Law and religion round-up – 4th September

A week in which we learned “the lady’s not for turning (up)…”

… for Nick Robinson, but those who complain about the selective electoral college for the UK’s next Prime Minister might do well to look across the Tiber. The Catholic News Agency reports: “With the August consistory, the College of Cardinals will have 132 cardinal electors — that is, cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for a new pope in a conclave. Of these 132 cardinals, Pope Francis will have chosen … 62% of cardinal electors. By the end of 2022, when six more cardinals will have turned 80 years old, this percentage will be 65”.

Who needs boundary changes in a situation such as this?

The UN Human Rights Council and the Bill of Rights

A group of special rapporteurs at the UN Human Rights Council has raised concerns about the likely impact of the Bill of Rights Bill currently before Parliament. They note that, by becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. They are concerned that

“the proposed Bill is going back on the commitments undertaken by the UK when it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, but also, on those commitments that relate to universal human rights instruments. In particular, we are concerned that if adopted as is, the Bill may be in violation of the rights to a fair trial, effective remedies, and equality before the courts, and it may be placing individuals in certain situations at risk of less human rights protection; and may also constitute a contravention of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties”.

They are also concerned that the proposed Bill would significantly modify the enforcement of the Convention in the UK, including the right of individuals to an effective remedy for violations. [With thanks to Andrew Copson.]

For what it’s worth, so are we.

Contested heritage

In the first of its biannual Racial Justice Reports issued on 28 June 2022, the Archbishops’ Commission on Racial Justice noted on page 24:

“We are aware of one other case involving a monument which has given cause for concern where [judgment] is still pending at the time of writing. We make no comment on that save to say that its outcome is unlikely, given the facts known to us, to change our view of what needs to be done as a matter of urgency in the aftermath of the Rustat case”.

Those following developments, (or who had read our “contested heritage” Index page) will have assumed (correctly) that this related to the memorial of Dr John Gordon, referred to in an article in The Times on 25 March 2022. The judgment, Re Dorchester St Peter, Holy Trinity and All Saints [2022] ECC Sal 4, was circulated late on 30 August 2022, but in time for inclusion in our round-up of August’s judgments &c. At [47] of the Dorchester St Peter judgment, Arlow Ch observed:

“…This memorial is quite different [from] Tobias Rustat’s memorial in Jesus College Chapel. On its face, it celebrates in language of acclamation the violent quelling of a rebellion by enslaved people against a status which is now universally acknowledged as morally repugnant and contrary to Christian doctrine. That status was imposed upon them largely because of their race”…

“[51]. John Gordon’s involvement in the slave trade appears to have been much more direct and substantial than that of Tobias Rustat. He lived for much of his life in Jamaica and was the overseer, and later owner, of a number of slave plantations. At the time of his death he personally owned more than 400 slaves and, as the memorial makes clear, was directly involved in the “quelling” of a slave uprising which resulted in the death (including executions) of approximately 400 slaves”.

To this comparison by the court of the memorial to Dr John Gordon vis-à-vis that of Thomas Rustat we would add Re St Mary Barnes [2021] ECC Swk 10, about a monument commemorating the Hoare Family of Barn Elms; and in that case, none of the family members to be commemorated had links to the slave trade, only a member of the family two generations earlier than the oldest of these. 

For those who might tend to put too much trust in the Daily Mail headline, Church memorial to plantation owner John Gordon hailing his ‘bravery’ in quelling ‘dangerous’ 1760 slave rebellion is torn down after campaign by anti-racism group, we suggest that they (and possibly the copywriters of the Mail), look at paragraphs on the background to the petition, [9] to [17], and on the conditions of the faculty, [70].  

In view of its earlier comments, it will also be instructive to hear the comments of the Archbishops’ Commission on Racial Justice.

Relationships and sexuality education in Wales

Five parents who wanted to withdraw their children from mandatory relationships and sexuality education (RSE) from the start of the new term in Wales, or stop the rollout of RSE altogether, have failed in their application for an injunction. According to the BBC’s report, Tipples J said that an injunction would cause “very substantial disruption” just days before the start of a new term and that there was a “very strong public interest” in continuing with implementing the new curriculum from next week. A judicial review already granted to the group is scheduled to be heard in November. She ordered that the claimants pay the Welsh Government’s costs.

Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

We have previously mentioned the fact that East Midlands Business Ltd took over the administration of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme from the end of July. The Historic Religious Buildings Alliance reports that DCMS hopes to have an improved website in place by the end of 2022 – the current one is fairly dire – with the facility to submit digital application forms and understand where applications are in the grant process, while also continuing to provide the existing postal options. 

COVID-19 update

On 31 August 2022, the DHSC announced that based on UKHSA advice, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director have recommended to ministers that the COVID alert level should be moved from level 3 to level 2. Under UK methodology:

  • Alert level 3 is where COVID-19 is in general circulation in the UK;
  • Alert level 2 is where COVID-19 is in general circulation in the UK but direct COVID-19 healthcare pressures are low and transmission is declining or stable. 

The ONS COVID-19 infection survey, issued on 2 September 2022, stated that for the week ending 23 August 2022 the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to decrease in all UK jurisdictions except Northern Ireland, where the trend was uncertain; in England, the estimated number of people testing positive for COVID-19 was around 1 in 60 people; in Wales, around 1 in 65; in Scotland, about 1 in 55; and in Northern Ireland, around 1 in 50. 

In a related development, Premier Christian News reported that Blackburn Cathedral’s Crypt, which became one of the first mass vaccination sites in the country, will close this weekend after delivering almost 200,000 COVID-19 injections. The COVID-19 clinic will move to different premises in the city to prepare for the start of the autumn vaccination programme. Lichfield, Salisbury and Bangor cathedrals and Westminster Abbey all opened as vaccine clinics for their communities and Chester, Rochester and Worcester cathedrals became COVID test centres.

Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization

The Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization was registered as a charity in January 2008. Its objects include advancing the Christian religion (in accordance with the beliefs and teachings of the Assyrian Church of the East), the relief of financial hardship and sickness, assisting victims affected by disasters, and promoting religious harmony. The Charity Commission opened a regulatory compliance case into the activities of charity following receipt of information provided by the Metropolitan Police which raised regulatory concerns. One of the issues of concern was reports that two of the charity’s trustees had been involved in raising donations to secure the release of hostages being held in Syria by the proscribed terrorist organisation, Daesh.

The Commission has now published the conclusions of its investigation: Charity Inquiry: Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization. It concludes that there was misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration by the trustees. This includes a serious disregard for, and/or a lack of understanding of, the importance of proper financial controls and accountability in respect of the charity’s funds.

Quick links

And finally…

A former Royal Navy weapons officer, Antonio Jardim, is suing the Ministry of Defence for constructive dismissal and religious discrimination. He resigned from the service after being removed from HMS Vanguard, a nuclear submarine, because as a Christian he opposed the use of nuclear weapons – but not, presumably, non-nuclear ones. An employment tribunal adjourned proceedings to a full hearing in March 2023.

Watch this space (if we haven’t forgotten about it by then).

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