The Bill of Rights Bill
“The Bill will continue to give effect to the same rights and freedoms – the Convention rights – drawn from the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), but will include provisions to:
- ensure rights are not interpreted over-expansively, and considered in view of the UK’s distinct contexts;
- increase democratic oversight of human rights issues;
- reduce burdens on public authorities;
- give great weight to the views of Parliament in considerations of public interest;
- implement a permission stage to ensure trivial cases do not undermine public confidence in human rights;
- recognise that responsibilities exist alongside rights;
- ensure Parliament’s role in responding to adverse judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) in Strasbourg;
- strengthen the right to freedom of speech;
- recognise trial by jury as of fundamental importance to the UK criminal justice system;
- limit the Bill’s extraterritorial application;
- ensure that the importance of public protection is given due regard in the interpretation of rights; and
- provide that some rights cannot prevent the deportation of foreign criminals, except in very narrow circumstances.”
With regard specifically to Article 9, Clause 23 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion) preserves the current situation in s.13 Human Rights Act 1998:
“(1) This section applies if a court is considering whether to grant any relief which, if granted, might affect the exercise by a religious organisation of the Convention right set out in Article 9 of the Convention (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).
(2) The court must have particular regard to the importance of the right.
(3) The reference in subsection (1) to a religious organisation includes a reference to its members collectively.”
(The definitions clause declares that “court” includes “tribunal.)
David Allen Green’s preliminary view was that “In broad terms, this new legislation makes no real difference to the Human Rights Act 1998” but that it will make rights harder to enforce – not least, in our view, because only claimants with very long pockets will be able to take the option of a trip to Strasbourg. HIs conclusions after reading the Bill are here.
There is a long and detailed analysis of the Bill by Mark Elliott, Professor of Public Law and Chair of the Faculty of Law at Cambridge, here. Spoiler: he is not impressed.
Atlas of Religious or Belief Minorities in EU Countries
The Atlas project aims to map and measure the rights of religious or belief minorities (RBMs) in EU countries. Its aim is to provide information and data that can help the work of scholars, journalists, diplomats, NGOs and anyone interested in promoting minority rights.
The authors of the project explain that mapping will clarify what rights RBMs have in each country and that measuring is essential for developing evidence-based policy making. To that end, the Atlas makes use of three indices that measure the promotion of RBM rights (P-index), equal treatment (E-index) and the distance between religious majority and minorities (G-index). The indices have been constructed on the basis of the answers given by national legal experts in response to four questionnaires; their answers have been evaluated using a methodology built with respect to the international standards concerning RBM rights. The Atlas currently covers 12 countries, 13 RBMs and four policy areas (Legal status of RBMs, marriage and family law, spiritual assistance, religious/belief symbols).
Racially and religiously aggravated offences
According to a Press Association analysis of Home Office data, racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded by police have risen by 15 per cent in a year in England and Wales. 76,884 racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded in 2021, up from 66,742 in 2020. [With thanks to Religion Media Centre.]
“Small titles and orders, for mayors and recorders”…
The Church of England’s announcement on 21 June of the presentation of the Canterbury Cross to the Queen caused a degree of confusion on social media. Unlike “Lambeth Degrees” – academic degrees (previously bestowed by the Pope) which the Archbishop of Canterbury is empowered to award through the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533 (a.k.a. Peter’s Pence Act) – there are a number of non-academic Lambeth Awards, including the Lambeth Cross, the Canterbury Cross and the Cross of St Augustine; in 2016, these awards were expanded with six new awards named after previous Archbishops of Canterbury.
The Canterbury Cross is awarded for “outstanding service to the Church of England” and was given to the Queen in recognition and gratitude for Her Majesty’s “unstinting support of the Church throughout her reign” and to mark her Platinum Jubilee year; a specially cast version was made for Her Majesty with platinum inserts in honour of the Platinum Jubilee. We trust that she was “highly delighted”.
Church of England: net zero by 2030
On 23 June, the Church of England announced plans to help the Church of England’s 16,000 local churches and 4,500 schools reach carbon net zero by the end of the decade. These will be considered by General Synod on the afternoon of Friday 8 July 2022. Details plus some initial observations are given in July Synod: plans for “net zero carbon” by 2030. Although the Routemap indicates that it “is not legislative and does not obligate any part of the Church, subject to its approval by Synod, [it] will form the basis of the road to net zero carbon by 2030, there are a number of elements which will need to be taken into consideration in future consistory court deliberations. A further post on these issues is in preparation.
Baptism, confirmation and the environment
In an Ad Clerum, the Bishop of Oxford has announced “a small revision to our liturgy in baptism and confirmation services”. In every service of baptism, confirmation and the renewal of baptismal promises there is a Commission where the whole congregation promises to live out its everyday faith. The Bishops in the diocese have agreed to authorise (under Canon B5) a new final question in this commissioning, which began to be used in confirmations from the end of May:
Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?
With the help of God I will.
The bishops “wish to warmly commend this question for use in parishes where the Commission is used and, of course, to encourage teaching and preparation on this theme as part of preparation for baptism and confirmation”. They have the support of the Chair of the Liturgical Commission in promoting this change and will do what they can to commend it more widely across the Church; however, questions have been raised on whether it is appropriate to make this addition to the post-baptism/confirmation Commission.
A plague on your proposals
The Petitioners sought to undertake various building works and to remove and dispose of the pipe organ from the place where the new fire door would be inserted, with the later intention of installing an electronic organ Re St Lawrence Eyam  ECC Der 1. Clarke Ch commented that because the removal of the organ was put forward as a necessary consequence of the other works, the focus had not been on justifying the removal of the organ in its own right. Further, the question of whether the organ should be replaced and, if so, by what manner of instrument, was not part of the petition . He stated:
“In my judgment, the question as to whether a faculty should be granted to remove the organ must be considered on its own merits and it cannot be the case that its disposal is simply a necessary consequence of the construction of a new fire exit. The Duffield test must still apply…The justification for removing it is not particularly clear or convincing, based principally on it being in an inconvenient location. Neither is the public benefit of its removal my judgment, persuasively argued.
Citing Hodge QC, Ch in Re St Peter & St Paul Newport Pagnell  ECC Oxf 8 and Eyre Ch in Re St Nicholas, Warwick (2010) 12 EccLJ 407 at paragraph 19, he noted that “the correct approach to the removal of pipe organs has been much considered by the consistory courts”, and concluded:
“…The presumption in favour of a further pipe organ is more likely to be rebutted by those who can show that the preference for alternative results from careful and reasoned consideration after detailed and informed research. Those whose preference for an alternative is based on a consideration which does not take proper account of the merits of pipe organs are unlikely to persuade the court that their preference can displace the presumption in favour of replacing a pipe organ with another pipe organ”.
The UK-hosted International Conference on the Freedom of Religion or Belief
A Westminster Hall debate on the work of the UK-hosted International Conference on the Freedom of Religion or Belief is scheduled for Tuesday 28 June 2022, from 9:30-11:00 am. The debate will be led by Fiona Bruce MP.
Ritual slaughter in Belgium
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region has narrowly rejected a bill that would have banned the kosher and halal slaughter of animals. Of 89 members of the Parliament, 42 voted against the proposal, 38 voted in favour, eight abstained and one was absent. Slaughter without pre-stunning was banned in Wallonia in 2017 and in Flanders in 2019; the Brussels-Capital Region remains the only part of Belgium in which kosher and halal slaughter remain legal. [With thanks to Howard Friedman.]
Burkinis in Grenoble
On Tuesday, the Conseil d’Etat overruled the decision of the municipal authorities of Grenoble and confirmed the prohibition on wearing burkinis in municipal swimming pools. It held that Grenoble’s municipal authorities could not authorise the wearing of burkinis in order to “satisfy a claim of religious nature”. Grenoble could not derogate from the general rule requiring tight-fitting bathing costumes to accommodate a particular category of users because the rule had been established for reasons of hygiene and safety.
- Howard Friedman, Religion Clause: Supreme Court Overrules Roe v. Wade and Casey: a formal note on the judgment in Dobbs.
- Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph: Secular Britain is reviving Christianity’s rituals: on the growth of secular “Days” of commemoration.
- Linda C McClain & Nicole Huberfeld, The Conversation: Roe overturned: What you need to know about the Supreme Court abortion decision: not our jurisdiction, thank God, but if you’re interested in the SCOTUS decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, here’s an explainer.
With regard to the Oxford Ad Clerum, The Beaker Initiation Environmental Promises have been announced by Archdruid Eileen. This suggests that the aims of the Diocese to insulate vicarages might be more effective in the real world than on the “slightly-vague-promises-we-sort-of-want-to-keep” plane, on which the Beaker Folk address some of the key issues – a view with which we concur. The suggestion concludes:
Archdruid: Will you use only ineffective green detergent for washing purposes in your house, so you can go around in slightly gray “whites” with a martyr’s smile?
Candidate: Of course. But I’ll still need Turtle Wax for the Tesla.