Law and religion round-up – 19th March

Freedom of religion or belief

The UN Human Rights Council has published the first report of its Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Professor Nazila Ghanea. In it, she sets out her vision of how she plans to carry out the mandate and provides a helpful survey of the exercise of freedom of religion or belief and the international and regional standards designed to uphold that freedom, beginning with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Pope Francis on clerical celibacy

In an interview with the Spanish-language online news site Infobae, Pope Francis was asked whether allowing clergy to marry would result in an increase in vocations. He said that he did not believe that it would have that effect, but continued:

“In fact, in the Catholic Church there are married priests: the entire Eastern Rite is married. All the Eastern Rite … There is no contradiction for a priest to get married. Celibacy in the Western Church is a temporary prescription: I don’t know if it is resolved one way or another, but it is provisional in this sense – it is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not. Whether you leave or not is another matter, but it is forever. Celibacy, however, is a discipline.”

When asked by the interviewer if celibacy could be reviewed, he replied:

“Yes yes! In fact, all of the Eastern Church are married. Or those who want to be. There they make a choice before ordination: the option to marry or to be celibate.”

Same-sex marriage motion

On Tuesday, Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Lab) will move a ten-minute rule motion in the Commons for leave to bring in a bill “to enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages on Church of England premises”. It will be interesting to see what happens – but even if he is given leave, the chances of its becoming law are almost precisely zero.

CDM penalties by consent

On 19 December 2022, we noted the changes in the CDM Code of Practice CDM – penalties by consent following the agreement at General Synod on Monday 11 July 2022. As we indicated, Penalties by consent have been included in the monthly reports of ecclesiastical judgments since December and will appear in the annual summary in December 2023. 

In accordance with the amendments of the CDM Code of Practice, only limited information is posted on the C of E website and on some diocesan web pages. Since these notifications are the outcome of the CDM process, we will continue to post the following information: the diocese; the name of the respondent: the date on which the penalty was agreed or imposed; and the statutory ground of misconduct. However, additional information which is frequently available from other sources, such as the local press, will not be included.

Solar Panels on iconic buildings

Further to the announcements regarding solar panels on King’s College, Cambridge, and York Minster, last week we posted Solar panels: assessment within faculty jurisdiction in a  first attempt to draw together information presented to the Ely Consistory court in Re King’s College Chapel Cambridge [2023] ECC Ely 1.

Some of the information provided related to the Chapel, whilst other details considered the panels in relation to the College or to the heritage assets of Cambridge as a whole. Furthermore, whilst some energy data were the result of detailed calculation, other information did not seem to have been subjected to as rigorous a scrutiny, and some (particularly in the visual aspects) suggested a degree of subjectivity. 

Underpinning these issues is the fact that only the Chapel is subject to the faculty jurisdiction. On this, Leonard Ch. commented:

“I have read the arguments about the use of other areas of the estate to provide sites for solar panels. It is perhaps unfortunate that, were the Chapel standing on its own or with limited outbuildings, as might a village church, these arguments would be less easy to mount”.

Whilst Re King’s College Chapel Cambridge achieved a pragmatic solution in the instant case, in view of the different factors involved it provides no easy answers to the general application of the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022. A further analysis of the case is in preparation (by dp) for Environmental Law and Management.

Guidance on blasphemy

Further to the item in last week’s round-up, No new guidance on blasphemy, on 11 March Schools Week carried the headline Home Office U-turn on blasphemy guidance, adding “Department now ‘looking to draft new guidance’ after Quran incident”. Whilst Schools Week is probably in a better position than L&RUK to follow these events, in a confused situation such as this we would caution against placing too much reliance on secondary sources. 

And finally…

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