Law and religion round-up – 12th June

Ten Years of Law and Religion UK

Yesterday was a significant milestone in the life of the blog which marked ten years since we started regular blogging on Law and Religion UK. This was accompanied by a short post marking the occasion, and a summary of the development of the blog. (Right: that’s enough of that – but many thanks for everyone’s appreciative comments.)

Costs in the Rustat memorial case

In Re Jesus College Cambridge [2022] ECC Ely 5, Hodge Dep Ch addressed the application by the parties opponent for their costs arising from his judgment in Re Jesus College Cambridge [2022] ECC Ely 2, in which he had dismissed the petition by the College for a faculty to remove the memorial to Tobias Rustat from the west wall of the College Chapel. He was satisfied that the College had not acted unreasonably in bringing the petition [23]; however, though he had rejected the application for costs he did not consider that it had been unreasonable for the parties opponent to make their applications. He therefore decided that the costs of those applications should fall to be treated as part of the costs of the petition generally [25].

He ordered that the College, as petitioner, was to be responsible for all the court fees incurred in the petition, to be assessed by the Registrar, including all additional fees incurred in the interim and the final hearings as well as the judgment fees, as specified in the applicable Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order. Otherwise, there was to be no order as to the costs of the faculty proceedings [26].

Flag flying or kite-flying?

On 9 June 2022, the Church Times carried the headline Synod motion seeks to ban Pride flag on church buildings. The article stated “a private member’s motion has been submitted to General Synod asking the Archbishops’ Council to prohibit through legislation the display of the Pride rainbow flag on church buildings, because ‘what [the flag] represents . . . is contrary to the word of God’.”

However, a spokesperson for Church House, London, explained “[t]he proposed motion shared on social media has not yet been published to begin collecting signatures and, for the avoidance of doubt, is not scheduled for debate.” Nevertheless, the resulting comment on social media was rich in urban myths concerning the flying of flags in the Church of England. Our review noted that this was unsurprising in view of the lack of consistency within the guidance currently available from the CofE and the Flag Institute. However, there will be plenty of time to resolve these issues before the PMM comes before General Synod, if ever.

School holidays and religion in Scotland…

and, for that matter, elsewhere.

The Times reports that the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, has backed a motion at its annual general meeting to investigate schools that deny teachers time off for religious observance. According to the report, James McIntyre, a member of the union’s anti-racist subcommittee, said:

“Even with the restructure of the spring holidays, if Easter falls outside that we then get the additional two days, we still get Good Friday and Easter Monday as bank holidays. However, if you are a follower of another religion, if your holidays fall outside of that, then you will get nothing.”

The EIS argues, not unreasonably, that school holidays are heavily orientated towards the festivals of western Christianity. Christmas and Easter are holidays, but in some council areas, Muslims, for example, must take unpaid leave for holy days such as Eid.

Compulsory military service again

On Tuesday, the ECtHR handed down yet another judgment on compulsory military service. In Teliatnikov v Lithuania [2022] ECHR 424, the applicant was a ministerial servant (roughly equivalent to a deacon) in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 2015 he was called up for “initial mandatory military service” but refused on conscientious grounds. His request for exemption was refused and his subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. In the event, compulsory military service was suspended and he did not suffer any penalty; however, the Court still found that there had been a violation of his Article 9 rights. The Lithuanian system of conscription failed to strike a balance between the needs of society as a whole and those of conscientious objectors, and alternative civilian service still remained under the military structures, with draftees referred to as “military conscripts” throughout the relevant Regulations. There was no reason to doubt that Mr Teliatnikov’s opposition to military service had been motivated by a serious and genuine conscientious objection, nor was compulsion “necessary in a democratic society”.

One might have thought that, given the Grand Chamber’s judgment in Bayatyan v Armenia [2011] ECHR 1095, states parties would have got the message by now.

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