Law and religion roundup – 31st March

Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Rules 2024

The Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Rules 2024, which were laid before Parliament on 21 March and are subject to negative resolution, amend the Clergy Discipline Rules 2005; they came into force on 22 March.

Rule 2 amends rule 74 of the 2005 Rules to provide for the Archbishops’ List under section 83 of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 to be made available to suffragan bishops as well as to diocesan bishops.

Rule 3 amends rule 106 to expand the definitions of “provincial registrar” and “registrar” to include a deputy registrar or other person appointed under section 29 or 31 of the 2018 Measure. It also corrects the definition of “bishop” to remove the unnecessary reference to area bishops.

May an avowed atheist be exhumed from consecrated ground?

The brief facts of In the matter of Bognor Regis Town Cemetery and in the matter of the proposed exhumation of the late Christopher Anthony Reid [2024] ECC Chi 3 are as follows. Mr Reid died in March 2023. He had been an avowed atheist all his life and was resolutely opposed to the practice of burial, but because he had lost touch with his family, those responsible for his funeral arranged for him to be buried in Bognor Regis Town Cemetery in the area consecrated for the rites of the Church of England. When his family learned what had happened, they petitioned for a faculty for his exhumation. 

Hill Ch noted that it was implicit from Aston Cantlow v Wallbank [2004] 1 AC 546 that burying the dead is an act of a public authority for the purposes of s. 6(3)(b) Human Rights Act 1998, and it was therefore unlawful to do so in a way incompatible with Convention rights – and the Consistory Court was itself a public authority [9]. Article 9 ECHR protected

“amongst other things, atheism, agnosticism and humanism. Accordingly, those individuals or institutions within the Church of England who are responsible for the solemnisation of marriage or the burial of the dead must act in a manner which is compatible with the principle of freedom of religion or belief, and must not discriminate on the basis of their religion in people’s enjoyment of their rights…” [11].

In this case, there had been an understandable mistake. The local authority, the funeral directors and the officiant at the burial could not reasonably have known about Mr Reid’s atheism and had acted entirely properly [18 & 19].


“It is axiomatic that the requirement for reburial in consecrated ground is not applicable when the reason for the exhumation is that the Christian burial had been a mistake, incompatible with the important right to freedom of religion or belief. The family of Mr Reid are at liberty to have his body cremated and to deal with his ashes as they see fit” [20].

The faculty was granted. [With thanks to Chancellor Hill KC].

A longer post on the Chancellor’s analysis of the case law on “the role and function of the Church of England in the nation’s life” will be posted shortly. 

Replacement of heating (continued)

One of the latest consistory court judgments to be reviewed is Re St Mary the Virgin Stebbing [2024] ECC Chd 1 The proposal was to install a buried LPG tank in the churchyard, with pipes leading to the church building. This was intended to power an LPG boiler, which would in turn power the new underfloor heating system that formed part of the works authorised by a faculty granted in 2023. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had considered with some care the Church of England’s guidance towards achieving net zero and she accordingly granted a faculty.

Since the new provisions of the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022  came into force on 1 July 2022, it has been relevant to eighteen judgments in which the respective Chancellors have considered the extent to which the PCC has investigated the various options, and only one was refused on account owing to lack of detailed information provided by the petitioners. The approved replacement heating sources have covered a range of options: air source heat pumps; gas boilers; oil boilers; radiant heaters; and solar panels, each addressing location specific requirement and including both medium- and longer-term solutions.

A  detailed analysis of the 2022 ChurchCare Case Study of St Egelwin the Martyr Scalford and the consistory court judgment on the proposed further development of the heating scheme is in preparation. 

Quick links

And finally…

According to a report in the Daily Express (hardly our everyday reading), Sir Greg Knight MP is yet again asking the Government to fix the date of Easter as “the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April”: in short, to bring the provisions of the Easter Act 1928 into operation:

“Businesses, retailers and manufacturers would all benefit from knowing the date of Easter well in advance, and it would also make life easier for parents, teachers and the tourism industry … This would regularise the length of school terms and provide a better chance of enjoying fine spring weather on Easter holidays, which would always fall in April. Parliament made a sensible decision on this matter some 96 years ago. It is about time we implemented it.”

Don’t bother to watch this space – but here’s one we made earlier


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