Don Giovanni, W A Mozart
Face-covering in England
Governmental confusion regarding the scope of the face-covering provisions, which we reported last week, continued until hours before the legislation was said to be coming into force. The snappily-titled The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 were laid before Parliament at 1.15 pm on 23 July and became effective on 24 July 20. These Regulations require members of the public to wear face coverings whilst inside a “relevant place” specified in the Regulations in England to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except in certain limited cases.
Face-covering in places of worship
Places of worship are not designated as “relevant places” and do not fall within the Regulations. However, the Church of England House of Bishops Recovery Group issued COVID-19 Advice on Face Coverings, which reflected Government guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic and “strongly advised” that face covering should be used by all those attending a place of worship. Further, strict adherence to the Church’s Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion requires that “[e]ach communicant should also be encouraged to sanitise their hands before and after removing their face covering to receive the bread, and before and after putting it on again”.
The Government guidance Face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own includes recommendations which have parallels relevant to liturgical use: avoid taking off masks and putting and putting them back in quick succession (in the context of shopping); only handle the straps, ties or clips; do not touch the front of the face-covering or the part that has been in contact with the mouth and nose; if eating (in a restaurant), do not place the face-covering on the table.
A pragmatic view appears to have been taken in some – but not all – dioceses and parishes, the national advice being passed on as “recommendations”, “recognising and respecting that individuals will make different choices about this”.
The advice on face coverings in the House of Bishops Recovery Group document COVID-19 Advice on Face Coverings has been incorporated into the updates of a number of other documents:
- Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship
- Advice on individual private prayer
- Advice for clergy conducting weddings
- Advice for conducting funerals
- Advice for conducting baptisms
- Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion
– all of which have been added to our Coronavirus updates – index, which since 12 March has undergone over 300 updates as we have followed the legislation and guidance on coronavirus COVID-19 in “law and religion”. Currently, there are 23 separate items of Guidance/Advice that have been produced by the Church of England, several of which are now in their 4th version – evidence of the early wisdom of the HoB Recovery Group to institute a system of document control, an approach we have long advocated.
Blackburn with Darwen, and Luton
On 17 June the Prime Minister announced that a number of businesses and venues were due to reopen in England from 25 July and 1 August providing the prevalence of coronavirus remained around or below levels at the time. However, due to an increase in the spread of COVID-19, these businesses and venues will not be permitted to reopen in Blackburn with Darwen and Luton from 25 July and must continue to remain closed until further notice from the government. Both Luton Borough Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council are defined as “protected areas” within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Luton) Regulations 2020, and separate Guidance has been issued by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government: for Luton Borough Council here and here, and for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council here and here.
Places of worship and crematoria are permitted to remain open as before, provided they follow Government guidance, here and here. The Guidance on weddings should also be followed except with regard to planned changes from 1 August to permit seated wedding receptions, which are strongly advised not to go ahead.
Cults and parental care
In Re S (Parental Alienation: Cult)  EWCA Civ 568, which Elijah Z Granet noted here in a guest post, the Court of Appeal allowed a father’s appeal against the decision of HHJ Meston QC refusing to order the transfer of the care of his 9-year-old daughter to him because of the mother’s involvement in what was perceived to be a harmful cult: Universal Medicine. It remitted the case for further consideration by the President of the Family Division, who reallocated the case to Williams J. In Re S (Parental Alienation: Cult: Transfer of Primary Care)  EWHC 1940 (Fam), Williams J found that the mother had failed to comply with the Court of Appeal’s directions to disassociate herself from Universal Medicine and gave the father exclusive custody. He refused an application for permission to appeal. [With thanks to Elijah Z Granet.]
Matt (Hancock) 6:3
On 20 July, Andrew Selous, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, asked the Health Secretary why, when there were no limits on those meeting to eat and drink in a pub, that from 1 August only 30 could attend a wedding reception. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock) responded:
“The explanation is that in the pub they will have to be socially distanced at 2 metres, or 1 metre plus mitigation. Unfortunately, this virus is still at large, so having very large groups of people in a situation where it is absolutely normal to be in very close contact is a risk. These are all judgments and unfortunately that is one of the judgments that we have had to make.”
He appears to have been unaware of the MHCLG Guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic, updated 17 July 2020, which states:
“Marriage ceremonies should have no more than 30 people in attendance. Attendance should also be within the capacity limits of the premises so that social distancing can be strictly adhered to. See more detail in the guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
Channel Islands Measure 2020
On 22 July, the Channel Islands Measure 2020 was given Royal Assent: it empowers Her Majesty to move Jersey and Guernsey from the Diocese of Winchester to the Diocese of Salisbury. The Explanatory Note to General Synod GS 2152X states that it also makes new provision to simplify the process for applying existing Measures to the Channel Islands. It also makes minor and consequential amendments to other legislation. The background to the transfer is summarized in our February post, Channel Islands transfer to Diocese of Salisbury.
Faith school admissions
The Department of Education has issued the non-statutory guidance Faith school admission arrangements variation. Admission authorities for schools designated as having a religious character may use faith-based oversubscription criteria in their admission arrangements and allocate places by reference to faith where the school is oversubscribed. Some define children’s or families’ membership or practice of the faith for this purpose through regular attendance at a place of worship over a specified period. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there have been restrictions on the opening of places of worship (especially for communal worship) and parents and their children may have been unable to attend their place of worship as normal. This has a potential impact on the admission arrangements have been affected for the September 2021 intake, and as a result, some admission authorities may need to seek a variation to their admission arrangements to ensure parents are clear on what they need to do to meet the relevant criteria.
The guidance is for admission authorities who consider that they will need to make
changes to their admissions arrangements to account for the period where access to places of worship and/or to communal worship has been restricted as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
- Church of England: House of Bishops Meeting – 22 July 2020.
- Alex Dean, Prospect: Is Brenda Hale fearful for UK human rights?: spoiler: yes.
- Paul Goodman, Conservative Home: The Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission pledged in the Conservative Manifesto is being quietly shelved: hope so.
- Katherine Marshall & Olivia Wilkinson, Berkley Forum: What’s Faith Got to Do With COVID-19?
- Conor McCormick & Thomas Stewart, NI Law Quarterly: The legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
Last Sunday, the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, claimed that “Our action to keep the justice system running throughout the pandemic has been globally recognised.”
From Punta Arenas to Ulan Bator, they talk of little else…
This week we learned that the Cathedral Café at Brecon Cathedral is run by “Borgia Enterprises” and are run by Mr & Mrs Borgia. It is not known whether, in the spirit of “render unto Cesare”, they supply chestnuts to cathedral clergy.
We apologise for the intermittent access to the blog over the past couple of days; this was due to circumstances beyond our control and steps have been taken to rectify the issue; our thanks to readers for alerting us to this problem.