty bits in the Song of Songs: FC]

And finally…II

Dr Franz Mesmer rides again.  The Guardian reported Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device. Well, it worked for “Doctor” Despina to cure a suspected case of double poisoning.

3 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 5th April

  1. The Methodist Conference, Captain Matthew Flinders and the ‘virtual’ Privy Council meeting.
    Two observations on the above reports:

    (1) The Daily Telegraph reports that “The Queen held the first ‘virtual’ Privy Council in history, meeting with her formal body of advisors via video conference call. The 93-year-old monarch was in Windsor Castle while four privy counsellors gathered in a secure cabinet office briefing room usually reserved for COBRA emergency meetings for the historic pow wow at 12.30 pm.” Presumably the Lord Chancellor (one of those present) advised Her Majesty on the basis of the Court of Appeal judgment in Byng v London Life Association Ltd [1989] 2 WLR 738, (see Sir Nicholas Browne-Wilkinson V-C at 745G-H) that a meeting by video conference with the Queen in Windsor Castle and the other four privy counsellors in a cabinet office briefing room in Westminster was a valid ‘meeting’. And if the Privy Council can hold such a meeting remotely, surely a humble PCC can do so!

    (2) While the Methodist Council has decided that it will “not be possible for the Conference to meet as planned in June and will look at ways for the Conference to meet in an alternative form,” no decision has been announced yet whether the General Synod group of sessions in York scheduled for 10-14 July will be cancelled. It is also to be noted that the Privy Council ‘List of Business’ does not include the making of an Order in Council pursuant to section 84 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, effectively postponing the General Synod elections due later this year. Decisions on these matters will surely have to be made before the Privy Council meet next in May.

  2. Your helpful reference to the updated course on the ECHR referred to that course covering for the first time “the execution of Strasbourg”. I presume that refers to Strasbourg judgments rather than any wider form of execution!

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