The Church of England and same-sex relationships
The major news of the week was that the Church of England’s General Synod voted in favour of a motion to offer blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages after an eight-hour debate over two days.
Unsurprisingly, the vote has generated considerable controversy. The Church of England Evangelical Council said that it was deeply saddened and profoundly grieved by the vote. OneBodyOneFaith acknowledged the statement, but its first reaction was understandable disappointment that equal marriage had not been proposed.
More broadly, there are complexities around the canonical status of the approved prayers themselves, which Russell Dewhurst unravels in a guest post, here.
Teaching on freedom of religion or belief
In answer to a Written Question by Andrew Lewer (Con, Northampton S) asking the Secretary of State for Education what steps she is taking to ensure that school curricula include teaching on freedom of religion or belief, Schools Minister Nick Gibb replied as follows:
“The National Curriculum is broad and balanced for pupils to learn about how different groups and societies have contributed to the development of the UK. The curriculum offers many opportunities for schools to do this, notably through citizenship education and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE). The RSHE curriculum has a strong focus on equality, respect, and the harmful impact of stereotyping, as well as the importance of valuing difference.
Within the citizenship curriculum, pupils should be taught about the diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities and the need for mutual respect and understanding.
In delivering the curriculum, schools should be aware of their duties relating to political impartiality, as set out under the Education Act 1996, and must ensure that, where political issues are discussed in the classroom, they are presented in a balanced way. The Department has published guidance on political impartiality in schools which can be found here.
Legal duties on political impartiality do not supersede other important requirements for schools, including their responsibility to promote fundamental British values, including the mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Developing and deepening pupils’ understanding of these values is part of the Ofsted inspection framework, alongside expectations that schools develop responsible citizens and promote an inclusive environment that meets the needs of all pupils, irrespective of their characteristics.”
Also on 3 February, the Education (Non-religious Philosophical Convictions) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 3 February; however, the Government has declined to support it, and it is highly unlikely to become law. Russell Sandberg comments here.
Ukrainian-rite Catholics and the date of Christmas
The Catholic News Agency reported that the sui iuris Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is changing its fixed-date religious celebrations to match the Gregorian calendar used by the Church in the West. Instead of celebrating Christmas on 7 January and Epiphany on 19 January according to the Gregorian calendar as before, Ukrainian-rite Catholics will adopt the Julian calendar and celebrate feasts on the same dates as most Catholics in the US and the Western nations. The change will be effective from the start of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s liturgical year, 1 September 2023.
HS2 and the Necropolis Railway
While the discovery of the remains of Captain Matthew Flinders was the most high-profile case in Euston’s St James’s burial ground, there were in fact 40,000 other human remains in the burial ground. HS2 Ltd, working with the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, has agreed with Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey for many of the reburials resulting from the excavations at St James’s Gardens to take place there. Brookwood Cemetery was developed by the London Necropolis Company in 1849 with the intention of providing a new principal burial ground for London at a time when space for burial within city limits was at a premium.
The majority of the reburials from St James’s burial ground will be in Brookwood Cemetery, and in April 2020 architects were commissioned to develop a substantial memorial in memory of all those whose human remains had been moved there from St James’s Gardens, Euston. This was considered in Re Brookwood Cemetery  ECC Gui 2, in which Burns Ch granted a faculty, being satisfied of the appropriate nature of the design of the memorial, the landscaping and the proposed inscriptions.
Human Rights at Work
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has opened an inquiry into Human Rights at Work. In the call for evidence, it points out that:
“… the inequality of economic power between workers and employers may leave workers vulnerable to human rights infringements … Human rights have a role to play in the regulation of all employment relationships. Although, human rights are generally thought of as applying between the individual and the State, rather than to private businesses, the European Court of Human Rights has recognised that States have positive duties to protect workers from breaches of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.”
The call for evidence closes on Friday 24 March.
Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill
Lexology has a helpful series of articles by Brodies LLP on the provisions of the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament:
- Part 1: Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill – what happens next?
- Part 2: Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill – a register of charity trustees – both “on” and “off the record”.
- Part 3: Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill – Charity Mergers and Legacies.
- Part 4: Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill – OSCR’s powers.
- Frank Cranmer, Religion Media Centre: Factsheet: Establishment and the Church of England.
- David Allen Green, The Law and Policy Blog: Is it, at last, time to say “good bye” to Thoburn and the idea of “constitutional statutes”?: on the effects of the Supreme Court’s judgment in Allister & Peeples, Re Applications for Judicial Reviews (Northern Ireland)  UKSC 5 on the legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
- Emma Guy, EachOther: Could The ECHR Be A Battleground In The Next Election?: our guess, almost certainly not, simply because the average voter is far more likely to be concerned about matters like the economy and the cost of living.
- Ilias Trispiotis, Oxford Journal of Law and Religion: Mandatory Vaccinations, Religious Freedom, and Discrimination.
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This week’s article on Canon B5 has prompted a thought process on the legal basis for the rite of Coronation. Could it rightly be described as a service of Holy Communion (if indeed this year’s coronation is set within that context) with variations not of substantial importance? If not, then the lacuna pointed out in relation to (2) seems to pose an issue as the Archbishop of Canterbury surely cannot claim to have the cure of souls within the Royal Peculiar of Westminster Abbey.