Law and religion round-up – 4th October

Retrospect of a lousy week…

… in which, for some, access to L&RUK has been being “a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns – it sort of comes and goes” as former PM David Cameron famously described his personal Christian faith. However, we are taking steps to remedy the situation and expect to return to normal service within the next few days.

Once normal service is resumed, we will publish a “Catch-up” post with links to those posts which a number of our readers may have been unwilling to access on account of the security warning. We will also republish these posts individually. In addition, we have a growing a number of draft posts which we will publish shortly, including Russell Sandberg’s guest post on Non-qualifying Marriages and the COVID Regulations, a round-up of the ecclesiastical court judgments for August and September and last week’s New COVID-19 legislation and guidance to 3 October.

Humanist wedding ceremonies and COVID-19

The new COVID-19 Regulations that came into force in England on Monday morning provided for religious and civil marriages to have up to 15 persons in attendance. Humanists UK complained that there was no such provision for humanist ceremonies and that the associated guidance specified that they “must be limited to 6 attendees” (or, more accurately, “attenders” – but maybe that ship has sailed). No doubt the rationale for the distinction was that a humanist wedding celebration is not a legally-binding ceremony. On Tuesday, however, the Government stated that its interpretation of the law was that couples were “entitled lawfully to have a humanist wedding ceremony (and reception) with up to 15 people present’ and that it intended “to revise its guidance accordingly”.

No doubt a welcome example of common sense breaking out – but it does raise yet again the question of the Government’s capacity to distinguish between “law” and “guidance”. Presumably, we can’t be the only people who find the current situation confusing.

Church of Scotland: virtual General Assembly

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place on Friday and Saturday with the vast majority of over 700 commissioners attending remotely. Social distancing and hygiene measures meant that only a small number of representatives of the Church’s committees and councils were at the Assembly Hall on The Mound in Edinburgh to present reports.

Methodist Church: updated COVID-19 guidance

On Wednesday, the Methodist Church issued an update of its Coronavirus Guidance for Property:

The Rule of Law

On Thursday, the Lord Chancellor gave a speech at Temple Church on the occasion of the Opening of the Legal Year Service. Reminding his audience that he had sworn an oath to uphold the Rule of Law, he continued:

“As Lord Chancellor, I will of course tackle sensible criticism head on but, ultimately, my focus will remain on discharging my duties in accordance with my oath. And when it comes to the professions – barristers, solicitors, legal executives – it is right and proper for practitioners to make the strongest cases possible and do their utmost for their clients within the confines of the law. Sometimes a lawyer will find the argument they advance to be at odds with the Government of the day – but it frankly it is a strength of our mature democracy underpinned by the Rule of Law that such debates can occur.

In a healthy democracy like ours, it is inevitable that there will be criticism of both politicians and indeed of lawyers for the work they do. Sometimes that will be robust, tensions will arise, but it is wholly wrong for any professional to be threatened, harassed or worse, attacked simply for doing their job – we must call it out and deal with it. And make the point that those who attack people providing a professional service will be subject to that very same Rule of Law” [emphasis added].

So that’s OK, then. But It will be interesting to see how his views play out in relation to the conclusions of Lord Faulks’s Independent Review of Administrative Law.

Quick links

And finally…I

As part of the day-job, Frank spent a sunny Tuesday grinding slowly through Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law. The Law Commission’s schematic Path to Marriage on page 75 pictures at its centre the happy couple on the day, saying

But the response in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – which must have been the words spoken by the vast majority of brides and grooms in England & Wales for most of the previous three centuries or so – is “I will”. So a genuine question: where did “I do” come from?

And finally…II

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