Law and religion round-up – 30th July

Which witch?

Civil Society reports that the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is looking into allegations raised about a recently registered religious charity that shared content about witches. Mountain Of Fire And Miracles Ministries (MFM) Belfast, which was registered in June 2023, has been criticised for sharing a Facebook post in April about “five kinds of witches or familiar spirits” from a sermon. The comments shared were by Daniel Olukoya, pastor and former chairman of MFM International, a Pentecostal charity registered in the UK.

In a blog post, the National Secular Society has said that promoting the idea of witches “could lead to the ‘spiritual abuse’ of children and vulnerable adults accused of being witches”. A spokesperson for CCNI said: “The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is aware of recent media articles regarding the charity Mountain Of Fire And Miracles Ministries Belfast and is looking into the allegations which have been raised.”

“Spiritual abuse”: Revd Michael Hall

On 21 July 2023, the Diocese of Oxford issued the Press Release Learning Lessons Review: Revd Michael Hall concerning the  safeguarding case review it commissioned in April 2022 into allegations of spiritual abuse connected with St Margaret’s, Tylers Green, High Wycombe between 1981 and 2000. This was the most recent of such “lessons learnt” reviews from the Diocese and provides a present-day perspective of the Church’s approach to spiritual abuse both during and after the events at St Margaret’s. A post summarizing these reviews will be published next week.

Grant aid to places of worship

Further to our 16 July update on Grant aid to places of worship, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is due to finish its Report stage in the Lords on 13 September but no date has yet been published for its Third Reading.

Religious freedom in the EU: a US perspective

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released an Issue Update: Religious Freedom Concerns in The European Union. It lists continuing concerns on restrictions on religious clothing, particularly on head-coverings, restrictions on ritual or religious slaughter, the labelling of some religious associations as “sects” or “cults”, blasphemy and hate-speech laws, and laws impacting on Jews or Muslims. It concludes:

“It is possible to guarantee freedom of religion or belief while balancing other concerns, such as national security. While European Union countries generally have in place constitutional and legal protections for freedom of religion or belief, some have also enacted laws and pursued policies that systematically violate religious freedom and have a serious and disproportionate impact on the ability of religious minorities to live in accordance with their beliefs. Importantly, the continuation of such policies at an official level likewise encourages discrimination at a societal level and contributes to an environment that has seen continued violent attacks on places of worship and members of religious minority communities, encouraging increased emigration from Europe.”

Quick links

And finally…I

Included in the round-up of July consistory court judgments posted on 29 July 2029 was the Arches Court decision Re St Leonard Hythe [2023] EACC 1 refusing leave to appeal against the decision in Re St Leonard Hythe [2023] ECC Can 2 – in which the Commissary General identified the key relevant points from Mr Cooper’s 40-page “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” document, adding [13], “[m]uch of that document was not (and did not purport to be) relevant to this specific application”. [With thanks to Matthew Chinery for bringing this to our attention.]

And finally…II

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