Law and religion round-up – 27th March

And in what was otherwise a fairly quiet week…

Jesus College chapel

On 23 March 2022, HH Judge David Hodge handed down his judgment on Re The Rustat Memorial, Jesus College Cambridge[2022] ECC Ely 2 in which he refused to grant a faculty to the College for the removal of the memorial. Our post, Rustat memorial: judgment, includes a link to the judgment and summaries by the ELA and by the Deputy Chancellor. A more detailed analysis of the judgment will be posted in the next week or so; and next week we have scheduled Dunking, Breaking, Moving, (Re)Making, a guest post from Simon Hunter, of 13 Old Square Chambers, and his musings on the inherent “contests of heritage” and on Rustat.

Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved

On 14 January 2022, the following were appointed to the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved by Royal Warrant under the Sign Manual for a five-year term from 1 December 2021 to 30 November 2026: Martin Warner (Bishop of Chichester); Rachel Treweek (Bishop of Gloucester); Guli Francis-Dehqani (Bishop of Chelmsford); Keith Lindblom (Lord Justice of Appeal); and Stephen Males (Lord Justice of Appeal). 

Whilst only two cases have been referred to the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved since it was established in 1963 – St Michael and All Angels, Great Torrington [1985] 1 All ER 993 and Re St Stephen Walbrook [1987] 2 All ER 578 – at a CDM Tribunal in March 2022 it was suggested that the incorrect vestment of the Respondent should be referred to the Court rather than being considered by the Clergy Discipline Tribunal. However, the Tribunal concluded that “the gravamen of the allegation is the question of pastoral propriety, or otherwise, of the state of undress of the Respondent.  Any element connected with, or offence against, the ceremonial is ancillary to this. In this regard, the panel found the judgment in Bland v Archdeacon of Cheltenham [1972] 1 All ER 1012 instructive and noted “in that case the Court of Arches’ deprecation of assessing pastoral work and activity as a doctrinal offence simply because a doctrinal motive might underly the facts”.

With thanks to Jason Loch for alerting us to the information from Crown Office FOI Disclosures @CrownOffFOIDs.

COVID-19 guidance for places of worship in England

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the ending of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England, and issue of the policy document, COVID-19 response: living with COVID-19, faith bodies revised their own guidance, based upon COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship; this was updated on 27 January following the ending of Plan B COVID regulations on that date, and again on 25 February 2022 following the removal of self-isolation regulations on the previous day. The Guidance for funerals and commemorative events has now been updated on 22 March 2022 “to reflect changes in the new Government response to living with coronavirus (COVID-19) announced on the 21 February 2022″, and we would expect that other relevant advice seems likely to follow suit in the next few days.

The official UK Government website posts data and insights on coronavirus (COVID-19). Information on People tested positive and Hospital admissions indicates that unlike in late January 2022, when most of the faith bodies’ “in house” guidance on places of worship was formulated, both are steeply rising. On 21 March 2022, the BMJ published the opinion piece of Kit Yates Opinion: Closing our eyes to COVID-19 won’t make it go away which notes:

“…a perhaps underplayed factor driving the recent rises is behavioural change. As COVID-19 falls off many people’s radars and the government sends the message, both explicitly and implicitly through the relaxation of mitigations, that the UK is ‘past the pandemic,’ people’s behaviour becomes less cautious. Opinion polls suggest that people in the UK are taking fewer precautions now against COVID-19 than at any point during the pandemic. Inevitably this will make a big difference to the spread of the disease.”

Most faith bodies have been slow to update their guidance, much of which was issued in late January to mid-February. However, on 21 March 2022, the Church of England issued updated its guidance: COVID-19: Opening and managing church buildings, v3; and Risk Assessment Template for Opening Church Buildings to the Public, v11.

Professor Christina Pagel has observed:

“[the] decision to end free testing, surveillance studies & relax all public health measures was made at a time when govt assumed COVID prevalence would be low by now. They were wrong and we are in the midst of yet another big wave which has not peaked yet. Timing could not be worse.”

COVID-19 in Wales

The Welsh Government has announced that the public health regulations made under the Public Health Act 1984 will be extended for at least another three weeks until Good Friday, 15 April. The legal requirement to prepare, record and implement a risk assessment for all activities continues for all “regulated premises”, including places of worship and community centres. However, some restrictions will be relaxed from Monday 28 March.

[With thanks to Gethin Rhys.]

Royal Assent

On 24 March, the Highgate Cemetery Act, the Bill for which was deposited on 27 November 2019, was granted Royal Assent; this Private Act is “to confer powers upon the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust to operate, maintain and improve Highgate Cemetery and to extinguish rights of burial and disturb human remains in Highgate Cemetery for the purpose of increasing the space for interments and the improvement of Highgate Cemetery; and for connected purposes”.

Quick links

1 thought on “Law and religion round-up – 27th March

  1. For the benefit of those readers whose law library contains the official Law Reports and/or the Weekly Law Reports, these are the references to the two cases mentioned above in the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved:
    Re St Michael and All Angels, Great Torrington [1985] Fam 81; [1985] 2 WLR 857.
    Re St Stephen’s, Walbrook [1987] Fam 146; [1987] 3 WLR 726.

    The episcopal members of the court in both cases were the bishops of Rochester and Chichester (at the time, the Rt Revds David Say and Eric Kemp) and the Rt Revd Kenneth Woollcombe (Bishop of Oxford 1971-1978).

    Although the Great Torrington appeal was heard by the CECR, by the time the case reached that court, the issues for the court’s decision did not involve matters of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, the court stating (in a unanimous judgment read by Sir Hugh Forbes) that it was an appeal that “might conveniently have been heard by the Arches Court of Canterbury” ([1985] 2 WLR at 860C.) In the Walbrook case (in which the court decided that a Holy Table was no longer illegal merely because it was not movable or because it was made of stone), separate judgments were given by the Bishop of Chichester, Sir Ralph Gibson and Sir Anthony Lloyd. Bishops Say and Woollcombe agreed with all three.

    Given the current division of opinion in the House of Bishops on the legality of the use of individual cups to distribute the consecrated wine at Holy Communion (as disclosed by Bishop Pete Broadbent in an comment on a post on Thinking Anglicans reporting the press release issued following the meeting of the House of Bishops on 19 January 2021), it would be interesting to know the views of the three episcopal members of the Court on this issue.

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