Law and religion roundup – 25th February

Inter Faith Network

As readers will know, the Inter Faith Network was set to close on Thursday after the Government decided not to fund it. Communities Secretary Michael Gove had said that he was “minded to withdraw” funding after the appointment of Hassan Joudi, a former deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, as a trustee on the grounds that the Government refuses to engage with the Muslim Council as a matter of principle. The decision was confirmed by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on Thursday.

In answer to an Urgent Question in the Commons, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities remained unmoved, suggesting that it seek alternative sources of funding:

“The Secretary of State wrote to the co-chairs of the Inter Faith Network on 19 January this year to inform them that he was minded to withdraw the offer of funding for the 2023-24 financial year. This was because of the appointment of a member of the Muslim Council of Britain to the board of trustees of the IFN. As the House will be aware, successive Governments have had a long-standing policy of non-engagement with the MCB. The appointment of an MCB member to the core governance structure of a Government-funded organisation therefore poses a reputational risk to the Government.”

The BBC subsequently reported that the board members of the Network met on Thursday and confirmed that they were beginning the process of closing the charity, though staff would continue working until mid-April.


On Monday, there was an oral statement in the Commons on antisemitism in the UK. Unsurprisingly, antisemitism attracted universal condemnation. The Archbishop of York has issued a statement on the withdrawal of funding from the Inter Faith Network UK. 

General Synod: Safeguarding

On 24 February 2024, the Church of England issued a Press Release on the speech of the Lead Bishop and the agreed motion on safeguarding following the publication of the Wilkinson and Jay reports, (24 February 2024). The Church Times reported that amendments that would have committed the Church of England to a new, alternative safeguarding system were rejected in favour of a period of consultation. The Bishop of Newcastle was among those expressing disappointment that Synod did not vote for any decisive response to the Jay Report. She subsequently saidOn further reflection, it’s not disappointing, it’s disgraceful @synod we have nothing to fear in implementing the Jay recommendations. This is an opportunity for the CofE to show leadership and full acceptance of its failings“.

General Synod: other decisions

The Church of England has issued the following Press Releases on other Synod business on Saturday 24 February 2024. We will review these in greater detail in future posts: 

In addition, the Diocesan Synod Motion for the Diocese of London calling for an element of funeral fees to be allocated to the PCC was passed.

Churches and the forthcoming General Election

CTBI has relaunched its Churches’ General Election website in partnership with national ecumenical organisations including Churches Together in England. The first resource to be published is Hosting a Hustings: ideas and advice for churches on holding a question time meeting or hustings for the general election, produced by the Joint Public Issues Team. This guidance has been used by local ecumenical groups in previous General Elections and has now been updated to take account of changes to constituencies and to relevant legislation.

Regardless of when the UK General Election is held, non-party campaigners are now in the “regulated period” during which there are rules about how much they may spend on “regulated campaign activity”, as discussed in our post prior to the 2019 General Election.

Mandatory reporting

On Wednesday, the Home Office announced that there will be a legal requirement for anyone in regulated activity relating to children in England, including teachers or healthcare professionals, to report it if they know a child is being sexually abused. “By making mandatory reporting a legal requirement, the Government is delivering on a key recommendation in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report to protect children from harm and make sure authorities never again turn a blind eye to this kind of devastating crime”. Those who fail to comply face being barred from working with young people, while anyone who actively protects an abuser – by intentionally blocking others from reporting or covering up the crime – could be imprisoned for 7 years. The list of regulated activities is here.

The new measures will be introduced as amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, currently at Report stage in the House of Commons.

Privy Council

An end-of-year post reported the events relating to a personal request to King Charles on Christmas morning for the exceptional opening of a closed churchyard: St Mary and St Eanswythe Folkestone. This request was granted at the first Privy Council attended by His Majesty in 2024 on 21 February, and “In the exercise of His powers under section 1 of the Burial Act 1855, by and with the advice of His Privy Council…an exception be added that the burial may be allowed of the late Master William Brown within the Churchyard”. The funeral had taken place on 13 January

In addition to the churchyard of St Mary and St Eanswythe, Folkestone, other ecclesiastical business of the February Privy Council meeting included Notice under the Burial Act 1853 of the discontinuance of burials in St Stythians, Truro, Cornwall, St Michael and All Angels Churchyard, Stoke St Michaels, Somerset and St John the Divine Church Churchyard, Menston, Ilkley, West Yorkshire. A Final Order was issued which prohibited further burials in St Anne’s Churchyard, Ambleside, Cumbria.

Baby loss certificates 

From 22 February 2024, those who experience a loss within the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy can receive the document as part of the Government’s new baby loss certificate scheme. The certificate is not a legal document, cannot be used to claim benefits, and will not be added to their GP record. The certificates will be available for either parent living in England at the time to access after any miscarriage or other type of pre-24-week baby loss that has occurred since September 2018, with the Government planning to expand eligibility in the near future. If the pregnancy ends from 24 weeks onwards, it is necessary to register a stillbirth instead.

Quick Links

And finally…I

The Guardian reports that Anna-Maria Cisint, the far-right mayor of Monfalcone in north-east Italy, which has a large Bangladeshi population, has banned prayers at the town’s two Islamic centres on the grounds that they are not registered as mosques.  The report says she has attempted to limit the number of foreign children in schools and has banned women from wearing burkinis on the beach. And to add insult to injury, cricket, popular among Bangladeshis, was dropped from the local sports festival. It appears that The Guardian did not approach the MCC for comment.

And finally…II

As Tom Brittney leaves his role as the Revd Will Davenport in the eponymous television series, the parish of Grantchester and Newnham happens to be advertising its own vacancy. On reading the parish advert, Dr Francis Young commented: “It’s typical of the unspoken duties constantly being loaded on the clergy that this advert says nothing about the expectation to solve crimes”. [With thanks to Religion Media Centre.]

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