Rustat Memorial: no appeal on judgment

On 12 April, Jesus College, Cambridge released a statement that having taken advice, and after much thought, the college council has decided not to appeal the disappointing judgment. While it believes the judgment is fundamentally wrong, the time and costs involved in appealing the decision are significant, and the grounds on which we are allowed to appeal are restrictive.

On the following day, the Church of England released a statement in which the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“Places of Christian worship should be sacred spaces where everyone can encounter the unconditional love of God, and to know and worship him in Jesus Christ. I have questioned previously why it is so difficult to move the Rustat memorial in Jesus College chapel – which causes such pain and distress to people whose ancestors were sold into slavery – to a place where it can be understood in context. I stand by those comments.

“Memorials to slave-traders do not belong in places of worship. Jesus College wished to move the memorial to a place where it could be studied as an important historical memorial, without disrupting worship. I have no doubt that the law was followed in this instance, and that the Church of England’s contested heritage guidance was used. But if we are content with a situation where people of colour are excluded from places of worship because of the pain caused by such memorials, then clearly we have a lot further to go in our journey towards racial justice.

Background

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. This is summarized in our post Rustat memorial: judgment and in Re the Rustat Memorial: a casenote. An appeal would have had to be made not later than 21 days after the date of the judgment.

College Decision not to appeal

The Cambridge Independent reports that the decision not to appeal was accompanied by a call for the Church of England “to change how it deals with matters of racial injustice and contested heritage”. Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, is quoted as saying the rejection of the college’s bid to move the memorial to what it considers a more appropriate exhibition setting “demonstrates the inadequacies of the church process for addressing issues of racial injustice and contested memorialisation”. Ms Alleyne adds that the process ‘is not fit for purpose’ and ‘shows a lack of understanding of the lived experience of people of colour in modern Britain’.

The Guardian reports The Rev James Crockford, Dean of Chapel at Jesus College, as saying that the Rustat memorial was a test case for the church. “It is clear that, if the Church of England wishes to take diversity and inclusion seriously, it cannot ignore the implications of this decision for the wider mission of the church to be a place where all are welcome.”

The article includes the response from a spokesperson for the Church of England: “The Church of England’s processes allowed for this case to be considered at great length, in a court of law…The parallel process for secular listed buildings is subject to the government’s policy of ‘retain and explain’ articulated by the secretary of state…We continue to believe that the church’s ability to adopt a distinctive approach to cases of this type is important, balancing heritage considerations with the unique place churches, cathedrals and chapels have as centres of living mission and ministry.”

Comment

Issues relating to “contested heritage” were first broached on this blog in October 2015, but since June 2020, posts on this area have been more frequent, including Trevor Cooper’s recent post Contested heritage – A review of the Church of England guidance. The Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England is establishing a new Contested Heritage Committee, which “will focus on the Church’s priority of racial justice as it is manifested in the material culture in our churches and cathedrals”. It seems likely that the consistory court proceedings and the Church of England’s other involvement with the Rustat Memorial will be an early consideration of the new Committee. The Court’s view on the source of Rustat’s wealth is at paragraph [7] and its assessment of the respective views of the Parties Opponent and the College is summarized in paragraphs [129] and [130] of the judgment.

Comments on this post are closed. 

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Rustat Memorial: no appeal on judgment" in Law & Religion UK, 12 April 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/04/12/rustat-memorial-no-appeal-on-judgment/

 

3 thoughts on “Rustat Memorial: no appeal on judgment

  1. This is a welcome decision by the College Council, albeit that the Master’s comments are less than gracious. Judge David Hodge QC’s 108-page decision (including the photographs) was reached after hearing evidence over three days, tested by cross-examination by two leading ecclesiastical lawyers. The Master may disagree with the Deputy Chancellor’s decision, as is her prerogative, but it is also right that the grounds on which an appeal can be based are restrictive (as they are in the secular courts), since an appeal is not (and should not be) simply an opportunity to have a ‘second bite at the cherry.’ That said, it seems likely that a ‘contested heritage’ case will reach the Court of Arches at some future date when guidance on such cases may need to be given. The decision also avoids potential embarrassment for the Dean (Morag Ellis QC), since she was appointed by the two archbishops, acting jointly, and Archbishop Justin, inadvisedly and intemperately, had stated in what appeared to be an off-script comment at General Synod on 8 February 2022 (while the matter was sub judice), “Why is it so much agony to remove a memorial to slavery?… Why do they have to go through hearing how it ‘doesn’t really matter’ or it is ‘not strictly accurate’ and so on…”

    It is to their credit that the College Council have had regard to the costs that would be involved in seeking to pursue an appeal that, seemingly, they have been advised is unlikely to succeed…

    The formal statement by Jesus College in the News section of their website can be seen at: https://www.jesus.cam.ac.uk/articles/church-must-drive-change-racial-injustice-and-contested-heritage.

  2. The Archbishop of Canterbury has now made this statement about the Rustat memorial and the case for its removal from the chapel brought by the college:

    “Places of Christian worship should be sacred spaces where everyone can encounter the unconditional love of God, and to know and worship him in Jesus Christ. I have questioned previously why it is so difficult to move the Rustat memorial in Jesus College chapel – which causes such pain and distress to people whose ancestors were sold into slavery – to a place where it can be understood in context. I stand by those comments.

    “Memorials to slave-traders do not belong in places of worship. Jesus College wished to move the memorial to a place where it could be studied as an important historical memorial, without disrupting worship. I have no doubt that the law was followed in this instance, and that the Church of England’s contested heritage guidance was used. But if we are content with a situation where people of colour are excluded from places of worship because of the pain caused by such memorials, then clearly we have a lot further to go in our journey towards racial justice.

    “As we reflect on Easter and the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ who we seek to follow, I would like to state unequivocally a key reason for His life, death and resurrection: to put to death people’s inhumanity to each other. Chattel slavery was always against the teachings of our Lord. Embracing, excusing or justifying slavery, in particular chattel slavery in any form or fashion, is against the values of Christianity. The idea that, as articulated by chattel slavery, there could be “property in man or woman” is in direct opposition to Christian belief.

    “The Church of England has a dark history where slavery is concerned that we need to confront. Racial injustice, inside the Church and outside, is an issue that exists to this day. Since the end of 2019, the Church Commissioners, of which I am the Chair and the Archbishop of York is a Board member, have embarked on the process to uncover and confront this dark past, with the aim of restoration, repair and promoting a better future for us all. They are due to report within the coming months on their findings. Furthermore, the Archbishops’ Council, which is Chaired by the Archbishop of York, and of which I am a member, has directed that racial justice is properly addressed, funded and prioritised in our resourcing and actions going forward.

    “James Baldwin, the African-American writer, once noted “not all that is faced can be changed. But nothing can change until it is faced”. I welcome and thank the efforts of many, including and in particular the Master and students of Jesus College Cambridge, to challenge us to face the issue and bring about the change for justice that we all must seek.”

  3. Pingback: Rustat Memorial: no appeal planned | Thinking Anglicans

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