Law and religion round-up – 1 May

The new Home Page

This week our IT consultant, John Lagrue, made some changes to the Home Page of the blog, which we hope will be of assistance to our readers: these changes will provide access to the summaries of recent posts, as before, but without having to scroll through the administrative notices; we have also added an index to some of the more popular areas of ecclesiastical law.

The Task Bar at the top of the page now includes About, which links to the “Welcome”, “The Billable Hour”, and Comments policy” sections which previously preceded the summaries of the latest posts. There is a separate link to the lengthier General Conditions.

Also on the Task Bar is an Index with links to some of the more popular areas of ecclesiastical law covered by L&RUK. Further headings will be added at a later date. The index also includes useful links to Church of England web pages and an updated version of the list of other blogs of relevance to law and religion.

COVID-19 Updates

As part of the Home Page reordering, links to updates on COVID-19 legislation and guidance are now made via the Index. Over the last few weeks, there have been relatively few additions from either government or faith bodies, and although the Church of England updated its guidance page on 26 April 2022, this included no new material. 

A notable exception was the publication of Cytûn’s updated COVID-19 Briefing Paper on 25 April 2022. This acknowledges that COVID remains prevalent in Wales and notes that the understanding and attitudes of many members of the public about the risk of catching contagious illnesses have changed due to the experience of the pandemic:

“The implementation of legal and moral duties, therefore, is now happening in a different context from that which prevailed in February 2020, and simply reverting to the practices of that time may be neither desirable nor appropriate”. 

Most-read posts

The recent WordPress statistics for the blog, as at 30 April 2022, follow the same trend for March: the “7-day” and “quarterly”figures include a significant number of posts from the past weeks but the “All time” top ten posts are unchanged. 

Humanist weddings

On Monday, there was a short debate in the Lords on humanist marriages – or their absence – in England and Wales. The Advocate General for Scotland reiterated the Government’s position that it is awaiting the final report from the Law Commission on its review of weddings law, which is expected in July. As Andrew Copson pointed out in a tweet, under s 14 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, as amended, the Secretary of State (ie the Government) already has the power to make provision by statutory instrument “for and in connection with permitting marriages according to the usages of belief organisations to be solemnized on the authority of a marriage schedule” – but the Government has not chosen to exercise that power.

There also appeared to be a slight degree of confusion about what the Advocate General described as “the venue”. Far from being tied to specific “venues”, under the current law, a Quaker wedding may “be solemnised on any day and at any time in a meeting house or other place to which the public has access”: see Quaker faith & practice 16.46.

Rowan Williams on church law

The Anglican Communion Office is in the process of revising The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Before the current edition disappears into hyperspace, it’s worth recalling the beginning of Rowan Williams’s Introduction to the original version:

“… law, properly understood, is not an alien imposition on a grumbling public but a way of securing two things for the common good. The first is consistency: law promises that we shall be treated with equity, not according to someone’s arbitrary feelings or according to our own individual status and power. It gives to all of us the assurance that we can be heard. The second is clarity about responsibility: we need ways of knowing who is supposed to do this or that and who is entitled to do this or that, so that we can act economically and purposefully, instead of being frustrated by a chaotic variety of expectations and recriminations.

Law in the life of the Church is no different. Canon Law begins from that basic affirmation of equity which is the fact of membership in the Body of Christ – a status deeper and stronger than any civil contract or philosophical argument. And it seeks clarity about who may do what and who is answerable to whom, because every Christian has to know how to work out their responsibility to God within the context of the various relationships and obligations they are involved in. Understanding and knowing how to work with Canon Law is a necessary aspect of exercising authority and holding responsibility in the Church….”

Precisely: and that is why we believe that it is worth serious study.

Hijabs yet again

Another religious dress case arising out of the judgments of the CJEU in G4S Secure SolutionsBougnaoui and ADDH, and WABE and MH Müller Handel, concerning discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief within the meaning of Directive 2000/78. In LF v SCRL [2022] EUECJ C‑344/20 (Opinion), Advocate General Medina suggests at [60] that

“Article 8 of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as permitting Member States to adopt … autonomous protection as a means legitimately to determine, first, whether employees concerned by religious clothing obligations should not be placed, as a matter of principle, in a situation where they might need to choose between observing the obligations deriving from their faith or retaining their employment. Second, they must also remain competent to define the way by which they wish to counter prejudices against differences arising from religion or religious beliefs at the workplace.”


“… the protection of an employee on whom an internal neutrality rule imposes the renouncement of the clothing obligations prescribed by his or her faith, as a condition to retain his or her job, might be seen as better addressed by an approach that would consider such a rule as inextricably linked to the ground of religion, considered autonomously, and, therefore, as unequal treatment prohibited as direct discrimination …” [62].

She concludes at [76] that:

“Article 8 of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation must be interpreted as permitting Member States to implement that directive as to protect religion and religious beliefs as an autonomous ground of discrimination.

However, Article 8 of Directive 2000/78 precludes the interpretation of a provision which refers to ‘religious or philosophical belief’ in the list of grounds of discrimination of the national legislation implementing that directive as being a more favourable provision to the protection of the principle of equal treatment, meaning, in particular, that religious and philosophical beliefs constitute separate grounds of protection.”

We hope to produce a note on the CJEU judgment when it is handed down.

Refusal of closure order on French mosque

Reuters reports that the Conseil d’État has ruled against a decision by the Interior Ministry to close a mosque in Pessac for six months. The local Interior Ministry’s office first closed the mosque for six months on 14 March on the grounds that it promoted radical Islam, incited hatred and justified terrorism. Among the initial accusations were sharing of pro-Palestinian views on social media – which the Government said were anti-Semitic – and messages of support to personalities and organisations “promoting a radical Islam”. A local administrative court suspended the closure ten days later and the Government appealed.

On Tuesday, the Conseil d’État rejected the Government’s appeal, ruling that the closure would be “a serious and patently illegal violation of the freedom of worship”.

Not “Inappropriate Gavels”

Whilst a Twitter photograph of a gavel used in a legal context generally invokes a reference to the hashtag #InappropriateGavels, which warns that “Judges in England and Wales have never used gavels. Some people think they do. They’re wrong”, the gavel featured by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland@socantscot is entirely appropriate. It relates to auctioning human remains, set to be sold at an Angus auction house on 5 May 2022. The Society contacted the auctioneers to request their removal from the auction but they refused, and the sale is currently going ahead.

The Society stands with the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (@BABAO_info), which believes that the sale of human remains is unethical. It strongly agrees with the BABAO position that it is wrong to commodify people as objects. There are a number of associated legal issues which we will address in a later post.

First the good news…

In two separate cases in the Worcester consistory court, two couples sought an open-ended period of reservation for burial plots “until I die”: Re St Kenelm Romsley [2022] ECC Wor 3 and Re St Kenelm Romsley [2022] ECC Wor 4. The Chancellor noted that this was not a workable condition for the church, since in the future, the then minister and PCC will not necessarily know whether the petitioner remains alive or has died and other arrangements for burial have been made.

However, there are sufficient spaces left for the use of other parishioners for 25 years at the current rate of usage, and permission was granted for this period of time. If in the future the petitioners wished to continue to reserve this space, an application to extend the period can be made at that time. 

Furthermore, the plots were to be physically and discreetly (and, presumably, discretely) marked on the ground in a manner to be approved by the Incumbent or Minister in charge and the Parochial Church Council. 

Quick links

And finally…I

On Wednesday, the dispute about re-tuning the 16th-century bell at All Saints, Stranton which we noted in last Sunday’s roundup surfaced on The World at One on Radio 4: you can hear the item and the present sound of the bells here, beginning 41 minutes from the start.

Who would have thought that either ringing or the faculty jurisdiction might be so newsworthy?

And finally…II

It’s May Morning and crowds will gather in Oxford to hear the Magdalene Choir sing Hymnus Eucharisticus by Benjamin Rogers, May 1614 – June 1698. The Wikipedia entry notes:

“In January 1686 Rogers lost his college place at Magdalen. Unpopular with the choir, and a loud talker in the organ loft during services, he was lodging in his rooms his daughter, who was pregnant by the college porter. He was also claiming those rooms were haunted. He took a college pension”. 

With thanks to Patrick Allies


4 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 1 May

  1. The new home page is good – thanks.
    As for inappropriate gavels (including unethical use in the auction of bones) :maybe objectors should join forces with Gillean Craig’s ‘Cross and Candlesticks’ [if it’s still extant] which notes anachronistic vesture / candles / graves / and, worst of all, hymns and/or tunes that had not been written, in ‘historical’ tv dramas. ‘Get a life, Dad’ my children say when I these breaches. But after all, producers are ultra-careful about other details (clothing, street scenes, vehicles &c &c) and are jumped on when they slip up. ‘Oh, but the church has always been the same’, they say. Pish, say I, and maybe Tush too.

    • I’ve forgotten which TV drama it was in, but I haven’t quite got over seeing a deacon wearing her stole over her right shoulder. I thought at the time that what they needed was a competent Quaker religious dress adviser.

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