Law and religion round-up – 3rd January

Brexit and the future of UK adherence to the ECHR

From the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part:

“Article LAW.GEN.3: Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms:

1. The cooperation provided for in this Part is based on the Parties’ and Member States’ long-standing respect for democracy, the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, including as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights, and on the importance of giving effect to the rights and freedoms in that Convention domestically

2. Nothing in this Part modifies the obligation to respect fundamental rights and legal principles as reflected, in particular, in the European Convention on Human Rights and, in the case of the Union and its Member States, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union” [our emphasis].

So it looks as if the UK may not be joining Belarus and the Vatican City after all. Or, at least, not in the immediate future.

Places of worship during lockdown

On Wednesday 30 December, the Government announced a further review of the allocation of the formal tiers within England whereby more areas were elevated to tiers 4 and 3. The Government decides which tier applies in each area based on a range of indicators, including: analysis of cases across all age groups; analysis of cases in the over-60s; the rate by which cases are rising or falling; the percentage of those tested in local populations with COVID-19; and pressures on the NHS.

However, the DHSC guidance for places of worship within tiers has not changed since 22 December, and the Church of England has indicated that public worship may continue in all tiers, in line with its own and Government guidance. Nevertheless, concern has been expressed in the social media following the reported increase in transmissibility of the new virus variant, evidence of which was provided to NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group) and ministers on December 18.

Sex and relationships education in the Western Isles

The Guardian reports that a majority of Councillors on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Islands Council) has voted in support of a motion “commending” Roman Catholic teaching materials on relationships, sexual health and parenthood, apparently in rejection of the materials backed by the Scottish Government. Council officials insisted that the motion did nothing to change policy because it still allowed teachers to use a variety of guides based on their judgment and on local policy.

“A better organization”/”Una migliore organizzazione”

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that Pope Francis had issued new legislation with a view to reorganizing Vatican finances. It states that on 28 December 2020, the Holy See press office said that the motu proprio converts into law the decisions set out in the pope’s August letter to Cardinal Parolin, which led to the creation of a commission overseeing the transfer of responsibilities from the Secretariat of State to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). The press office explained that the commission would “continue to clarify some technical details until Feb. 4, as was expected.”

“This new law reduces the number of economic managers in the Holy See and concentrates administration, management, and economic and financial decisions in the dicasteries that correspond to the purpose,” the press office said.

“With it, the Holy Father wishes to proceed to a better organization of the Roman Curia and to an even more specialized functioning of the Secretariat of State, which will be able with greater freedom to help him and his successors in matters of greater importance for the good of the Church.”

It added that the motu proprio also “establishes a greater control and a better visibility of Peter’s Pence and of the funds that proceed from the donations of the faithful.” [Photo: Box for collection of Peter’s Pence, dated 1473, Holy Trinity, Blythburgh].

So it’s goodbye to them

At the end of December, Clive Coleman and Owen Bowcott stepped down as the legal correspondents of the BBC and The Guardian, respectively. Given the current straitened circumstances of both press and broadcasting, we can only hope that they will be replaced by specialists and that their roles won’t simply get swept up into general news reporting – it’s far too important for that, as David Allen Green points out.

Quick links

And finally…I

The oft-misquoted phrase “Beam me up Scotty” acquired a new significance when it was revealed that the ashes of James Doohan, the actor who played  Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the TV series Star Trek, had been smuggled on to the International Space Station in 2008 during a 12-day mission. In death the actor who played the Starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times.

And finally…II

Sir Humphrey Appleby would have approved of the implications on further changes to The Education (Admission Appeals Arrangements) (Wales) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 SI 1606 (W.333). If the 2020 Regulations, amended by the Amended Regulations and the Amended Amended Regulations, are further amended so that the amendments made to the 2020 Regulations continue to have effect until 30 September 2021, the subsequent amendments would need to be made through The Education (Admission Appeals Arrangements) (Wales) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (Amendment) (Amendment) Regulations.


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