Law and religion round-up – 19th July

The week in which the PM announced that masks were to be compulsory in shops in England – from 24 July…  And we acquired our 700th follower – but several of them are Russian pornbots.

Local lockdowns in England

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 were made on 17 July and came into force yesterday. They empower local authorities to give directions – which must be reviewed at least once every seven days – relating to premises, events and public outdoor places in their own areas. They also give the Secretary of State power to direct a local authority to give such a direction or to revoke a direction. The latest Regulations are in addition to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020, as amended by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. [With thanks to ObiterJ for the reminder.]

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 amend the definition of “the protected area” in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020, to refer only to the areas of Leicester City Council and the Borough of Oadby and Wigston. We suspect that this amendment may be problematic for anyone newly outside “the protected area” who wishes to travel to countries such as Belgium for which “Leicester” is a travel restricted area.

Northern Ireland: marriage and civil partnership

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 were laid before Parliament on 15 July and come into force on 1 September. They will allow faith-groups to opt in to conducting religious same-sex marriages if they wish to do so. On 20 January 2020, the UK Government launched a public consultation on same-sex religious marriage and associated protections which ran until 23 February 2020: the Government’s consultation response is here.

Sikhs and the Census in Scotland

In December, we reported on the unsuccessful challenge in R (Gill) v UK Statistics Authority [2019] EWHC 3407 (Admin) to the Government’s failure to include a Sikh ethnic tick box in the proposed questions for the forthcoming Census. Now comes the news that Sikhs in Scotland have dropped a planned challenge to the Scottish Government after being assured that they will be recognised as a distinct ethnic group in the Census. [With thanks to Scottish Legal News.] Whether the UK Government will do the same for England & Wales remains to be seen.

Furthermore, it was announced on Friday that the Census in Scotland (which, like the Census in Northern Ireland, is conducted separately from that for England and Wales) will be moved to March 2022 because of the impact of COVID-19 on essential preparatory work.

Singing in churches and cathedrals

Since we posted on singing in churches and cathedrals in our 5 July round-up, the Church of England has revised its advice on the conduct of public worship in the light of new Government guidance relating to the performing arts and also, more specifically, to places of worship. On Friday we posted a review of the new tranche of guidance and the ongoing work directed towards an understanding of the transmission of the virus and the production of practical, longer-term solutions.

A useful summary of the current position was provided by the Diocese of Oxford in its update 13 July: Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest – A note on worship, which  explains [emphasis added]:

“At present, there should be no group singing inside churches when worshippers are present. However, a cantor or solo voice is permitted to sing during the service and instruments can be played, though these should only be instruments that are not blown into. Organs can be played for worship, as well as general maintenance.

Separate to the above guidance, which relates to congregational worship, groups of professional singers are now able to rehearse and record in churches and church halls for broadcast purposes. This dispensation does not currently apply to volunteer choirs and non-professional singers.

The recent Church of England guidance, COVID 19 Mission and Ministry with Children, Young People & Families in a Church Setting, issued on 14 July, states that “new guidance for what is possible from September will be issued by the government soon“. This weekend the BBC reported on the experimental work being undertaken; this indicated that the results of the study are not expected to be published until the autumn.

Church of England: criticisms of the Clergy Discipline Measure

A paper published on Thursday by Dr Sarah Horsman, Warden of Sheldon, an independent retreat centre and support hub for those in ministry, on Emerging Findings from Independent academic research on the Clergy Discipline Measure, concludes that it is so flawed that it needs complete replacement. The research, based on a survey of one-third of the C of E clergy carried out with the University of Aston, suggests the replacement of the CDM with a threefold mechanism: a church grievance/dispute-resolution process focused entirely on facilitating resolution between the parties with no external sanctions, a “Church Misconduct” process for objective wrongdoing, handled at the diocesan level, and a “Gross Misconduct” process applied only to clergy over a single major episode or pattern of repeated or reckless lesser episodes.

Church of England: face-covering

On Tuesday 14 July, the Church of England announced that there was a new FAQ – What is the guidance on face coverings? – in its prayer and worship section. This blithely stated: “We are considering our advice in light of the Government’s emerging guidance on face coverings” (dated 24 June) – which, given the state of disarray of the Government’s responses wasn’t much help. However, acknowledging that the Church will have been asked questions on the matter, some form of statement was necessary, and we would have probably given a similar answer.

For the record, a recommendation for mandatory wearing of masks was made by the BMA on 4 June, by the WHO on 8 June and by the Mayor of London on 18  June. Last week, the Government’s position changed from Sunday 12 July,  “No: rely on the common sense of the people”; Monday,  “Maybe”; Tuesday, “Absolutely & £100 fines if they don’t”.  However, the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care has deemed that the stable door will remain open until 24 July, [and we are yet to see the regulations/legislation].

Roman Catholic Church: clerical abuse

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a detailed guide for clerics on handling clergy sex abuse cases: Vademecum: On certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clericsIt is accompanied by a press release which explains that

“It is an instruction manual which … responds to the main questions to several procedural steps regarding how cases of the sexual abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy should be handled. It is not, however, a normative text. Nor does it introduce new legislation on the subject.”

[With thanks to Howard Friedman.]

Quick links

And finally…I

Beer drinkers will be aware of Shepherd Neame’s Bishop’s Finger, which takes its name from the name of the “fingerposts” pointing pilgrims towards the Shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Given the present Bishop of Gloucester’s liking for fish finger baps from the Monk’s Kitchen at the Cathedral, the marketing opportunity for Bishop’s Fish Fingers appears to have been missed, particularly in view of the Birds Eye rebranding of “Captain Birds Eye” this week. 

And finally…II

From the oodles of spam e-mails that we receive every day (why do they do it?): “It’s a shame that you don’t have a donate button”. Obviously, bots can’t read – or they’d see the note on our Welcome page about making a donation to Billable Hour if you find the blog interesting and/or useful.


3 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 19th July

  1. Re your comment on the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 [SI 2020 No. 754] , in force from 18 July but not being laid before Parliament until tomorrow, 20 July, which amend the definition of ‘the protected area’, by restricting it to the areas of Leicester City Council and the Borough of Oadby and Wigston, worth noting is regulation 8 which, in three short words, ‘Omit Schedule 1’, consigns 28 pages of postcode lists in the main regulations to the refuse bin!

    • Thanks David. I had spotted that (and added a related question to the Boxing Day Quiz, now up to #18), but its certainly worth highlighting here. David

  2. Pingback: COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance | Law & Religion UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *