On 23 March 2022, HH Judge David Hodge handed down his judgment on Re The Rustat Memorial, Jesus College Cambridge,  ECC Ely 2 in which he refused to grant a faculty to the College for the removal of the memorial. This post reproduces the summary of judgment provided by the Ecclesiastical Law Association; the Deputy Chancellor has also written a 6-page summary of his 108-page judgment. [A case note has now been posted on L&RUK, and a guest post by Simon Hunter offers thoughts on inherent contests of heritage, and on Rustat].
As noted in the round-up, of 30 January 2022, 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 in the College Chapel. The substantive hearing was 2-4 February. Our post, Rustat memorial, Jesus College, Cambridge: procedural and evidential issues, reviews the procedural and evidential issues which were considered in the hearing conducted on Zoom on 8 January 2022, Re Jesus College Cambridge  ECC Ely 1. The faculty application provoked a mass of objections, and many of the objectors have become parties opponent to the petition.
Judgment – ELA Summary
HH Judge David Hodge was specially appointed by the Bishop of Huntingdon to act as Deputy Chancellor to determine the petition presented by the College, which sought permission to remove from the College Chapel a Grinling Gibbons memorial to Tobias Rustat, who had been a benefactor of the College in the 17th century. The College contended that Rustat’s investment in companies connected with the slave trade created a serious obstacle to the Chapel’s ability to provide a credible Christian ministry and witness to the College community and a safe space for secular College functions and events.
The Deputy Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. He considered that the removal of the Rustat memorial from the west wall of the Chapel would cause considerable, or notable, harm to the significance of the Chapel as a building of special architectural or historic interest, and he was not satisfied that a clear and sufficiently convincing justification for the removal of the memorial had been made by the College.
Postscript – 24 March 2022, 07:37.
Jesus College has issued a statement which expressed its deep disappointment and shock by the decision, and concluded “It was right for us to have submitted this application. We will now carefully consider our next steps”. The judgment is also reviewed on Varsity, Cambridge University’s student newspaper. Pump Court Chambers referred to the judgment as the first “contested heritage case” and to the useful guidance in the evidence of Professor Goldman on how future petitions might be resolved, an issue to which we will no doubt return.
A sad decision by the Deputy Chancellor.
The judgment makes it all too clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury may well have prejudged the issue when he publicly commented, “Why is it so much agony to remove a memorial to slavery…?”
I am not an ecclesiastical lawyer but would be interested to know whether the convention of not discussing matters which are sub judice is usually observed in such matters?
This was the subject of a letter to the Church Times (£) by Charles George QC the former Dean of the Arches and Auditor, and John W Bullimore a former Chancellor of Derby and Blackburn. This is summarized in our round-up of 20 February 2022.
Moreover Abp Justin depicted a vivid picture of the (black) Master of Jesus sitting in her stall ’facing the Rustat memorial’, which does not match the layout of the Chapel at all. However much one might sympathize with his frustration (as I do), and however much one might regret the Deputy Chancellor’s ruling (as I do), Abp J was definitely out of line in his comments.
Postscript: I share profoundly the disappointment of the Master and Council about the decision – and note with some concern their reasons for not lodging an appeal. These were listed in the order: cost, time, and restricted grounds on which an appeal could be lodged. The last-mentioned is a technical issue of church law, and is probably quite prudent. The first two, however, point to the cumbersomeness and above all ferocious costs of legal appeals, in church law as in secular. – As for the Deputy Chancellor’s closing rebuke, that it is time that the College should forgive Tobias Rustat – the College received hugely significant donations from Rustat, from whatever these were sourced, and was not wronged in its own person; the wrong that Rustat was deeply involved in was done to the slaves, and thus indirectly to their descendants.
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Despite Tobias Rustat being a benefactor of the College in the 17th century, there is no credible reason for his memorial to be in the Chapel that is used for worship when people are encouraged not to participate in human trafficking. This is the 21st century and there is no justifiable reason for this memorial to remain in the college. Urgent consideration must be given to people’s feelings and anxieties.
We’ll see what the Court of the Arches has to say if and when the judgment is appealed.
(Which, as it turned out, it wasn’t.)
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