Law and religion round-up – 19th June

And in the week when Lord Geidt resigned as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.

Asylum seekers, Rwanda and the ECtHR

On 14 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted an urgent interim measure in the case of KN v United Kingdom (no. 28774/22). The applicant, an Iraqi national, claimed asylum upon arrival in the UK on 17 May 2022 and was facing removal to Rwanda on the evening of 14 June. The Court told the UK Government that KN should not be removed to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings. Joshua Rozenberg comments, incisively as always, here. (In two later applications, RM v UK (no. 29080/22) and HN v UK (no. 29084/22)), the Court also decided to apply an interim measure under Rule 39 staying their removal.)

Not much to do with “religion”, you might think – but there was a furore in some of the UK media and strident calls from some MPs on the Government benches for the UK’s withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the ECtHR, which would, in effect, mean withdrawal from the Council of Europe and the repudiation of the ECHR – Article 9 included.

All this made us wonder whether we should update The CJEU and the ECtHR: an idiot’s guide, last revised in February 2017 when we were still members of the EU, but we dismissed the idea as premature, given the complexities of the relationship arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol and the UK Government’s apparent intention to resile from some of its provisions. It should also be emphasised that the ECtHR’s decision was an interim one and, depending on the outcome of the domestic proceedings, the case may possibly return to Strasbourg. Nevertheless, with the promised (?threatened) “Bill of Rights” on the Government’s agenda, we clearly have not heard the end of this.

Coercive control?

On Thursday, in Samrai & Ors v Kalia [2022] EWHC 1424 (QB), Deputy Master Grimshaw handed down his decision in an application to strike out a claim by members of an unnamed Hindu religious organisation against their religious leader. In brief, they claimed that, as a result of what amounted to spiritual abuse by the defendant, they had parted with substantial sums of money and undertaken a substantial amount of unpaid work both in and around the Temple and also around the defendant’s own properties. Four of the claimants also alleged sexual abuse.

He concluded that there were triable issues about coercive control and refused to strike out the claim.

Contested heritage in Germany

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has refused a Jewish man’s request for an antisemitic mediaeval statue, which he described as “a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people”, to be taken down from a church in Wittenberg. The recently-restored Judensau sculpture depicts a rabbi lifting the tail of a pig.

The court found that though viewed in isolation the relief denigrated Judaism the parish had remedied the legal situation by adding an explanation of its historical background, thereby distancing itself from its defamatory and antisemitic message. There is a press release by the Bundesgerichtshof here.

The claimant intends to take the matter to the Federal Constitutional Court. [With thanks to David Lamming.]

Private Members’ Motions, General Synod

Following last week’s advance notice of a Private Member’s Motion on flag flying, this had now been added to other prospective PMMs on the relevant Church of England web page. There are also other new PMMs on: Clergy pensions; Remove divorce impediment to ordination; Use of “Pride” rainbow flag; Future of Central Church Institutions; Vocations process and issues in human sexuality. 

These join the existing PMMs dated 8 March 2022:  Service of prayer and dedication, (after the registration of a civil partnership or same sex marriage, 124 signatures); Scrutiny of diocesan safeguarding (to create new statutory powers for a new or existing national body, 49 signatures); Assisted suicide (to guarantee and expedite the adequate funding and resourcing of palliative care services within the NHS to ensure that the highest possible standards of care are achieved and made universally accessible, 93 signatures); Safeguarding audit (28 signatures).

To be put on the General Synod’s agenda, the Business Committee requires a minimum of 100 expressions of interest in support for the motion to be debated in the form of signatures. Generally, there is only space for one or two PMMs to be debated in each meeting of the General Synod (group of sessions). While the motion with the most signatures is often the one selected, there can be reasons for selecting another that has also attracted considerable support (it might, for example, be more time-critical). Once a motion has been open for signature for three groups of sessions, if it has not attracted 100 signatures, it expires.

Replacement of church’s failed boiler

The oil-fired heating boiler of St. Mary the Virgin Dedham was installed 35 years ago and its replacement had been under consideration since 2008. However, there had been a recent major failure to the heating chamber and the parts required for repair were no longer available. As the church was in vacancy, it was the churchwardens who sought permission for its replacement with a new gas boiler: Re St Mary the Virgin Dedham [2022] ECC Chd 2. Although the DAC stated that it did not object to the petition, it did not recommend the proposals for approval by the Court. 

Hopkins Ch noted that different approaches had been adopted in the consistory courts, viz. the judgments of Petchey Ch in Re St Mark Mitcham [2020] ECC Swk 5 and Re St Mary Oxted [2021] ECC Swk 1, of Humphreys Ch in Re St Thomas & St Luke Dudley [2021] ECC Wor 2, and of Eyre Ch in Re St Peter Walsall [2021] ECC Lic 4.

However, she found herself in the same position as Eyre Ch in Dudley since in the circumstances of the case, she did not need to decide to follow one approach rather than the other: 

“[22] That is because I have concluded both that: (a) the Petitioners have in fact considered, with some care, the implications of their proposal for the carbon neutral agenda (in view of the exchanges which I have detailed above); and (b) on the basis of the materials before me, there are proper grounds for concluding that the gas heating system proposed by the Petitioners is in any event the most appropriate system in the circumstances”.

The Archdeacon of Colchester’s assessment of the petitioners’ efforts was particularly valuable in this respect, as was his observation “I am sure you will appreciate that it is far easier to put these aims into a paper than it is to implement in practice – especially in a Grade I listed church dating back to its dedication in 1492 and which is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. 

Quick links

And finally…

In view of the recent hot weather, the Burgon Society tweeted the following advice:

“as temperatures rise today, we recommend graduates avoid wearing hoods lined with ‘furres, budge, calaber, bever or black coney’. Bachelors should switch to loose sarcenet tabards; Masters and Doctors to habits lined with fyne silke.”

“… fyne silke mind, none of that cheap tat.”

Now you know. 

1 thought on “Law and religion round-up – 19th June

  1. The Government’s controversial policy of ‘outsourcing’ to Rwanda the determination of certain asylum claims and removing the asylum-seekers to Rwanda may not, on the face of it, “have much to do with ‘religion'”. That is until all 25 Church of England bishops in the House of Lords (the ‘Lords Spiritual’) signed a letter, published in The Times on Tuesday 14 June, condemning the ‘immoral’ policy and stating that it ‘shamed’ Britain. (25 bishops, not 26, as the see of Winchester is currently vacant.) The result has been calls by some for the ‘interfering’ bishops to e excluded from the House of Lords and/or for the disestablishment of the C of E – issues that were debated in an item on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Sunday’ programme this morning, 19 June, with Dominic Grieve QC (recently appointed to conduct the governance review of Christ Church, Oxford) defending the status quo.

    This is the text of the bishops’ letter:
    “Sir, Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.

    “Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.

    “We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting it. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations — and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries — are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.”

    The Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York; the Right Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London; the Right Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; the Right Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; the Right Rev John Inge, Bishop of Worcester; the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry; the Right Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford; the Right Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle; the Right Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans; the Right Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough; the Right Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely; the Right Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark; the Right Rev Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds; the Right Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester; the Right Rev Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester; the Right Rev Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol; the Right Rev Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby; the Right Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; the Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; the Right Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford; the Right Rev Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter; the Right Rev Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford; the Right Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich; the Right Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham.

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