Article 9 ECHR
The European Court of Human Rights has published its Guide on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, updated on 30 April 2020. As paragraph 10 of the Guide points out:
“Freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in Article 9 of the Convention represents one of the foundations of a ‘democratic society’ within the meaning of the Convention. It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it. That freedom entails, inter alia, freedom to hold or not to hold religious beliefs and to practise or not to practise a religion.”
Registration of Births in England and Wales
On 8 June, the Registration of Births and Deaths (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, SI/2020/577 came into force in England and Wales. The Regulations amend regulation 9(1) of the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987, SI/1987/2088 to allow for the entry of information in a birth registration entry without the registrar needing to be in the presence of the informant.
Premier pressures prelates on private prayer
Having indicated on 5 June that the date for private prayer was not then known, late on the following evening of 6 June, it was necessary for the Church of England to issue a statement after the Government announced that church buildings can open up for supervised individual prayer from 15 June. However, at the coronavirus press conference on 10 June 2020, the Prime Minister then stated:
“Finally, we will allow places of worship to open for individual prayer this weekend. And I hope that will be of some comfort to those of faith who have been unable to go to their place of worship”.
“In @LivDiocese churches will have the option of opening for private prayer, depending on their local situation & on local resources available, from Monday (15th). Parish clergy will make these decisions for their own context. I trust my colleagues and will support them in this”.
Quite so. When churches are opened is not within the gift of government, and the overarching guidance is permissive, not mandatory. This was echoed in the Press Release from the Church of England on the unexpected (and seemingly unnecessary) change from 15 June to 13 June.
As a consequence of the amendments in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/588, as from 13 June 2020, private prayer is now permitted under Regulation 5 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, SI 350. This states:
“(6) A place of worship may be used…
… (e) for private prayer by individuals, and for these purposes, “private prayer” means prayer which does not form part of communal worship”.
Informal virtual meeting of C of E General Synod
The Church of England has published a timetable for an informal virtual meeting of members of General Synod on Saturday 11 July, with the support of the Business Committee. The residential meeting due to take place in York in July had been cancelled in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. The term of the current General Synod has been extended for a year with planned elections to the General Synod postponed until next autumn and Synod officers continue to explore options to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person in November.
In Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v MSP  EWCOP 26, the Court of Protection had to consider an application from the Trust to remove artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) from a 34-year-old man (MSP) who had had significant gastrointestinal problems for approximately ten years requiring repeated invasive surgery and now had an irreversible stoma. At the time of the hearing, he was unconscious and on life support in ICU. Hayden J concluded that it was in MSP’s best interests that there should be a withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration with continued sedation which, ultimately, would compromise respiration and lead to MSP’s death.
The UK Human Rights Blog has an extensive note on the judgment by Rosalind English: Removal of ANH was in patient’s best interests and respected his autonomy.
‘No-fault’ divorce in England and Wales
On Monday, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords] was given a Second Reading in the Commons by 231 votes to 16.
Irish Gaelic on memorials?
Further to our post on Re St Giles, Exhall  ECC Cov 1, Richard Huss has pointed out, helpfully, that the Parochial Church Council of St Giles has issued a statement on the matter in which it declares that:
“… we do not share the Chancellor’s view that ‘there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement’. As part of the faculty application process, the PCC of St Giles discussed the memorial application and voted in favour of supporting the request.”
The PCC’s support for the memorial per se was far from unanimous; the judgment records:
“. The Parochial Church Council of St Giles resolved to support the proposed memorial though it is to be noted that was by a vote of six to five with seven abstentions. The Council in expressing that support asked that it be noted that there were no comparable memorials in the burial ground.”
It has been clarified that the vote related to the shape of the stone proposed, see Comments.
Archbishop of York
On 11 June, Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell was formally Elected by York Minster’s College of Canons to be the 98th Archbishop of York. The election endorsed the Queen’s nomination of Bishop Stephen as the new Archbishop, in a ceremony that has been part of the statutory process for appointing senior bishops in the Church of England since 1533. The Election ceremony normally takes place in York Minster’s Chapter House with all of the Minster’s Canons present in person, but it was held via video conference to comply with the Coronavirus restrictions. As required by the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533, the proclamation issued by the Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, Dean of York, as the President of the Minster’s College of Canons, was published at the end of the Election ceremony to announce the result.
Bishop Stephen will be confirmed as Archbishop of York at 11 am on Thursday 9 July 2020 in a service broadcast entirely via videoconference due to the Coronavirus restrictions. As Presiding Judge, the Archbishop of Canterbury granted permission for the virtual service to take place. The service, which had been due to take place in York Minster, will be in two parts: a legal ceremony with readings, prayers and music; and a film marking the start of Bishop Stephen’s ministry as Archbishop of York.
- Bishops’ Conference of Scotland: Pastoral Letter 5th June 2020: re COVID-19 – what else?
- Bishops’ Conference of Scotland: COVID-19 Infection Control Guidance for churches.
- Andrew Brown: How to write about Religion: written evidence to the APPG on religion and the media.
- Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales: Guidance on Re-opening of Catholic Churches for Individual Prayer.
- Neil Foster, Law and Religion Australia: Freedom of Religion and the impact of COVID-19 on Christian life and worship.
- Megan Manson, National Secular Society: Outdoor marriage shouldn’t be restricted on religious grounds.
- Methodist Church: Official guidance on reopening churches: 11 June.
- Russell Sandberg, Law Reform and Coronavirus: what impact could it have on law reform going forward?
- US Department of State: 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom.
- Church of Scotland: Covid-19 (coronavirus) Reopening of Church Buildings, v1.
“This strained justification has all the forensic plausibility of a 30-mile drive to Barnard Castle to test one’s eyesight. A1(2) reads ‘Repairs and replacement of fittings in existing kitchens, lavatories and office accommodation’ (emphasis added). By no stretch of the imagination could a tea urn and a tap constitute a kitchen. The intention was not to repair or replace, but to introduce something new. Mr Graham has stretched the words of A1(2) beyond breaking point: this paragraph cannot on any sensible meaning embrace what was proposed” (per Hill Ch).
Re St Bartholomew Brighton  ECC Chi 2