Law and religion round-up – 10th April

“Gender-critical” views and employment

In the round-up on 27 March, we made a brief reference to the fact that the employment tribunal to which Ms Maya Forstater’s case was remitted following her successful appeal against the judgment of the original tribunal had concluded its hearing. Now comes the news that the EAT has heard the appeal by Dr David Mackereth, who was dismissed by the agency that employed him as a contract worker for the DWP because he refused on religious grounds to identify clients by their relevant gender instead of the sex they were assigned at birth.

Two lots of “watch this space”…

COVID-19 legislation and guidance

On 5 April we posted a somewhat sparse COVID-19 legislation and guidance update, April which, to date, includes no significant legislation or Government guidance apart from the revised lists of symptoms, below. However, despite current rates of infection and hospital admissions, the advice from most faith bodies has not changed since earlier in the year. The most current is that from the Church of England, which was issued on 21st March 2022, although this no longer appears as a “pop-up” on the Home Page of its website.

Many churches are signalling the return of “the Common Cup” by Palm Sunday/Easter for those who wish to receive in two kinds, though stressing that this is optional and advising that parishioners exercise their own judgement when considering if this is the right thing for them personally at this time. Nevertheless, parishioners should be aware of the Church of England guidance which states [emphasis added]:

“There are three ways currently for the administration of Communion: 1) the communicant can receive the bread alone; 2) the president may dip the bread in the wine before giving to the communicant; 3) the communicant can receive wine from the common cup in the way they did so before the pandemic. The order of these three ways reflects possible greater risk from infection from 1 to 3.”

The proposed Holocaust Memorial: “right idea, wrong place”?

The High Court has quashed planning permission for the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. The original application had been rejected by Westminster Council but was called in by the then Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and after a public inquiry, planning permission was granted in July 2021.

In London Historic Parks And Gardens Trust v Minister of State for Housing & Anor [2022] EWHC 829 (Admin), Thornton J held that the grant of planning permission had been ultra vires the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900: “In my judgment, Section 8(1) of the 1900 Act imposes an enduring obligation to retain the new garden land as a public garden and integral part of the existing Victoria Tower Gardens. The potential impediment to delivery of the scheme is a material consideration which was not considered at the inquiry” [128].

She refused permission to appeal – but the Government will no doubt seek leave from the Court of Appeal. An alternative possibility is that it might seek to repeal s 8 of the 1900 Act, but, as Joshua Rozenberg points out, “that could be tricky and might require hybrid legislation. A new planning inquiry might then be needed”.

Ramadan 2022: advice about COVID

The Religion Media Centre reported that the Muslim Council of Britain had launched a guide welcoming Ramadan 2022, when Muslims observe a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, charity and community, which this year started on 2 April. This is the first festival following COVID lockdowns and the MCB warns people that with COVID infection rates rising, all should remain cautious and places should offer basic health and safety provisions. It says that some measures introduced in COVID lockdowns will stay, such as virtual iftars, reduced travel outside the home and lectures provided online. The RMC has produced a useful factsheet on Ramadan.

Scientologists on e-bikes

A woman applied to Munich City Council for a grant towards the purchase of an electric bicycle in accordance with the Council’s “Electromobility Funding Guidelines”. Somewhat bizarrely, the Council required applicants to submit an accompanying “Declaration of Protection Concerning the Teachings of L. Ron Hubbard/Scientology” [Schutzerklärung in Bezug auf die Lehre von L. Ron Hubbard/Scientology] stating that they would not apply or disseminate the teachings of Scientology or attend any Scientology courses or seminars. The claimant did not do so, and her application for a grant was refused. The first-instance Administrative Court rejected her claim for review of the refusal, but the Higher Administrative Court ordered the Council to give her the grant in accordance with her application.

On Wednesday, the Federal Administrative Court [Bundesverwaltungsgerichtconfirmed the appeal judgment. Demanding statements about worldviews was not a matter within the powers of the local community within the meaning of Article 28(2).1 of the Basic Law [Grundgesetz], and to make such a declaration a condition for funding was a breach of the freedom of religion and belief guaranteed by Article 4(1) and (2).

A particular peculiar

On Friday 8 April, the Governing Body of Christ Church announced that it had resolved to commission a review of its governance; “to ensure that Christ Church’s statutes, by-laws, and governance arrangements meet the needs of the institution in the 21st century”. The last comprehensive review of the foundation’s statutes was conducted in 2011. The Review will encompass the governance arrangements of all aspects of Christ Church, including the Cathedral, College, and School.

At the conclusion of the Review, the Chair will be asked to prepare a report setting out recommendations for the Governing Body to consider. Christ Church has committed to publishing the Review in full in 2023. The deadline for expressions of interest is 29 April 2022. A copy of the candidate brief is here. This states inter alia “the Review will be led by an independent person (the Chair) with appropriate knowledge of charity governance, an understanding of collegiate educational foundations and ideally familiarity with the Church of England…It is essential that the Chair has no current or recent connection with Christ Church”.

With regard to the Church of England, the Cathedrals Measure 2021 states: “52 (1) This Measure applies to cathedrals in England only but does not apply to the cathedral church of Christ in Oxford, except in so far as Schedule 4 amends a provision which applies to that cathedral church”. Furthermore, Christ Church Cathedral is a peculiar and therefore outwith the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford.

A Decade of Blogging

On 1 April 2022, Philip Jones wrote A Decade of Blogging, reflecting on the ten years of his blog Ecclesiastical Law which was created towards the end of March 2012, shortly after our first post on Prayers at council meetings on 17 February 2012 but before we commenced blogging on a regular basis on 11 June 2012 with Lay employees and church discipline. In common with ourselves and other bloggers in this area, Philip has an LLM (Canon Law) from Cardiff University and in his post, he explains the rationale behind his posts: instead of tracking new legislation, judicial decisions and legal commentaries, “the blog depends on thought and inspiration, being moved by the spirit to write about a particular issue, regardless of whether it dates from Biblical times or just yesterday”.

He suggests that within this context, ecclesiastical law offers limited blogging material, but the present intention is to follow the wise advice he quotes – to continue to make notes and hope for inspiration for future blogposts, even if only on an occasional basis. Our readers will be aware from our frequent references to Philip’s posts in Ecclesiastical Law that we value his analysis greatly and look forward to his future posts.

Quick links

And finally…

On 1 April 2022, NHS revised its Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), adding nine new symptoms to the list. In a tweet In quires and places where they meme, @QuireMemes has posted its own version of the article in The Guardian suggesting that the new symptoms include flatness of singing, poor diction and inability to pitch a fourth. In a comment clearly aimed at those in the Welsh Government who formulating guidance, QuireMemes’ Twitter profile has been changed to include, “Please do not use our tweets for the basis of government policy”.

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