Law and religion round-up – 6th February

“Hey Siri, what’s the level of religious literacy in 10 Downing Street?”

Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool

Religious discrimination in schools in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Executive Office has begun its examination of the Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill, a private Member’s bill proposed by Chris Lyttle (East Belfast, Alliance) which would amend fair employment legislation to remove the ability of schools to use religious beliefs as grounds in deciding whom to recruit to teaching posts.

The Bill is unlikely to be approved by MLAs before the end of the current mandate; nevertheless, the committee has launched a public consultation on the Bill, here.

Slip Slidin’ Away”

Not the 1977 song by Paul Simon, but a reference to the advice given by Mr Barnacle, “a very experienced undertaker” in Re St Andrew Horbling [2022] ECC Lin 2 whereby if there were issues regarding the location of a coffin, a trench could be dug to an adjacent space and the coffin dragged there without it activity constituting “exhumation”. This activity of “coffin sliding” appears to be one of the “tricks of the trade” used to move coffins to adjacent plots to remedy errors in their interment. The practice was strongly condemned by McGregor Ch, in Re Fairmile Cemetery Lower Assendon [2017] ECC Oxf 2 (at [35]), and in Re St John Washborough [2019] ECC Lin 6, in which Bishop  Ch commented (at [9]):

 “… if the coffin could be kept beneath the surface of the ground while work was done around it, then a faculty for exhumation may not have been required. I make no finding upon this issue which has not been argued before me”.

With regard to Mr Barnacle’s suggestion in Re St Andrew Horbling, Bishop Ch provided the useful clarification (at [10]) (emphasis added):

“I am satisfied that such a procedure would not constitute exhumation of the body because at all times the remains would not be lifted from the ground but remain at the depth at which they were buried. A Faculty is required for this process because it interferes with human remains after burial, which would be unlawful without lawful permission, but because it is not an exhumation the legal framework set out in In re Blagdon 2002 Court of Arches does not apply”.

Additional bell at Rotherham Minster

The Minster Church of All Saints’ Rotherham has a ring of twelve bells tuned to C-sharp, with the heaviest, the tenor (No 12) weighing 34 cwt. At present, a major scale can only be rung on the eight heavier back bells. The current No 2 is in F-sharp, thereby precluding the use of the eight lighter front bells on their own because they do not ring a diatonic scale. Heavier bells place restrictions on those able to ring.

In Re All Saints Rotherham [2021] ECC She 8, the Petitioners proposed to add an extra No 2 bell in G-natural to provide the missing semitone in the octave scale on the front eight bells, with the No 8 being rung as the “tenor”. This additional bell will enable the front eight lighter bells to be rung alone and to sound a true octave when there are no suitable ringers available for the heavier bells.

Singleton Ch granted a faculty for the additional bell, noting that although the church is Grade 1 listed, the proposed works would not affect the ancient structure or the architectural or historical significance of the building [3]. The new bell can be accommodated in the existing frame with only slight adjustments. In Dove terms, they will still be a ring of twelve plus an extra bell, not “a ring of thirteen” as stated in the judgment [1].

The Very Revd Martyn Percy

On Friday 4 February, the Diocese of Oxford issued a statement on The Very Revd Martyn Percy which stated that the Governing Body of Christ Church had announced that mediation processes had concluded with the Dean and a resolution reached that was satisfactory to all parties.

Readers will note that Comments are closed on our post which reproduces, without comment, the Statement from the Diocese of Oxford and its associated link to the statement from the Governing Body of Christ Church. Some will regard these and other aspects of the settlement contentious, and there are other websites on which it is more appropriate to explore these views. 

“Net zero” and the faculty jurisdiction

On the morning of Wednesday 9 February 2022, the Church of England’s General Synod t will consider amendments to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 SI 2015/1568, as amended by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 and the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2019. Our post Net zero” and the faculty jurisdiction reviewed the amendments which are proposed in: Faculty Jurisdiction Amendment Rules, GS 2245 and Faculty Jurisdiction Amendment Rules Explanatory Notes, GS 2245 X. Changes are proposed in three main areas: the requirement to have due regard to net zero guidance; consultations before starting faculty proceedings; and changes to Lists A and B, in addition to some minor amendments, and transitional provisions.

The outline of, and rationale underpinning the proposed amendments, was described by the Rt Worshipful Morag Ellis QC, Dean of the Arches and Auditor, in her lecture “Clean and green – law and the carbon neutral Church” which was delivered to the Ecclesiastical Law Society on 15 September 2021, repeated on 4 November 2021, with some modifications. The proposals before General Synod on Wednesday should therefore have come as no surprise to those following these issues. It is to be hoped that Synod gives them more consideration that the 10 minutes afforded to its vote for “net zero by 2030” on 20 February 2020.

Quick links

  • Peter Edge, Edge_law blogHouse of Keys – Prayers: thoughts on the recent report by the House of Keys Management and Members’ Standards Committee which recommended replacing the current prayers by the Chaplain (or in his or her absence, the Speaker) at the beginning of each sitting.
  • Simon Sarmiento, Thinking AnglicansChrist Church Oxford settles dispute with Dean: texts of the statements by the College, the Diocese, “X”, and Dr Percy. 

3 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 6th February

  1. The Home Office used to grant licences under section 25 of the Burial Act 1857 for “coffin sliding” until 1898 when the Law Officers gave their opinion in the Druce case that “effecting any change in the position of a dead body seems to us to fall within the terms off the section”. The Home Office thereafter stuck to the Law Officers’ stance as the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Justice appears to have done. The current form for applying for a licence states that “any disturbance includes any movement of the remains or their container”.

  2. Pingback: COVID-19 legislation and guidance update, February | Law & Religion UK

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