Law and religion round-up – 28th March

Technical issues in charity law in England & Wales

DCMS has published its response to the Law Commission’s report on Technical Issues in Charity Law (in England and Wales), together with a Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government has accepted the majority of the Law Commission’s recommendations (some of which are for the Charity Commission rather than for ministers). The intention of the proposed reforms is to make charity regulation more effective and the legal framework easier to navigate. The Government intends to bring forward legislation to implement these recommendations when Parliamentary time allows.

Possibly the most important news for places of worship is that the Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation for periodic reviews of the financial thresholds in the Charities Act 2011 with a view to increasing them in line with inflation: otherwise, more and more small congregations would be required to register as inflation eroded the value of the concession. The Government has agreed to review the thresholds at least every 10 years and aims to undertake the first review in 2022.

Abortion (or its absence) in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, has laid before Parliament the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021, which will come into force on 31 March 2021 if approved by a Resolution of each House. The Regulations empower the Secretary of State to direct Northern Ireland ministers, departments and agencies to take action to implement the recommendations included in paragraphs 85 and 86 of a 2018 report on Northern Ireland by the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which recommended, inter alia, that the Government:

“(a) Repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, so that no criminal charges can be brought against women and girls who undergo abortion or against qualified health-care professionals and all others who provide and assist in the abortion;

(b) Adopt legislation to provide for expanded grounds to legalize abortion at least in the following cases:

(i) Threat to the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health, without conditionality of “long-term or permanent” effects;

(ii)   Rape and incest;

(iii) Severe fetal impairment, including fatal foetal abnormality, without perpetuating stereotypes towards persons with disabilities and ensuring appropriate and ongoing support, social and financial, for women who decide to carry such pregnancies to term…”

There is an Explanatory Note here.

Holy Week and Easter

On Thursday, the Church of England updated various pieces of guidance in advance of Holy Week:

It subsequently updated the documents reflecting the next step in the Government’s four-step plan:

The document on public worship was updated with particular reference to singing, as reported in our post, COVID-19: New MHCLG guidance on singing, which also provided links to the new advice from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). With regard to weddings, the new Church guidance summarizes the changes as:

  • Step 1: 6 people attending, 29th March
  • Step 2: 15 people attending, estimated for 12th April at the earliest
  • Step 3: 30 people attending, estimated for 17th May at the earliest
  • Step 4: no limit on people attending, estimated for 21st June at the earliest

It also notes that there will be changes to the registration of marriages from 4 May. Earlier posts have summarized the GRO Advice for Clergy and the equivalent GRO Advice for Authorised Persons.

Lord High Commissioner 2021

The Queen has appointed the Earl of Strathearn (aka the Duke of Cambridge) as HM’s Lord High Commissioner to the 2021 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He had been appointed Lord High Commissioner for 2020; however, the General Assembly had to be cancelled last May because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 ELS Day Conference: The Solemnization of Matrimony: past, present and future

The PowerPoint slides from the 2021 ELS Day Conference are now available for download from the Society’s website:

Quick links

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