Law and religion round-up – 10th October

Hello literally everyone…

…as Twitter responded to the global outage of its rivals Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. At one level, this could also be a convenient strapline for blogs such as Law and Religion UK which do not restrict access via a paywall, (although we necessarily require Comments and Guest Posts to conform to our General terms & conditions).

However, at another level, those who have not been involved in blogs, websites and other web-based activities are unlikely to have experienced the fraught nature of such outages, whether through faulty configuration changes on routers, as with Facebook, or the updating of website security certificates, as we and others have experienced recently.

Charity Commission official warning: Purpose of Life

In March, Purpose of Life, a charity in Yorkshire, released a letter signed by the charity’s founder which named a teacher In Batley who had been accused of showing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson. Police were called to a subsequent protest outside the school, the school apologised for the incident and the teacher was suspended (and, reportedly, had to be given police protection). It also appeared to be endorsing a particular candidate in the 2021 Parliamentary by-election for Batley & Spen.

The Charity Commission has now issued an official warning to the charity for what it concludes had been a breach of trust and/or duty and/or misconduct and/or mismanagement, as follows:

“1) Putting the Charity’s assets, in particular its reputation, at risk by publishing an open letter that:

a. Publicly named a person at the centre of a protest, despite there being a foreseeable risk to the person’s safety.

b. Was written in such a way as to be likely to inflame existing tensions within the local community.

2) Publishing two tweets and one video that supported a political party and political candidate and criticised another. This was in breach of Commission guidance in relation to campaigning and political activity, specifically in relation to the fact that a charity must not give its general support to a political party.”

Abortion in Northern Ireland

Last week, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) brought an application for judicial review of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021 in the High Court in Belfast. The Regulations were made by the Westminster Parliament following concerns that the law in Northern Ireland failed to fulfil obligations under international law. Counsel for SPUC was John Larkin QC, until recently Attorney General for Northern Ireland. Judgment is not expected any time soon.

Nurses and crosses again

On Tuesday, The Times and The MailOnline reported that a nurse at Croydon University Hospital, Ms Mary Onuoha, was to appear at an Employment Tribunal alleging that she had been bullied by her employers for wearing a small gold cross. She claims that, as a committed Christian, she had worn the cross for most of her time at the hospital without objections from colleagues or patients but that, from 2015, several managers asked her either to remove her cross, to conceal it, or to face what they described as “escalation”. In 2018 she was ordered to remove the cross, on the grounds that it was a breach of the uniform policy and a health and safety risk. She left work with stress in June 2020 and resigned later that year. She is alleging harassment, victimisation, direct and indirect discrimination, and constructive and unfair dismissal, contrary to her Article 9 Convention rights and the Equality Act 2010.

Déjà vu is the first thought that comes to mind: it is highly reminiscent of the facts in Shirley Chaplin’s case, which went all the way to Strasbourg, where she was unsuccessful: see Eweida and Others v The United Kingdom [2013] ECHR 37. But the truism that individual cases turn on their facts is particularly relevant to employment disputes, so we shall be watching this one with great interest.

Scottish devolution and the Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in the two references to the Court by the Attorney General and Advocate General for Scotland that various provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill were outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The judgment is here: there is a press summary here.

Deposition from Holy Orders

On 7 October 2021, the Diocese of Llandaff issued a notification that following a hearing which took place on 5 August 2021, the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Church in Wales had ordered that the Reverend Nigel Cahill, formerly Rector in the Rectorial Benefice of Aberavon, be deposed from Holy Orders and expelled from the office of Cleric in the Church in Wales. The Tribunal found a charge of ‘conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence’ proved, following his conviction for two offences of making indecent images of children contrary to the Protection of Children Act 1978.

The full statement is on the Church in Wales website. As the former Archbishop of Wales, the Most Reverend John Davies explained to the IICSA (Page 58, Line 8), “If you make the distinction between being put out of office and deposed from Holy Orders, put out of office would mean your current appointment is something which you are no longer entitled to hold; deposed from Holy Orders means you are no longer able to function as a cleric”. However when pressed as to whether deposition encompassed the wearing of clerical dress, use of the title “Reverend”, and officiating at places where a Licence was not required, he stated the legal position: “For our purposes, you are no longer a cleric”, agreeing with an equivalence to the process of laicization in the Roman Catholic Church.

Leicester Diocese – Minster Communities Framework

On 9 October 2021, the Diocese of Leicester Synod voted in favour of a Minster Community framework with an amendment that the stipendiary leadership team of at least four people in each of the 20-25 MCs will include an Oversight Minister who is ordained, as well as one or more lay colleagues. We will follow the legal implications with interest.

Ecclesiastical Law Journal

The hard-copy version of the latest issue is now available. Contents include:

  • Rebecca Probert: ‘Getting Married: The Origins of the Current Law and Its Problems’.
  • Nicholas Hopkins, Elizabeth Welch and Sam Hussaini: ‘The Law Commission’s Project on Weddings Law Reform’.
  • Rebecca Riedel: ‘Religion and Terrorism: The Prevent Duty’.
  • Ana María Vega Gutiérrez: ‘Building a New Humanism for a Globalised World: The Contribution of Religion’.
  • Norman Doe: ‘The Court of Arches: Jurisdiction to Jurisprudence – ‘Entirely Settled’?
  • Charles George: ‘A Response to Professor Norman Doe’.

Plus the customary book reviews and case notes.

More ecclesiastical court judgments

Last week we reported that a mere five consistory court judgments had been circulated during September, although some interesting issues were raised. In October there have already been almost twice that number including inter alia: permission for an “Eco Loo”; permission for a memorial in a church less than one year following the death of the person whose life was commemorated; refusal of a PCC’s “all or nothing” approach to replacement of pews; refusal to the exhumation of ashes and their reburial elsewhere in the same churchyard; and revise the setting of the cathedral font to address health and safety issues and to improve accessibility and liturgical function.

A new journal

The launch has been announced of the Australian Journal of Law and Religion. It is to be a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that focuses on the interactions of faith and law in Australia and the South Pacific. It will be published in print and online.

Quick links

And finally…

Reassurance from the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Deputy Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, who in a BBC interview said, “misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman or a woman against a man”.

Just don’t ask for the distinction between polygamy, polyandry, and polygyny.

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