Law and religion round-up – 18th April

Good Friday and COVID-19 in Balham

As we noted without comment in the round-up on 4 April, two Metropolitan Police Officers interrupted the Good Friday Liturgy at the Polish Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King in Balham, telling those present that gatherings “with this many people” were unlawful under the COVID-19 restrictions and ordering them to disperse or risk either a £200 fine or being arrested.

Evidently the Met has had second thoughts. The BBC reports that DS Andy Wadey had addressed the congregation after Mass on Sunday. He said that the COVID-19 restrictions had been challenging for faith communities, but the restrictions had been designed to protect and support communities in staying safe during the pandemic. He conceded, however, that “many people were very upset by what happened on Good Friday and we deeply regret that” and said that there had been “significant reflection and learning” by both officers and senior leaders at New Scotland Yard.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Revd John Wilson, who accompanied DS Wadey to the Mass on Sunday, said that the concerns of the church had been “heard directly” by the Metropolitan Police and that all were “deeply saddened by the events that took place in this church on Good Friday afternoon,”

There is a more detailed report in Crux. A video posted on YouTube suggests that social distancing is now being observed.

Wakefield Cathedral and COVID-19

Premier Christian News reported that Wakefield Cathedral had to move a service of thanksgiving for the Duke of Edinburgh online after concerns from local police. However, the article includes a statement from West Yorkshire Police: “We are not aware that West Yorkshire Police has been in direct contact with places of worship although national guidance has been provided, via local resilience forums.” Regardless of these weasel words, the advice proffered to the Cathedral was a correct interpretation of the guidance and the legislation, and is applicable to both church and civil commemorations.

Wakefield Cathedral had hoped to host the thanksgiving service on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor; however Premier was told that following revised guidelines, the service would be live-streamed with just 15 civic guests present. This appears to be in accord with Exception 11: commemorative event following a person’s death, Paragraph 4, Schedule 2, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/364; also the MHCLG Guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship; and COVID-19: guidance for arranging or attending a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic, DHSC and PHE.

These provisions limiting attendance to 15 will be relevant to any church, cathedral or other place of worship which intends to hold such an event. However, the Guidance documents indicate “[a]nyone working is not counted in these limits”. 

Evangelical religion and breach of contract again

Earlier in the month, we reported the case of Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham Limited v Blackpool Borough Council & Anor [2021] Manchester Cty Ct F00MA124, in which the Claimant sued successfully for discrimination on grounds of religion and belief and violation of its Convention rights under Articles 9 and 10 ECHR after the Defendants had removed advertisements on Blackpool buses in accordance with their policy of “no political or religious advertising on the buses”.

The Times now reports that Stirling Free Church and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA)  are suing the Robertson Trust, a poverty relief charity, claiming that contracts to use rooms owned by the Trust were cancelled because of objections to their beliefs. Stirling Free Church claims that the Trust agreed to allow it to use its Barracks conference centre in Stirling for Sunday worship and the BGEA claims that it booked the conference centre for a one-off meeting: the Trust subsequently cancelled both bookings. The hearing will take place at Glasgow sheriff court.

Around the ecclesiastical courts

One waits for over a year for a CDM Determination, then two turn up at once – unlike the iconic Routemaster buses whose heritage service has finally been halted by TfL. The two CDM determinations reported in April 2021 are The Revd Graeme Rainey: Determination of Penalty and The Revd William Bulloch: Decision – Court of Arches. Extracts from the former are summarized here and the latter is reported here.

In the Isle of Man, the consistory court considered Re Peel Cemetery [2020] EC Sodor 2, an otherwise uncontroversial case concerning exhumation apart from the requirements of the Manx Burials Act 1986. S.22(1) of the Act precludes the removal of human remains from the land in which they have been buried without the consent of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture; s.22(2) provides an exemption for the removal of remains from one piece of consecrated ground to another on the authority of the ordinary (that is the Bishop or the Vicar General). In this case, however, the exemption did not apply because the land at Crogga was not “consecrated” within the meaning of s.22(2), even though it had been blessed by the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool and Monsignor Devine before the deceased’s remains were interred there. Readers may recall the changes made to the Burial Act 1857 whereby a similar requirement in England and Wales was removed in 2014, here and here.

The unusual circumstances of Re St Clement Terrington [2020] ECC Ely 3 are also of interest, where the Chancellor considered four applications for faculties to reserve graves in a churchyard which the PCC had already applied for closure of the churchyard in six months time, a decision which he considered premature.

Northern Ireland: Independent Review of Charity Regulation

The Northern Ireland Executive has launched an online Independent Review of Charity Regulation, charged with looking at how well the current charities regulatory framework is working and what could work better. The review covers nine areas:

  • registration;
  • reporting;
  • engagement with the Charity Commission for NI;
  • charity compliance procedures;
  • charity investigation procedures;
  • charity enforcement procedures;
  • Charity Commission powers of delegation;
  • the role of the Department for Communities in charity regulation, including its responsibility for areas of the Charities Act that may require revision; and
  • other matters for consideration.

The consultation closes on 12 May.

“Our eyes are fully open to the awful situation”

Whilst not exactly paraphrasing the Ruddigore patter song, the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales on 14 April “declared a climate emergency and agreed that an ‘urgent and rapid global response’ to global warming was necessary”. The motion to declare a climate emergency and commit to net zero carbon emissions was brought by the Church’s environmental group, CHASE (Church Action for Sustaining the Environment). It said

“We acknowledge that an urgent and rapid global response to global warming is now necessary. We welcome the fact that solutions to alleviate the climate crisis are widely available including renewable technology, sustainable transport options and zero-carbon buildings. We support the decisions of governments, councils and organisations across Wales to pass motions declaring a climate emergency and setting net zero carbon emissions targets for their local areas. We should endeavour, through an action plan, to reach a net zero carbon emission position for the activities of the Church in Wales as soon as is practically possible.”

The motion also asked for an action plan to be prepared for consideration by the Governing Body in a year’s time, setting out how the whole of the Church in Wales could reach a net zero carbon emission position by 2030 or as soon as practically possible thereafter.

A second motion, brought by the Representative Body, called for the Church’s Ethical Investment Policy to be amended so that no investments would be made in any company deriving more than 5% of its turnover from the production or the extraction of fossil fuels, and for this to be actioned by the end of the year. Both motions were passed by an overwhelming majority.

Slavery, Black Lives Matter and chocolate

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, as most readers will know, is an independent Quaker charity that makes grants to organisations and individuals working to produce social change, established in 1904 as one of three endowed trusts set up in Joseph Rowntree’s name. The confectionery firm long postdates the abolition of the slave trade in what was then the British Empire, but recent research has identified evidence suggesting that the Rowntree company purchased cocoa and other goods produced by enslaved people and benefited from the system of colonial indenture.

The Trust has issued a statement expressing its regret, as a former shareholder in the Rowntree company and an institutional beneficiary of its wealth. It also apologises for ignoring evidence of oppressive and exploitative practices at Rowntree’s South African subsidiary, Wilson Rowntree, during the apartheid era.

Quick links

And finally…

5 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 18th April

  1. Pingback: COVID-19 legislation and guidance: update to 17 April | Law & Religion UK

    • Thanks Peter. The problem arose as a result in a change of the citation that was originally circulated. Whilst I changed this in the draft monthly and annual reviewed, I omitted to change the round up link. It should be OK now.

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