Law and religion round-up – 20th February

A rip off at the O2 Arena, 100mph winds at Salisbury Cathedral’s spire, and widespread other damage from storm Eunice…

Cautionary tales for PCCs

Those who consider following the maxim that “it is far easier to apologise than to ask for permission through the faculty jurisdiction” should first consider the judgment in Re St Leonard Hythe [2022] ECC Can 1, a church better known on account of its ossuary.  An application had been made by a private individual for a restitution order against the Archdeacon requiring him to replace the pews which had been removed from the church in the summer of 2020, on the grounds that their removal was not permitted by a licence for temporary minor reordering, and was therefore unlawful.

However, the Archdeacon had not actually given permission for the pews to be removed; they had been removed by the Churchwardens and PCC, who subsequently undertook to return them to the church in October 2021, but did not do so until December 2021. The Commissary General stated:

“[11(iii)]. Even taking into account the challenges of securing removal services and the difficulties caused by COVID-19 over the winter of 2021-22, it does not appear to me that there has been sufficiently expeditious action by the PCC and churchwardens to put matters right”.

The Commissary General gave directions for the Archdeacon to be removed as the respondent and replaced by the Churchwardens and PCC. He further considered it appropriate, in the interests of certainty, to issue a restitution order, and he directed that the new respondents should pay the costs of the application and of the hearing.

Also circulated this month was Re St Peter and St. Paul Hoxne [2022] ECC SEI 1 in which the petitioners’ explanation for proceeding without a faculty and in the face of an objection was:

“[10]. …Our enthusiasm to celebrate the 1050th anniversary of the martyrdom in the presence of Bishop Mike had very wide support in the village and we were very anxious to be ready. We simply had no idea that an objection had been raised and we let our excitement get the better of us”.

Nevertheless, they were required pay all of the costs of the registry and any costs the objector had incurred [14].

Verb sap.

On 26 January 2022 we posted Rustat memorial, Jesus College, Cambridge: procedural and evidential issueswhich reviewed the procedural and evidential issues  considered in the hearing conducted on Zoom on 8 January 2022,  Re Jesus College Cambridge [2022] ECC Ely 1. This noted that the hearing of the petition for a faculty for the relocation of the memorial commemorating Tobias Rustat from the Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge was to take place from Wednesday 2 February 2022. Further background, in advance of the hearing was given in our round-up of 30 January 2022.

At the conclusion of the hearing on 4 February 2022, Judge David Hodge QC indicated that he would give his decision in writing “as soon as I can”. As the matter has been sub judice since then, we have made no further reference to the case. However, speaking during a debate on racial justice at General Synod, Archbishop Welby asked: “Why is it so much agony to remove a memorial to slavery that sits in front of the [Master] of a college, Jesus College, Cambridge, who has to look at it every time she sits in her stall? Why is it so difficult to do that? … Why do they have to go through hearing how it ‘doesn’t really matter’ or it is ‘not strictly accurate’ and so on, but all they want to do is put it somewhere safer where they can comment on it, not to blow it up?”

In a letter this week to the Church Times (£), Charles George QC the former Dean of the Arches and Auditor, and  John W Bullimore a former Chancellor of Derby and Blackburn, state that Judge Hodge “was, and is, preparing his judgment, in which he will give detailed reasons for his decision. His Grace’s clear indication that the result should allow the relocation is a breach of the sub judice rule that forbids discussion of matters under active consideration in the courts.

The letter, which is headed “Remarks on Jesus College case were ill-timed”, notes that “Such comments would not have been allowed in the Houses of Parliament (Erskine May para 25.74); nor should they be in the General Synod … We are confident that the experienced Deputy Chancellor will not be influenced by such remarks, but if his decision were to favour the college, will not those opposing the application be inclined to believe and say that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments swayed the outcome?”

(The relevant passage from Erskine May states: “In civil matters, proceedings are active when arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment or discontinuance.”)

Quick links

And finally…

On 15 February, Sky News reported “Religious artwork removed after local priest and businessman found among holy images“. It’s clearly time someone revised their basics of art history. The National Gallery Glossary explains: “In religious pictures, donors are sometimes depicted within the work, so emphasising their relationship with the object of devotion”.

One thought on “Law and religion round-up – 20th February

  1. I read a longer version of that story somewhere else (I’m afraid I don’t know where), which made it clear that artist and subjects (and in that case journalist) were perfectly aware of the precedents, but the artist had included the two people concerned against their clearly stated wishes.

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