Law and religion roundup – 28th January

A week in which we didn’t take “a pinch of salt”  with the news as it didn’t “suit us to a tea”…

… as we (and the Cabinet Office) thought the US Embassy was playing games with us.

South Africa v Israel

Probably the biggest legal news of the week (and one that touches at least tangentially on “law and religion”) was that the International Court of Justice has issued a series of provisional measures to protect the rights of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after finding that it was “plausible” that their rights under the Prevention of Genocide Convention were being violated.

In Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of The Crime of Genocide in The Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel), the Court emphasised at [30] that it was not at this stage required to ascertain whether any violations of Israel’s obligations under the Genocide Convention had occurred: “Such a finding could be made by the Court only at the stage of the examination of the merits of the present case”.

At the stage of making an Order on a request for the indication of provisional measures,

“the Court’s task is to establish whether the acts and omissions complained of by the applicant appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Genocide Convention … In the Court’s view, at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention” [30].

The Order is not, therefore, a final verdict in the matter, but a series of measures “to protect the rights claimed by South Africa that the Court has found to be plausible” [75].

Higgs v Farmor’s School

The Court of Appeal has given permission to appeal the judgment in Higgs v Farmor’s School [2023] EAT 89, which we noted here. Mrs Higgs worked as a pastoral administrator and work experience manager at the school and she was dismissed after complaints about her Facebook posts about relationship education in primary schools: she had re-posted someone else’s post and headed it, “PLEASE READ THIS! THEY ARE BRAINWASHING OUR CHILDREN!” She was unsuccessful before an Employment Tribunal but succeeded, at least in principle, before the EAT; however, the EAT concluded at [91] that “this is not a case where it can properly be said that only one outcome is possible, and the appropriate disposal must be for this matter to be remitted for determination”. Presumably, Mrs Higgs is appealing against that disposal – but we’ll see. [With thanks to Chris Milsom and Jason Braier.]

Prevention of terrorism

On 19 November we reported that the King’s Speech included an announcement that the Government would introduce a Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill to implement the commitment made in the consultations on the draft Bill of the previous session “to protect public premises from terrorism in light of the Manchester Arena attack” and that there would be a further consultation on the duties to be placed on standard tier premises (ie those with a capacity of between 100 and 799) prior to the Bill’s introduction.

Whilst there has been no further progress to date on the draft Bill, the North Yorkshire Police announced that a multi-agency exercise, “Operation Obtundity”, took place at York Minster on the evening of Monday 22 January to test the joint response of the emergency services to a series of terrorist incidents. The emergency services (North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, Yorkshire Ambulance Service), along with Counter Terrorism Police and York Minster Police, responded to a series of scenarios to practise their joint response to hostile attacks in and around York Minster.

Net Zero

Since the new provisions on heating in the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022 came into force on 1 July 2022, there have been fourteen considerations in the consistory courts, the two most recent being circulated last week: Re Holy Trinity Cookham [2024] ECC Oxf 1 and Re St Peter Mancroft Norwich [2024] ECC Nor 1. In the former judgement, Hodge Ch included the seven-page response from one of the churchwardens (and petitioners), which was cited in full because of the reliance the petitioners place upon this paper [14]. Without access to the original documentation, we are not in a position to assess the opposing views of the petitioners and the DAC heating expert. However, one of the three Case Studies cited is St Egelwin the Martyr Church in the Diocese of Leicester, for which the Church of England’s fact sheet includes a cautionary tale on the installation of its current air source heat pump:

“When the oil-boiler failed in 2011, the church replaced it with electric underfloor heating in the nave and electric radiators in the chancel. The architect misjudged requirements and specifications, and the poor installation meant that it was entirely insufficient. This left the church, once again, in need of a new heating system.

St Egelwin’s continued to explore electric heating options. As a short-term measure, electric pew heaters were installed. On the recommendation of the Archdeacon, air source heat pumps were considered, and eventually chosen as an electric-powered, low-maintenance solution”.

However, it cautions: “This case study considers only one possible approach, which will not be suitable for every church. Always seek professional advice.” Further details on the heating are given in the recent judgment Re St Egelwin the Martyr Scalford [2024] ECC Lei 1 in which the Statement of Needs explains that “the current energy system takes 24 hours to heat the entire interior of the church due to it being a low energy electric system”. Verb sap..

And finally…

The Telegraph reports that a Spanish member of the Knights of Malta has been jailed for removing some of the entries about his ancestors from the 18th- and 19th-century parochial records in the diocesan archive of Teruel in an attempt to upgrade his membership of the Order to Knight of Honour and Devotion. Weird or what?

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