Law and religion round-up – 30th October

And as Rishi Sunak becomes the sixth Prime Minister since we started this blog…

When cancelling an event unilaterally amounts to discrimination

In Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Against Scottish Event Campus Ltd [2022] SC GLW 33, Franklin Graham – the son of Dr Billy Graham – had been due to appear at the Hydro in Glasgow venue in May 2020 as part of a UK tour under the auspices of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The “private” event was to be non-ticketed with members of the public entering free of charge. It was described as “an evangelistic outreach event to profess and promote religion or philosophical belief”; however, the SEC became aware of opposition to the event in November 2019 through the press and social media and decided to postpone it, after a meeting of Glasgow City Council including its leader, Susan Aitken, and the Labour group leader, Frank McAveety. The BGEA sued, alleging discrimination.

Sheriff John McCormick held that the event had been cancelled because of the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham as viewed by the SEC’s reaction by others to the religious or philosophical beliefs professed by BGEA and/or Franklin Graham. By terminating the agreement, SEC had discriminated directly against BGEA, contrary to ss 10 and 29 Equality Act 2010, and had failed to prove on the balance of probabilities that its decision had had nothing to do with religion or philosophical belief and that it had not treated the BGEA less favourably than it would have treated others. He awarded the BGEA £97,000 plus expenses.

Street preachers again

The Times reports that the Metropolitan Police has paid £10,000 in damages and apologised to Hatun Tash, a Christian preacher who was wrongfully arrested at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park on two occasions. A former Muslim who had converted to Christianity, in May last year she had been assaulted, abused and harassed by a group of Muslim men when she wore a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt while taking part in weekly debates at Speakers’ Corner. Police told her to leave and arrested her for breach of the peace. On one occasion she was interviewed under caution and held in custody for 24 hours before being released and the police took no further action. The Christian Legal Centre took up her case, arguing wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment.

Inspector Andy O’Donnell, from the Met’s professional standards directorate, apologised to her “for the distress that you have suffered”. He said he was “satisfied that on these occasions the level of service did fall below the requisite standard”. [With thanks to the Religion Media Centre.]

Abortion services in Northern Ireland

The UK Government has announced that it will commission abortion services in Northern Ireland following the failure of the devolved Department of Health to do so. It follows the making of Regulations in May 2022 which gave the UK government the same powers as a Northern Ireland minister to ensure that services are available in line with international human rights law.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that it was unfortunate that the Westminster Government had been forced to commission services that should be a matter for the Department of Health to implement; however, it had been left with no other option. He would be meeting the CEOs of Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to ensure that abortion services could be provided.

The Coronation

The Constitution Unit at UCL has published revised versions of two of its reports: The Coronation of Charles III and Swearing in the new King. The co-authors, Robert Hazell and Bob Morris, have also published a blog post summarising the conclusions of both reports, here.

The latter document sets out the options for revising the coronation oaths if during the new reign there is the political will to do so. The authors recognise that this is unlikely to happen in the six months before King Charles’s coronation, but they raise the issues now for two reasons:

  • in case there is criticism of the Accession Declaration Oath and Coronation Oaths taken by Charles, to explain that criticism should be directed primarily at the Government for failing to revise them; and
  • to put down a marker for the future: if the oaths are to be updated in time for the accession of Prince William, that needs to be done during the reign of King Charles.

The Times covers the report, here.

Chancel repair liability

In answer to a question from Daisy Cooper (Lib Dem, St Albans) about the Law Commission’s progress on its Registered Land and Chancel Repair Liability project, Mike Freer (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, MoJ) said that the project was part of the Law Commission’s 13th programme and will be conducted “as and when resources allow, and we understand that the project on Registered Land and Chancel Repair Liability has not yet begun”.

Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has confirmed in a statement to the Scottish Parliament that Lord Brailsford will replace Lady Poole as Chair of the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry. He has also confirmed that an amendment will be made to the Inquiry’s terms of reference to include a clear reference to a human rights-based approach. Like Lady Poole, Lord Brailsford is a Senator of the College of Justice.

Religious education

On Tuesday, Martin Vickers (Con, Cleethorpes) will open a Commons debate in Westminster Hall entitled “Religious education in modern Britain”. We do hope that he realises (or that someone has reminded him) that education is a devolved responsibility.

The US and “gay cakes” again

In a tentative decision which becomes final at the end of the month unless an objection is filed, a court in California concluded that a bakery that refuses on religious grounds to furnish custom-designed cakes for same-sex weddings and instead refers customers to another bakery for such items had not violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v Cathy’s Creations Inc (CA Super Ct Oct 21, 2022) the court concluded that the Department had failed to prove intentional sexual orientation discrimination. [With thanks to Religion Clause.]

Quick links

And finally…

11 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 30th October

  1. The judgment in Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Against Scottish Event Campus Ltd runs to 280 pages. It is one of the biggest UK Law and Religion news stories during the years I’ve been following this blog. I’m surprised your reporting of this has been relegated to a mention in the weekly round-up, rather than your having perceived it to have merited an article of its own during the week.

          • I didn’t get that far. I thought I’d read your write-up, which I’m looking forward to. Your write-ups are usually pretty good. But about 36 pages (if it was single-spaced, half of 72) would still be quite meaty.

          • In view of my comment (below) about consistory court judgments, I should, perhaps, point out that the judgment at first instance of Chancellor June Rodgers in the Christ Church, Spitalfields case [2017] ECC Lon 1 ran to 810 paragraphs and 497 double-spaced pages – without any appendices. By contrast, the appeal judgment of the Arches Court of Canterbury [2019] EACC 1 (noted at 21 Ecc LJ 261) is a ‘mere’ 38 single-spaced pages long.

            There seems to be a trend in recent years of court judgments being longer than in the past. I suspect that in many cases this is due to previous court decisions being readily available online, whether or not published in a recognised series of law reports, so that more previous decisions are both cited by counsel and then considered by judges in their judgments. A couple of recent examples of lengthy judgments (both reported in the last month in the Weekly Law Reports) are BTI 2014 LLC v Sequana SA [2022] UKSC 25; 3 WLR 709, 714-834 (so 121 pages as reported) and Município de Mariana v BHP Group (UK) Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 951; [2022] 1 WLR 4691, 4696-4796,(100 pages, including just 3 pages of appendices.) By contrast, the House of Lords managed to dispose of the appeal in R v Bentham [2005] 1 WLR 1057 in just 4 pages and 15 paragraphs (including a decisive reference by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry in his one paragraph opinion to the Roman Law jurist, Ulpian!)

          • I’m more than aware of the length of some consistory court judgments. I maintain a spreadsheet of judgments as I receive them from Ray Hemingray – there’s quite a bit of work in adding the hyperlinks, maintaining the annual index &c before summarizing the case. One of the fields in the spreadsheet is for the number of pages of each judgment – the shorter ones tend to be addressed first. dp

    • The reason the report runs to 280 pages is because Scottish judges (unlike those south of the border) regularly use double spacing. It is worth noting, that consistory court judgments should be single-spaced, as directed by Charles George KC when Dean of the Arches in a Practice Note, No.1 of 2015 – see (2016) 18 Ecc LJ at page 162 (though a number of diocesan chancellors either ignore or appear not to have read the Practice Note.) Perhaps a similar Practice Note should be issued by the head of the Scottish judiciary: Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Carloway.

      • Thanks for the observation David. In fact, at the end of each of our monthly consistory court round-ups there is a link to the conventions used, which in turn provides a link to Charles George’s Practice Note.

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