Law and religion round-up – 21st August

Margaret Ferrier MP and COVID-19

On Thursday at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Margaret Ferrier, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, pled guilty to a charge that she had failed to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and had “exposed people to risk of infection, illness and death”. Ms Ferrier was elected for the SNP but subsequently lost the whip and currently sits as an independent.

She had taken a COVID test on Saturday 26 September because she had a “tickly throat”. While awaiting her results, she went to church on Sunday. She then travelled to London by train and spoke in the Commons before finding out a short time later that she had tested positive for the virus. She then returned to Glasgow, fearing she would have to self-isolate in a London hotel room for two weeks. Sentence was deferred pending background reports until next month.

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland commented: “The Church went to significant lengths to abide by all government COVID guidance and It is disappointing to learn that anyone would knowingly disregard the guidance.”

IICSA Final Report 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has announced that its Final Report will be published on Thursday 20 October 2022. This follows: 

  • 325 days of public hearings with 725 witnesses;
  • 2,457,543 pages of evidence being processed;
  • The publication of the Interim report, 19 investigation reports, 24 research reports and eight engagement reports;
  • Eight seminars;
  • Over 6,000 experiences shared with the Truth Project; and
  • 87 recommendations for change made.

The report will be published on the Inquiry website. Noting the announcement, Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Rochester and the Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding, reiterated the Church’s final submission to IICSA that “… despite the important steps that it has taken, the Church still has much more work to do to get safeguarding right. While there has been improvement in recent years, we wholeheartedly regret that in some areas, especially support for victims and survivors: progress has been too slow. We have learnt much from our three IICSA hearings and the subsequent reports and we will respond further following the publication in October of this final report and its recommendations”.

Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme: update

In a move which seems to have received just about zero publicity, as of 25 July 2022 the administration of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme changed. The Scheme is now being administered by East Midlands Business Limited on behalf of DCMS and there is a new application form available from the Scheme’s website that differs slightly from the old one, though the old form is to be accepted for the time being. The new contact details are as follows:

Telephone: 0800 500 3009
Post: The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, East Midlands Business Ltd, 5 Merus Court, Meridian Business Park, LEICESTER LE19 1RJ.

Church of England Parochial Fees 2022: update

Our post, Church of England Parochial Fees 2022, has been updated to include “special services” for which statutory fees do not apply, such as memorial services, services of blessing and dedication following a civil marriage, renewal of marriage vows and suchlike.

COVID-19 update

On 19 August, the ONS published Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 19 August 2022, showing the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in private residential households in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, including regional and age breakdowns. For the week ending 8 August 2022 for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and ending 6 August 2022 for England, the percentage of people testing positive continued to decrease. In England and Wales, the estimated number of people testing positive equated to around 1 in 40 people; in Northern Ireland, the figure was 1 in 50; and in Scotland, it was around 1 in 30.

The advice issued by the Church of England  is unchanged from 18 July 2022, stating that “[a]s national case numbers remain high it is important that, while we should continue to offer Holy Communion in both kinds, no pressure is placed on individual members of congregation to receive the sacrament if they feel unable to do so”. Advice from other faith groups is also unchanged, and comment on Twitter suggests that in some churches “mask-wearing is still compulsory, and enforced on the door”. 

Principles of Canon Law

A new, permanent page has been added to the Ecclesiastical Law Society website, hosting the PDF of The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion and links to associated research materials. In addition to links to the two editions of the Principles (in 2008 and 2022), the page includes Church Resolutions, Meetings, Ecumenical Statements etc. and selected academic articles, books, and lectures. 

There are two commentaries on the 2022 edition: Professor Mark Hill, “Principles of Canon Law and the Mind of the Anglican Communion” 26 July 2022 and Andrew Goddard. “Lambeth ‘Calls’, Lambeth I.10, and the nature of the Anglican Communion (2), 29 July 2022.

Removal of bells from a closed church (again)

Further to the item in the round-up of14 August 2022, in Removal of bells from a closed church we have given further thought to the case of Re St James Church Kirk [2022] ECC Bla 3, for which the particular interest lies in the requirements associated with making changes to a closed church, aspects of which still fall within the faculty jurisdiction. Also considered is the earlier case of Re St James Church Kirk [2019] ECC Bla 4, which involved an initially interim loan of a much older but unringable bell from the same closed church to Lancashire Museum Services. 

All God’s Children, Bristol Cathedral 

All God’s Children is a brand new exhibition in Bristol Cathedral and on College Green, running from From Monday 22 August to Friday 21 October, which explores the impact of the slave economy on Cathedral life, past and present. All God’s Children is part of the Cathedral’s work to understand its links with the transatlantic trade of enslaved people. Research that informed the exhibition discovered that between 1670 and 1900, roughly 1,000 people were buried or memorialized in the Cathedral and its grounds. Around 200 of them had a close connection to the slavery-based economy. 

At the end of the exhibition, everyone is invited to comment, reflect and give feedback about what they think the Cathedral should do next. An important aspect of this initiative is the criterion used to define a “close connection to the slavery-based economy”; recent consistory court judgments have indicated that this is a wide spectrum of involvement. 

Quick links

And finally…I

The Guardian reports that a group of “Church leaders” has written to St Austell Town Council asking that the Earth Goddess sculpture in the town centre be rebranded or removed, claiming that its presence is “offensive to God”. Their letter says:

“The choice to erect a statue of an ‘earth goddess’ means that as the leaders of the town you are actively, though likely unknowingly, choosing to reject God and instead to bring the town under the spiritual influence of an ‘earth goddess’ … We understand this may sound strange and may not be language that you are comfortable with. However, as Christians we believe there is a spiritual reality to our world and so this is not an insignificant choice and has the potential to impact on the town in negative ways.”

No comment.

And finally…II

Per Julian Knowles J in Al-Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [2022] EWHC 2199 (QB) at [195]:There are shades of Mandy Rice-Davies in this explanation — ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’.”

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