Law and religion round-up – 28th May

Charities Act 2022 implementation plan: update

DCMS has updated the timetable for implementing the Charities Act 2022, as follows:

Provisions expected to come into force in June 2023:

  • Sections 9-14 and 35(a): Permanent endowment.
  • Sections 17, 19-22: Charity land.
  • Sections 25-28: Charity names.
  • Section 38 and 39: Connected persons.
  • Part of Section 40 and Schedule 2: Minor and consequential amendments.

Provisions expected to come into force by the end of 2023:

  • Section 1-3: Charity constitutions.
  • Sections 18 and 23: Charity land.
  • Section 24 and Sch 1: Amendments of the Universities and College Estates Act 1925 (while section 24 and Schedule 1 will be included in the phase 3 commencement regulations, they will come into force in Spring 2025).
  • Section 29: Powers relating to appointments of trustees.
  • Section 31: Remuneration etc of charity trustees etc.
  • Sections 33, 34 and 35(b): Charity mergers.
  • Section 37: For remaining purposes.
  • Section 40 and Schedule 2: For remaining purposes.

Provisions under further consideration prior to commencement:

  • Sections 15 and 16: Ex Gratia Payments.

There is a full list including those provisions already in force, with a press release, here.

Grants by parish, town and community councils to places of worship

On Wednesday, the House of Lords Grand Committee debated Amendment 485 to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which was tabled by the Bishop of Bristol and intended to clarify the law about the powers (or lack of them) of parish, town and community councils to make grants to places of worship. Bishop Faull explained the problem (which both this blog and the Historic Religion Buildings Alliance have been moaning about for years: see this) in some detail but, to no-one’s surprise, she received a muted response.

In reply to the debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at DLUHC, Baroness Scott of Bybrook, said this:

“The intention of the Local Government Act 1894 was to provide a clear separation between the newly created civil parishes and what are now parochial church councils. However, the Government do not consider that it includes any general or specific provision that prohibits parish councils from funding the maintenance and upkeep of churches and other religious buildings. Parish councils have other powers that enable their contribution towards the upkeep of these buildings if it were deemed to be within their local communities’ interest to do so. However, I understand the confusion and I thank the noble Lords who have raised these amendments. We have heard their concerns that the law may be ambiguous, and I know this is of great concern to parishes and noble Lords. I can assure them that we in the department are considering this issue carefully and will reflect on the comments made during this debate” [emphasis added].

So we continue to “watch this space”. And remain unconvinced.

Holocaust Memorial Bill

The Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills have published their Report and Statement of Reasons for ruling the Holocaust Memorial Bill hybrid. Joshua Rozenberg comments on the saga: Holocaust memorial setback.

Humanism and “religious education”

In R (Bowen) v Kent County Council [2023] EWHC 1261 (Admin), the Claimant, Stephen Bowen, is a humanist who sought to be appointed to join Group A of Kent County Council’s Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education as a full member: his predecessor as chair of Kent Humanists had had observer status. Under s.390(4)(a) of the Education Act 1996, Group A is required to be “a group of persons to represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area”.  The Council refused to appoint him on the grounds that, as a humanist, he did not represent “a religion or a denomination of a religion”.

Mr Bowen challenged the Council’s refusal on the grounds that it was discriminatory and in breach of Article 9 ECHR and Article 2 of Protocol 1 when read with Article 14. His application for judicial review succeeded and Constable J quashed Kent County Council’s decision on the basis that it was unlawful.

We hope to post a full note on the decision later in the week. [With thanks to Simon Hunter and David Lamming for the alert.]

Joshua Sutcliffe: Panel decision by the Teaching Regulation Authority

Joshua Sutcliffe taught Maths at The Cherwell School between September 2015 and February 2018 and at St Aloysius College, Islington, between September 2018 and November 2018. It was alleged that he was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that might bring the teaching profession into disrepute, in particular:

  • by refusing to use a pupil’s preferred pronoun:
  • by expressing his views to pupils on the wrongfulness of equal marriage and/or homosexuality during Maths lessons;
  • by showing pupils a video) about masculinity which contained inappropriate comments; and
  • by encouraging or directing pupils to watch his YouTube channel/profile which contained derogatory comments about Islam and the Latter-Day Saints and the statement that Muhammad and Joseph Smith were false prophets.

He denied all the allegations and disputed that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that might bring the profession into disrepute.

In Mr Joshua Sutcliffe: Professional conduct panel outcome: Panel decision and reasons on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, the TRA panel found the allegations against him proved and recommended a prohibition order from teaching, with provision for a review after two years. On behalf of the Secretary of State, the Department for Education agreed with the panel’s recommendation. Mr Sutcliffe plans to appeal the decision.

Failure to provide legal recognition for same-sex partnerships – again

Article 277(1) of the Romanian Civil Code (Prohibition on equating other forms of cohabitation with marriage) states bluntly that “Same-sex marriage is prohibited”. In Buhuceanu and Others v Romania [2023] ECHR 424, the applicants were 21 same-sex couples who argued that the absence of any form of legal recognition for their relationships was a violation of Article 8 ECHR (respect for private and family life).

Unsurprisingly in view of the Grand Chamber judgment in Fedotova and Others v Russia [2023] ECHR 55, the Court held (though only by five votes to two) that there has been a violation of Article 8.

Quick links

And finally…

Over at Religion Clause, Howard Friedman reported (entirely accurately: we checked the transcript of the judgment on Justia) that a trial court judge in Ohio had told a defendant convicted of sexual battery that

“The statutes, the law, every social moray [,] every religious system at least in terms of the New Testament years have said there is a duty to protect children.”

Every social moray?????

12 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 28th May

  1. What – presumably – the Ohio trial court judge referred to was ‘every social more’ – not ‘moray’. It would have been the court reporter who misspelled the word ‘more’ by spelling it phonetically, rather than grammatically. It is incorrect to hold the judge accountable for someone else’s misspelling.

      • Not necessarily. How many MPs – for example – fully check the contents of Hansard on a daily basis? Legal transcripts may well be produced quite some time after the time at which the judgment was made. What you – Frank – have to realise is that in any human society human perfection is a myth and errors and misjudgments can always occur. It really is a cheap shot to hold this transcript up as representing a human fallibility and allocating the fault to one specific individual when it is clearly not their fault.

  2. Grants by parish, town and community councils to places of worship.
    “So we continue to “watch this space”. And remain unconvinced.” May I ask why?

    LGA 1894 s.8 Additional powers of parish council.
    (1) A parish council shall have the following additional powers, namely, power …
    (i) to execute any works (including works of maintenance or improvement) incidental to or consequential on the exercise of any of the foregoing powers, or in relation to any parish property, not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity

    LGA 1894 s. 75 Construction of Act.
    (1) The definition of “parish” in section one hundred of the Local Government Act, 1888, shall not apply to this Act, but, save as aforesaid, expressions used in this Act shall, unless the context otherwise requires, have the same meaning as in the said Act.

    Still in force today – LGA 1888 s.100 Interpretation of certain terms in the Act.
    In this Act, if not inconsistent with the context, the following terms have the meanings herein-after respectively assigned to them, that is to say:— …
    The expression “powers” includes rights, jurisdiction, capacities, privileges, and immunities:
    The expression “duties” includes responsibilities and obligations:
    The expression “liabilities” includes liability to any proceeding for enforcing any duty or for punishing the breach of any duty, and includes all debts and liabilities to which any authority are or would but for this Act be liable or subject to, whether accrued due at the date of the transfer or subsequently accruing, and includes any
    obligation to carry or apply any money to any sinking fund or to any particular purpose:

    IF the 1894 Local Government Act s.8 did not pass the powers, duties and liabilities for ‘works of maintenance’ of church property to parish councils THEN why does s.8 stop subsequent legislation (e.g. LGA 1972) giving parish councils a power to make discretionary payments to parish churches for such works?

    In March 2023 the DLUHC confirmed to me parish councils have such powers

      • Thank you, Frank. I tend to agree with you. May I invite you to respond to my IF … THEN question?

        • My answer is that I don’t know the answer! And that is precisely the problem: the lack of clarity in the current law. If I were a parish councillor, I’d be extremely hesitant about making a grant to a place of worship in case the council got hauled over the coals by the district auditor. I think it would probably be legal under the current law, but “probably” isn’t good enough.

          • I agree. We need certainty not probability. Being a member of a PCC that has lost £1,000+ a year for the past 3 yrs towards churchyard maintenance I just have to smile at NALC whose ‘view’, not certainty, caused the loss and tried to get the law changed to enable the funding. Legal advice has been received. If the Bill in the Lords is not amended by the Bishop of Bristol’s amendment at Report Stage, legal action could be taken on behalf of the PCC against NALC.

  3. ‘Every social moray’ – while we can be indulgent of (and sometimes amused by) simultaneous tv subtitles, surely documents of record need to be checked by the speaker or by one of their colleagues?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *