Law and religion round-up – 20th March

Relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland

On Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that face coverings will continue to be legally required in Scotland until at least April, amid a recent surge in cases. She said that it was “prudent” to continue to mandate masks in settings such as public transport, shops and hospitality, given concerns around the rapid spread of the BA.2 sublineage of Omicron. The legal requirement to wear masks was expected to convert to guidance on 21 March, but Ms Sturgeon said that the Government now expected this to happen in early April, subject to a further assessment in two weeks’ time.

Outdoor weddings in England & Wales

The Ministry of Justice has announced that the temporary provision under which civil weddings and civil partnerships may be held out of doors at approved premises is to be made permanent. 96 per cent of respondents to the recent consultation were in favour of making the change permanent and 93 per cent supported extending it to religious weddings.

The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 will make the necessary amendments to the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 and will come into force on 6 April. Outdoor religious weddings will require the amendment of primary legislation and the Government intends to put forward a Legislative Reform Order to allow for the change in due course. An Explanatory Memorandum to the Regulations is available.

In a guest post on Thursday, Russell Sandberg and Kathy Griffiths were distinctly unimpressed by the announcement.

Gender-specific religious persecution

A Backbench Business Committee debate on gender-specific religious persecution was held on 17 March in Westminster Hall, led by Jim Shannon and Dr Lisa Cameron. In advance of the debate, the House of Commons Library produced a Research Briefing, Gender-specific religious persecutionwhich includes several useful links to work, reports and the July 2022 Conference in this area. You can read the Hansard of the debate here.

Labour Party shadow team

Kier Starmer has appointed Barbara Keeley as shadow minister for arts and civil society, three months after Rachael Maskell resigned in order to vote against the Regulations requiring NHS staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (The shadow minister for faith is Sarah Owen, who also covers homelessness and rough sleeping.)

Streatham Park Cemetery

The recent case Re Streatham Park Cemetery [2022] ECC Swk 1 provides a demonstration of how quickly consistory courts can react to rectify errors. In this case, the remains of the deceased were buried in the consecrated part of Streatham Park Cemetery on 4 March 2022 and the judgment delivered on 14 March permitted their exhumation and re-interment on 18 March 2022.

Chancellor Petchey, noting that a mistake was well recognised as the sort of matter which may constitute exceptional circumstances, on the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, granted a faculty. The current owner of this grave was not known, and expressing his doubts as to whether he or she would now have any residual rights in the grave, he said:

“I see no reason for any further steps being taken to identify those who have an interest in the grave. I am working on the basis that there is no obvious sign of continuing maintenance of this grave; if the position were otherwise, it might be appropriate to take further steps to identify who is maintaining the grave and notify them of what has happened.”

Praedicate Evangelium 

On 19 March 2022, Pope Francis promulgated the text of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium on the Roman Curia and its Service to the Church in the World. This will enter into force on 5 June 2022 and the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus will become fully abrogated and replaced.

The text is currently in Italian, although detailed explanations of the changes to the Roman Curia are given in articles by the Catholic News Agency and The Pillar. A press conference will be held on Monday 21 March at 11:30 am at the Holy See Press Office for the presentation of the new Apostolic Constitution.

Ecclesiastical Law Journal

The Catholic University of America is missing the printed editions of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal for the years 1996 and 1997. If you have spares or are downsizing and no longer have space for hard copies, could you please contact

Quick links

And finally…

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick asked HMG, further to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability (Session 2016–17, HL Paper 153), “what steps they will take to introduce a mandatory human rights and due diligence law”: [HL6550]. To which Lord Callanan replied, “The UK has a strong record on human rights protection, much of which results from our framework of legislation…”.

Precisely, dear Government: and unless we’re very much mistaken, the relevant piece of legislation might conceivably be the bit called “the Human Rights Act 1998”.


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