Law and religion round-up – 23rd October

So it’s goodbye, Liz Truss – whose premiership (as someone pointed out on Twitter) spanned two reigns…

IICSA final report

The big news in what was otherwise a fairly quiet week (in law and religion terms, that is) was that IICSA published The Report of the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse – October 2022. As well as the full report, there is a Rapid Read version and an Executive Summary.

The Government announced that it will respond in full within six months, “when proper consideration has been given to all of the recommendations”, but the new Home Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced a further £4.5 million for organisations supporting victims and survivors of child sexual abuse at a national level. The Justice Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said that the Government would “continue to transform the justice system’s response to these heinous crimes – locking up child abusers for longer to protect the public, making sure predators cannot use sports or religious roles to harm young people, and hugely increasing funding for support services so that no victim is left to suffer alone”. Whether the Government will go so far as to legislate for mandatory reporting, as IICSA recommends, remains to be seen.

For further comment, see our post here and Tim Wyatt’s piece on Religion Media Centre: Uproar from religious groups trying to protect the seal of confession ‘must be resisted’.

“Contested heritage” – update

The Church of England Media Digest on Monday 17 October included a link to the Times Law Report (£) on a consistory court ruling over a memorial to 18th-century plantation owner John Gordon in St Peter’s Church in Dorchester: “It is appropriate to remove the memorial to a slave owner from a listed church building”.

The judgment is Re Dorchester, St Peter, Holy Trinity and All Saints [2022] ECC Sal 4, which our post, “Contested heritage”: further considerations in Re Dorchester St Peter, placed in the context of other determinations relating to “contested heritage”. As the attached recent photograph indicates, the memorial is located “prominently directly opposite the main south entrance” [48], and as of 11 October 2022 the contentious wording remained covered prior to the removal of the memorial to the adjacent museum under the terms of a renewable 5-year loan.

Meanwhile in Bristol, the exhibition in the Cathedral and on College Green, All God’s Childrencame to a close. The new exhibition explored the impact of the slave economy on Cathedral life, past and present. and presents the first findings of a research project into Bristol Cathedral’s connections with slavery as revealed through its memorials and grave markers.

At the end of the exhibition, everyone is invited to reflect and comment on what they think the Cathedral should do next. Should the Cathedral have a permanent exhibition explaining its links to the slave trade?  Should it remove some or all of its monuments with a connection to the slave trade? Should a monument be commissioned that remembers those who were trafficked, suffered or died as a result of the Transatlantic slave trade? What is the Cathedral’s role in countering racism in the Church and our community today?

Finally, the Daily Mail reports that there are moves afoot to remove the memorial to yet another slave trader, one Thomas Corker, erected in King Charles the Martyr church, Falmouth, in the early 1700s. A campaign for its removal has been launched on Facebook.

Weddings, small denominations and humanists

Humanists UK has published an interesting analysis of which groups are registered with the General Register Office (GRO) for conducting marriages. Its research reveals that some denominations on the register were founded in the time that Humanists UK has been campaigning for legal recognition for humanist marriages, including one as recently as 2009. At least 535 denominations have a registered place of worship in England and Wales. These belong to 39 religions. Some, like the Aetherius Society and the Church of the White Eagle Lodge, are extremely small. The analysis also reveals that at least 16 denominations registered a place of worship for the first time since 2015.

European Commission conference on religious slaughter

On Thursday, the European Commission held a conference on freedom of religion with regard to religious slaughter, in partnership with the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN. Commissioner Helena Dalli delivered the opening remarks. The conference brought together representatives of the EU itself, the Member States and other national authorities, special envoys and coordinators on combating antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, representatives of national Jewish, Muslim and other religious communities, international organisations and independent experts. It is expected that a summary of the event will be made available online in due course. Until then, there is a post-conference comment from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, here.

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