Law and religion round-up – 11th October

Yet another messy week…

The state of the blog

So far as we can understand the position, we are waiting for approval of the transfer of our domain name before the site can be migrated to the new ISP. It’s a nightmare – but do please bear with us. Once the migration has been completed, we aim to repost everything from the last two weeks or so.

Weddings law

Later this morning, we shall be publishing a guest post by Professor Rebecca Probert on the  Law Commission’s consultation on the reform of weddings law in England and Wales, which is intended to be the first in an occasional series on the progress of the project.

COVID-19: marriages and civil partnerships in England

On Wednesday, the Westminster Government published an updated version of COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships in England. It notes – retrospectively – that from 28 September no more than 15 people can legally attend a marriage or civil partnership, even where it can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue. This is the maximum number for all attenders at the event, including the couple, but “Anyone working is not included as part of the legal limit”. No more than 15 people may attend a reception and it must be in the form of a sit-down meal in a COVID-19 secure venue.

COVID-19: increased restrictions in Ireland

The Irish Government moved all counties in Ireland from the Level 2 to the Level 3 restrictions from midnight on Tuesday 6 October: Dublin and Donegal were already under the additional restrictions. Attendance at weddings and funerals is limited to 25, and though places of worship may remain open for private prayer, “Services move online”.

Street preaching again

Readers may remember the case of Michael Overd, who was fined for a religiously-aggravated public order offence – preaching to shoppers at Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol – but then had his conviction quashed. The saga continues, however; and last week, the High Court, sitting in Bristol, extended the interlocutory injunction against some of his activities but in less comprehensive terms than those originally sought. Under the terms of the latest injunction, which will run until July 2022, Mr Overd is prohibited from using any amplification device (including a megaphone or microphone) when preaching in public, from playing copies of pre-recorded preaching in public spaces in Somerset and Bristol and from uttering the word “murderer” towards any person within 80 yards of a named abortion clinic in Taunton.

Marriage licences (or their absence) in Kentucky – revisited

We seldom report US decisions, but back in 2015, we noted the case of Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan, Kentucky, who decided to stop issuing marriage licences to any couple, gay or straight, because she objected on religious grounds to same-sex marriage – and was committed for contempt by federal district judge David Bunning after she told him that her religious objections prevented her from complying with his preliminary injunction ordering her to end her office’s refusal to issue licences.

The case has ground on, and on Monday the US Supreme Court handed down a decision to deny a petition for a writ of certiorari to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In Kim Davis v David Ermold, et al 592 U. S. ____ (2020) [scroll down to 55].  Thomas J, joined by Alito J, concurred in the denial of review but made a statement which was highly critical of what Thomas J described as “this Court’s alteration of the Constitution” in its judgment in Obergefell:

“This petition implicates important questions about the scope of our decision in Obergefell, but it does not cleanly present them. For that reason, I concur in the denial of certiorari. Nevertheless, this petition provides a stark reminder of the consequences of Obergefell. By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix. Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ‘ruinous consequences for religious liberty.’ 576 U. S., at 734 (THOMAS, J., dissenting).”

[With thanks to Religion Clause for the lead.]

Upcoming online conference: Flashpoints

“On Monday 14 December 2020, for the fifth year running, Nottingham Law School’s Centre for Rights and Justice will be holding its one day Flashpoints conference exploring themes which ignite debate in the field of Law, Human Rights and Religion. On this occasion, the conference will be in an online format. For 2020, we are particularly encouraging papers on the themes below, but as always we will be pleased to receive proposed papers relating to the wider theme of Law, Human Rights and Religion.

  • Freedom of religion, healing and health
  • Freedom of religious expression
  • Historical Papers-particularly those relating the Mayflower Pilgrims
  • Freedom of religion, belief and children’s rights

For further details, please email”

Quick links

4 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 11th October

    • A number of dioceses have guides for PCC Secretaries, although some are not up to date with legislative developments. The Diocese of Oxford document THE ROLE OF THE P.C.C. SECRETARY is useful is setting out the duties of a PCC Secretary; it stresses:
      Almost everything you need to know from the “legally required” point of view is set out in the Church Representation Rules (CRR) published by Church House Publishing. No PCC Sec should try to operate without a copy – it is a lifesaver and will end many arguments about ‘how things should be done’”.

      Although dated June 2018, the URL to the Church Representation Rules links to the 2020 edition, not “the most recent version … 2017” referred to in the text. However, I have not checked the references to the CRR in the text.

      The Oxford Diocese also has a section PCC resources which includes “PCC Secretary Training and useful information”.

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