Law and religion round-up – 9th October

A week which was “Just Fine” for some…

COVID-19 inquiries

The UK inquiry got under way on Tuesday with a minute’s silence for the victims of the pandemic. At the first preliminary hearing the Chair, Lady Hallett, said that she would do “everything in her power” to explore what happened and what lessons needed to be learned, saying the inquiry would be “thorough and fair”.

In Scotland, Lady Poole, who had been appointed chair of the independent COVID-19 public inquiry in December 2021, has given notice that she intends to step down from the role for personal reasons. Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed the news in a letter to MSPs and said that he had already spoken with the Lord President about arrangements for appointing a new judicial chair for the inquiry.

Grant aid from a parish or town council to a place of worship

Whether a parish or town council may provide grant aid to a place of worship is covered by our posts here and here. In the latter, Frank noted:

“I remain in total agreement with the Taylor Review, the National Association of Local Councils, the Society of Local Council Clerks and (at least by implication) the author of the Commons Library paper: the current law is confused and needs to be clarified”.

This week, the Historic Religious Buildings Association (HRBA) indicated that it is updating its list of cases where churches have been discouraged from considering making a grant application or a parish council has turned an application down, where the grounds, in either case, were that the parish council (or other local authority) did not have the legal right to make a grant to a place of worship. 

At this stage, it is seeking “two or three sentences describing a case where it was believed that a Parish Council or other Local Authority did not have the power or legal right to make a grant to a historic place of worship, and this either meant that no formal application for a grant was ever made, or that an application was turned down”. Ideally, this should have been within the last five years; responses will be anonymised, and the HRBA is not engaged with the question of financial support for closed churchyards.

Responses should be sent to Becky Payne at

Use of blasphemy laws and allegations in Commonwealth countries

A Backbench Business Committee debate on the use of blasphemy laws and allegations in Commonwealth countries is scheduled for Tuesday 11 October 2022 from 11.30 am to 1.00 pm. The debate will be led by Jim Shannon MP and the House of Commons Library has issued a Research Briefing, Use of blasphemy laws and allegations in Commonwealth countries. (Exactly what this has to do with the House of Commons – however much one deplores blasphemy laws – is not at all clear.)

Charity Commission inquiry into Brighton Mosque & Muslim Community Centre

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into Brighton Mosque & Muslim Community Centre. Earlier this year, the Commission issued the charity with an Official Warning after a former trustee was convicted of encouraging terrorism in a speech given on the charity’s premises. The Commission determined that the trustees knew or ought to have known the risk that this individual posed to the charity and set out the actions that trustees should take to protect the charity and its beneficiaries from abuse. However, due to an ongoing dispute at the charity about control of its administration and management, the Commission’s view is that there is an increased risk that appropriate actions will not be taken to protect the charity from further undue risk of harm and it has therefore appointed an Interim Manager – to the exclusion of the parties in dispute – to take charge of the management and operation of the charity and to identify and appoint new trustees.

The inquiry opened on 3 August will examine the administration, governance and management of the charity and in particular:

  • whether the trustees have been properly appointed and/or removed at the charity since autumn 2021, in accordance with its governing document;
  • whether there is an accurate and clear understanding at the charity about establishing its members, including in terms of notifying and consulting with members about all relevant events at the charity;
  • whether the trustees have learnt from the issues which led to the charity receiving an Official Warning from the Commission in May 2022 and are willing and able to further the charity’s objects appropriately;
  • whether the charity’s income and expenditure have been properly accounted for since autumn 2021 as part of appropriate financial management; and
  • whether the charity’s expenditure has been used to carry out activities that exclusively furthered a charitable purpose.

The Commission may extend the scope of the inquiry if additional issues emerge.

Baby names in England and Wales 2021

It’s that time of year when the ONS publishes data on the most popular first names for baby boys and girls in England and Wales in the previous year, on the basis of birth registration data. Whilst this has very little, if anything, to do with “law and religion”, it is timely to reprise our post Naming Children: England and Wales, 2013. This, too, coincided with the publication of the annual ONS data, although it focused on the restrictions in place under secular and ecclesiastical law. As such it has remained a popular source of reference and still ranks as the “all-time” 7th most-read post.

Quick Links

And finally…I

Please, no. In these jurisdictions, an unqualified reference to “The Supreme Court” is (or should be) a reference to the court that sits in the old Middlesex Guildhall: the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, aka “UKSC” in neutral citations. If you are referring to the Supreme Court of the United States (or of Canada or of India or wherever) you should say so. Key Stage 1 constitutional law.

And finally…II

This week, The Casting Collective put out an urgent call for “REAL Vicars for a major production shooting in Gloucestershire in early November 2022”. The criteria were: “All ages, ethnicities and genders welcome to apply as long as you are a REAL Vicar. Good rates of pay, you must be 17+ with a valid NI number”. These are clearly broader in scope than Canon C 3 Of the ordination of priests and deacons, and despite the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comment on the Church’s inability to prevent them from using the title ‘the Reverend’ or even wearing a clerical collar”, we would caution against using the term “self-styled bishop“.

(And, presumably, rectors, residentiary canons and the like need not apply – even if they are seventeen or older.)


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