Law and religion round-up – 2nd April

“All the news that’s fit to print” (some of it daft)…

… and this week it’s been difficult to distinguish between real and spoof news, from both Church and State. However, of the various April Fool posts, a favourite is from the Comms Team at the Diocese of York which started: “The Church of England has distanced itself this morning from a newly-launched auction website offering redundant church furnishings – and a church – to online bidders…”

More on mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse

Writing about the final report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in today’s Mail on Sunday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has committed the Government to introducing mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse in England in unequivocal terms:

“The inquiry found repeated individual and institutional failures to report child sexual abuse. It recommended that the Government should introduce a mandatory duty for professionals with safeguarding responsibilities to report any signs or suspicions of such abuse. Had this duty been in place already, countless children would have been better protected against grooming gangs and against sexual abusers more widely. That is why I have committed to introduce Mandatory Reporting across the whole of England.”

She also said that the Prime Minister will set out further measures to tackle the problem tomorrow. What this means for the seal of the confessional remains to be seen.

“Christianity in Society”

On Thursday, there was a debate in Westminster Hall on Christianity in Society. Unsurprisingly, the general conclusion was that Christianity was a Good Thing – though Peter Grant (Glenrothes, SNP), who described himself as as “a lifelong committed Christian”,  sounded a cautionary note, reminding his hearers that

 “… although there is no doubt that people motivated by Christianity have been responsible for extraordinary acts of kindness, courage, bravery and selflessness, from the days of Christ himself, we cannot hide from the fact that people who claim to be acting in accordance with Christian teaching have been responsible for some of the most heinous acts ever committed on God’s earth.”

(If Cranmer is your surname you can hardly disagree.)

Scottish Government: faith and belief engagement strategy

The Scottish Government has published a Faith and belief engagement strategy which sets out the principles that will underpin its engagement with faith and belief communities: recognising diversity, effective communication, respecting disagreement, encouraging collaboration and understanding representation.

Its aims are to gain a more accurate picture of faith and belief across Scotland, to improve external engagement with faith and belief groups, to develop internal engagement on faith and belief within the Scottish Government and to review funding for faith and belief groups.

Northern Ireland: review of the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997

Of possible interest to at least a few readers, the Northern Ireland Executive Office has announced a review of the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 intended to ensure that “racial equality legislation fully reflects and responds to the needs of our minority ethnic communities and offers them the best protections from racism and discrimination in the environments in which they live and work”. The review has been informed by examining the differences between the Northern Ireland Order, the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010 in Great Britain, and the parallel provisions in Ireland. The consultation closes on 18 June.

Business rates and places of worship 

In answer to a rather obscure question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from Rachael Maskell (York Central, Lab) asking what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the Valuation Office Agency’s requirements for signage in designating places of worship, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, replied as follows:

Schedule 5 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 sets out what conditions must be met for a religious building to be exempt from business rates. The main requirements are that the building should be a place of public religious worship which either belongs to the Church of England, the Church in Wales, or is certified as a place of religious worship by the General Register Office. It must also be used for the conduct of public religious worship.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) recognises that not all places of public religious worship will be in buildings that have traditionally been considered places of worship, such as purpose-built churches, temples, or chapels. The assessment of whether a property is used for the conduct of public religious worship is considered on a case-by-case basis, according to the facts. This includes consideration of any signage that is in place inviting public worship.

Should a ratepayer be unhappy with the VOA’s assessment of their property, they can formally challenge the decision through the Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) process.”

Quick links

And finally…I

Though we didn’t bother to report it, readers may have seen the news that in the latest reprint of the Book of Common Prayer to reflect the accession of the King, during the printing process at Cambridge University Press someone inadvertently replaced the name of Elizabeth I with that of Charles III in the ratification of the Thirty-Nine Articles.

The new version read: “Our Sovereign Lord CHARLES, by the grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith.” The Telegraph reports that the offending copies are being withdrawn from sale.

And finally…II

In Undertakers to Wear Hi-Viz, the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley report that “In yet another slap in the face to the freedom of the British people, more EU law has been smuggled into Britain under cover of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Undertakers (PPE) regulation will be implemented from 1 July 2023. This stipulates that two traditional roles of undertakers at funerals must be undertaken – as it were – while wearing fully functional hi-viz outfits.”

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