Law and religion round-up – 22nd August

Alison Chabloz: yet another day in court

Ms Alison Chabloz uploaded to YouTube a video of herself singing songs which were later described as a collection of anti-Semitic tropes or motifs, with a particular emphasis on Holocaust denial. On 25 May 2018 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, she was convicted of three offences under section 127(1)(a) and (b) of the Communications Act 2003 for which she received a suspended sentence. She appealed her convictions to Southwark Crown Court, but on 13 February 2019, her appeal was dismissed. We noted the two judgments here and here.

Subsequently, observed Coulson LJ in Chabloz v Crown Prosecution Service [2019] EWHC 3094 (Admin) at [2], “things got into something of a procedural muddle”: she sought to appeal by way of case stated when she should have sought judicial review. No JR application was ever formally made, though written grounds for JR were produced in September 2019 [2]. Notwithstanding the muddle, however, the matter came before the Administrative Court and Coulson LJ and Cheema-Grubb J refused her application.

In May and July 2019, she took part in broadcasts and subsequently shared a link to them in a blog, and on Wednesday 31 March 2021 – by now Alison Chabloz-Tyrer – she was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of a further offence under s 127 and was jailed for 18 weeks. She appealed – and last week the Crown Court increased her sentence. HHJ Beddoe, sitting with magistrates, activated the suspended sentence that she had received in 2018 and varied her sentence to a total of 32 weeks. Joshua Rozenberg has the full story, here.

Legislative Reform (Church Commissioners) Order 2021

The Legislative Reform (Church Commissioners) Order 2021, which was made on 13 July, laid before Parliament on 27 July 2021 and came into force on 28 July 2021, amends the Church Commissioners Measure 1947Inter alia:

  • Article 2 sets a five-year maximum for nominated members of the Commissioners and a nominated member is not eligible to become a Commissioner again by appointment or election after serving for a consecutive period of ten years until after a five-year interval. A nominated member with ten year’s consecutive service may, in exceptional circumstances, serve for a further period of up to 12 months.
  • Article 3 makes equivalent provision for the Assets Committee and the Audit and Risk Committee and increases from six to eight the maximum number of lay Commissioners who may be appointed to the Assets Committee.
  • Article 4 provides that salaried officials of a diocesan body are no longer disqualified from membership of the Commissioners.
  • Article 5 requires lay Commissioners to declare their membership of the Church of England or of a Trinitarian Church and their support for the charitable objects of the Commissioners and provides that a majority of the members of each committee of the Commissioners must be members of the Church of England.
  • Article 6 enables meetings of the Commissioners, the Board or its committees to be held remotely and enables the Commissioners to conduct business by correspondence.
  • Article 7 expands the charitable objects of the Commissioners to include providing the National Church Institutions with access to the archiving and document storage facilities at Lambeth Palace Library.

Last week, an out-of-time Prayer was tabled against the Order, in the names of Chris Loder, Sir Peter Bottomley, Richard Holden, Jerome Mayhew, Tim Farron and James Sunderland – so there may possibly be a debate in committee.

Upholstered chairs, yet again, and again…

This week we posted Resolving another “upholstered chairs” impasse which reviewed Re St John the Evangelist Ashton Hayes [2020] ECC Chr 1. Although this was not the only recent case on this recurrent topic, in it Turner Ch neatly summed up the problems which the consistory courts must address. He stated inter alia:

“[35]. The topicality (and, frequently, difficulty) of chair selection is amply demonstrated in the plethora of reported Consistory Court cases, some of them my own.”

“[36]. Aesthetic considerations are notoriously difficult to weigh. For every expert who opines something is fine or worthy, another may be found to venture the opposite view.”

“[37]. Chancellors, regrettably, disagree amongst themselves, with their DACs and with the views of the amenity societies and the CBC. The world outside the church frequently looks on in such debates in baffled incomprehension at what is often considered, to borrow the phrase, a ‘first world problem’.”

In this case, the petitioners sought to change the type of pew from the un-upholstered one specified in the faculty granted on 24 May 2018, to an upholstered chair. A total of 160 chairs would be involved.

Other pew-related judgments in August include: Re St Chad Dunholme [2021] ECC Lin 2, where the Chancellor noted that the replacement pews were not upholstered, adding that he could not permit upholstered chairs; Re St Matthew Edgeley [2021] ECC Chr 1 which necessitated an in-person hearing since there was a purported sale by the petitioners of some twenty pew/benches from the nave, without faculty; and Re St Peter Gaulby [2021] ECC Lei 2, where de Mestre Ch “[was] satisfied that the CBC’s preference for a preponderance of unpadded, plain timber chairs is sufficiently answered by the PCC’s decision that the first row of eight chairs should be completely un-upholstered to enhance the aesthetics from the chancel”; the remainder would be beige vinyl padded chairs.

No comment from us, and likewise comments are closed on this item.

Updates on COVID-19 legislation and guidance

On Friday we posted our latest weekly update of legislation and guidance (to 21 August 2021). These updates are now being posted late in the week as there are, (thankfully) fewer changes to legislation and guidance. Assuming that this will be the norm in the medium term, from September we will publish these rolling updates on a monthly basis, adding the new material to COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance as before. 

Quick links

And finally…I

Gabriel Kanter-Webber tells the strange story of the man who led a double life as a (married) Orthodox rabbi and a Roman Catholic priest.

And finally…II

From the ever-tedious spam box (why do they do it?): Can someone recommend Basques and Corsets? Cheers x. No: but we can certainly recommend not putting all your Basques in one exit.

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