Law and religion round-up – 3rd May

A day late, but it appears that we’re back in business…

Coronavirus – planning ahead

On 27 April, the Church of England posted the statement Coronavirus – planning ahead which said: “There is now a process in place to consider and keep under review any guidance being offered and a network of groups is being created to plan for the future”. From a cynical point of view, this would only be news if there were not such a process in place, although we are now reassured that “a network of groups is being created to plan for the future. In particular, the Bishop of London is convening a group looking at all issues relating to Recovery”.

By way of contrast, an important development which received only minimal coverage by the Church was the two-page guidance note, A practical path to “net zero carbon” for our churches issued on 28 April. This gives practical guidance to churches for reducing their energy use and associated carbon emissions, and was produced following the much-lauded General Synod decision reported as General Synod sets 2030 Net Zero carbon target? A prerequisite to the implementation of the new guidance is the widespread dissemination of the information, but to date, this has not been widely promoted within the Church.

An analysis of the  Church of England’s approach to climate change will be covered in Towards net zero carbon for churches, which will be posted shortly.

Transgender parenting and the Court of Appeal

On Wednesday, in R (McConnell & Anor, R) v The Registrar General for England and Wales [2020] EWCA Civ 559, the Court of Appeal upheld the first-instance judgment of Sir Andrew McFarlane P that, in law, people who have given birth are “mothers”, regardless of their gender, and that there was a material difference between a person’s gender and his or her status as a parent. Burnett LCJ and King and Singh LJJ rejected the appeal of Freddie McConnell, a trans man who had given birth and wished to be registered as his baby’s father. The Court concluded that the requirement that he be referred to on the birth certificate as the child’s mother did not violate his Article 8 rights or those of the child and that there was no incompatibility between the domestic legislation and Convention rights.

Prayer cards, calling cards and a telephone box

While the churches are closed in All Stretton, “a small village in the heart of the Shropshire hills”, the village phone box has been turned into a “Pop-up Prayer Box”, and parishioners are urged to “write your prayers at home and pop them up in the phone box when you go for a walk, so that they can be read by people passing by”. Telephone boxes in the UK and elsewhere have a history as a means of passing on messages, although not necessarily for prayer. Under s.61 Post Office Act 1953, it was illegal to “affix any placard, advertisement, notice….(etc)” to letterboxes and in telephone boxes. This remained in force until the privatisation of the industry under the British Telecommunications Act 1981, which encouraged the proliferation of “tart cards” in phone boxes rather than shop windows.

This use was finally addressed through s.46 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 Placing of advertisement relating to prostitution, although the lesser offence of littering remains: see s.86(4) Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, the new use at All Stretton in the type K6 telephone box remains within the law – a prosecution (unreported) involving the placing of “calling cards” in an old-style telephone kiosk failed because the kiosk was enclosed by a roof, walls and a door and not “open to the air”, [Chapter 10, Law of Waste Management, 2nd edition] – providing none of the prayer cards offer naked ice baths, beatings and massages.

Bride and Zoom

The Times reports on an Anglican online wedding in Abu Dhabi. The couple were due to be married in church on 26 March but the UAE went into lockdown on 11 March and all gatherings had to be cancelled. Canon Andrew Thompson, the priest-in-charge, agreed that the wedding service could go ahead without the couple being physically present; he presided from the church and the couple said their vows from their home in Mushrif, an Abu Dhabi suburb. Hmmm.

Quick links

And finally…

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