Law and religion round-up – 31st October

COP-out in weegie-land?

With everyone keen on “virtue signalling” for the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (a.k.a. COP 26) in Glasgow, President Joe Bidens  85-car motorcade in Rome to see the Pope, and the UK government’s Budget announcement for the reduction in the UK Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights “With the intention of boosting air travel within the UK”, were but two of the “tin-eared” responses to global warming over the past week.

On a more positive note, the Church of England announced Church bells across nation set to ring on the eve of COP26 (an event in which Frank took part) in warning of climate catastrophe ahead of COP26 and has launched a consultation on plans to get to net zero carbon in just nine years as its new Synod prepares to meet. This is of direct relevance to considerations in the consistory courts, primarily on the replacement of heating and lighting systems, on which we have posted on a number of occasions. We will follow the consultation with interest, (and David will respond in a personal capacity).

Becky Clark, Director of Churches & Cathedrals at the National Church Institutions, tweeted “Net zero carbon churches aren’t just a theory. The analysis of last year’s Energy Footprint Tool results showed 5% of churches are already there. Each dot on the map (shown on the Tweet) is one of these; in the main, they have electric heating and have switched to a 100% renewable electricity tariff.”

Education and fair employment in Northern Ireland 

On Tuesday, NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union called for a change to the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1988 to remove the exemption for the employment of teachers in schools, which currently provides an exemption in relation to equality of opportunity and fair participation in employment for members of the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. Its practical effect is that it is not currently unlawful to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of religious belief.

And in Scotland…

The Times reported on Friday that a self-employed subcontractor, Edward McClung, has brought a discrimination claim against two firms who failed to offer him work because, he alleges, he is a supporter of Rangers Football Club. He argues that his allegiance to Rangers amounts to a protected philosophical belief. He is also claiming discrimination on grounds of religion.

Ecclesiastical law judgments

Unlike September when are there were only six consistory court judgments, this month there have been twenty four. These will be published in two (or three) separate posts during the next few days. Of particular interest will be the sale and transfer of “a magnificent Henry Willis pipe organ” from St Dunstan Edge Hill, to the Bethany Presbyterian Church in New York state: this includes the return of the Choir Organ’s Corno di Bassetto, removed under faculty in 2008 and currently on temporary loan to St Anne’s Aigburth.

Given the topicality this week of sewage discharges by water companies, the recent case of St Peter Powick is of relevance to the use of “trench arch drains” for the disposal of small quantities of wastewater to churchyards. These are used by some churches with no connection to the main sewer and require a bespoke environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, such as the recent application for St Michael and All Angels Poulton.

The judgment Re St Peter Powick [2021] ECC Wor 1 provides an interesting cross-over between ecclesiastical and environmental law and considers the options following the failure of a trench arch system. Warning: do not read before breakfast.

Church of England General Synod – 16, 17 November 2021

The papers for the November meeting of General Synod on 16 ad 17 November are now available online and include an Explanatory Note on amendments relating to Acts of Synod, GS 2236X and a Report from the Clergy Conduct Measure Implementation Group, GS Misc 1304.

Marriage – Written Answer

In response to the Written Question by Mike Amesbury (Labour, Weaver Vale) “To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether he has plans to bring forward legislative proposals to enable wedding celebrants to perform legally recognised marriages”, on 29 October 2021 Tom Pursglove (Conservative, Corby) responded:

“The Government announced in June 2019 that the Law Commission would conduct a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. As part of this review, the Law Commission will make recommendations regarding how provision could be made for the use of independent celebrants. The Government will consider the Law Commission’s recommendations carefully when received. It is right for us to await these recommendations.”

Religion and the draft Online Safety Bill

In answer to a written question from Crispin Blunt (Reigate, Con) about safeguards in the Online Safety Bill “to ensure that nothing within the Bill shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, or insult of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system”, Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DCMS replied as follows:

“The draft Online Safety Bill delivers the government’s manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while defending free expression.

Regulation will not prevent adults from accessing or posting legal content, nor require companies to remove specific pieces of legal content. We recognise that adults have the right to upload and access content that some may find offensive or upsetting.

The largest and riskiest services will be required to set out their policies regarding content that is legal but harmful to adults and enforce these consistently. They will no longer be able to arbitrarily remove controversial viewpoints.

Users will have access to effective mechanisms to appeal content that is removed without good reason.

Our approach will empower adult users to keep themselves safe online while ensuring children are protected and maintaining robust protections for freedom of expression.”

Individual cups for Holy Communion

Earlier this year we suggested that the short-term objective of individual cups for Holy Communion in the Church of England had clearly been kicked into the long grass, and it was likely to be early 2023 at least before Synod would be in a position to take any action on the longer term. The issue was again discussed at the House of Bishops meeting on 19/20 October 2021, the summary of which was: “the House agreed that there should be further discussion of this issue, while confirming that it did not wish to propose a change to canon law in this area”.

Quick links

And finally…I

Your occasional reminder that ‘an-t-Samhain’ (pronounced, roughly, ‘un Tawinn’) is Scots Gaelic for November. Sam Hain bats and bowls offspin for Warwickshire.

And finally…II

According to Liam Beadle, “In the Church of England, today [31 October] is liturgically complicated. It is the Fourth Sunday before Advent, the first Sunday of a season ‘of the Kingdom’, though it has no official name. This season is meant to run from All Saints’ Day to the Sunday next before Advent, ‘Christ the King’.

He notes inter alia “the liturgical colour for the season between All Saints’ Day (tomorrow, but possibly anticipated) is green or red. However, if All Saints is celebrated today, the colour is white”. Nevertheless, should you decide to celebrate Halloween, there is advice from  Fergus Butler-Gallie on “What should your Church of England themed Halloween costume be”.

4 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 31st October

  1. “Net zero carbon churches … have switched to a 100% renewable electricity tariff”

    I recently asked my supplier, Bulb, which advertises that it only supplies green electricity, whether that happy state of affairs ensured that its electricity prices were immune from much-publicised increases in the wholesale price of gas. The gist of Bulb’s reply was, it is fair to say, that of course they didn’t *literally* only supply green electricity, a feat that was obviously physically impossible given the National Grid, so no, the increase in gas prices would likely be reflected in higher future electricity bills, for electricity misleadingly described as 100% green in Bulb’s marketing materials.

    Other examples of net-zero carbon fraud include the sale of carbon credits (for paying somebody to plant (for example) acorns in woodland that, it is hoped, will grow into mighty oaks that won’t be felled for firewood or timber for ages and ages, to offset actual, business-as-usual combustion of carbon in the here and now on the part of unrepentant carbon sinners – thank God for that! This scheme has been compared to the former sale of indulgences to wicked, unrepentant real sinners, so it’s not surprising that the present pope (SJ) is enthusiastic about this sophisticated scam too, modeled as it is upon a former Roman church practice documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s novel, The Canterbury Tales, in which one of the characters is a Pardonner whose core business was the sale of “pardons all hot from Rome”, as the Prologue put it.

    • The issue over the supply of “green electricity” was explored by Chancellor Philip Petchey in Re St Michael and All Angels Blackheath Park [2020] ECC Swk 1 at paragraph 10 to 13.

      Issues such as this would be picked up if there was to be external verification of the net zero targets and their achievement.

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