Law and religion roundup – 19th May

John Smyth review

On 14 May, the Church of England announced a further delay in the John Smyth review. This was not unexpected, since in March 2024 it was reported that a survivor known as “Graham” had asked that data and his testimony be removed from the review, from which a further delay was anticipated. A timeline of reports &c relating to John Smyth, from 2017 to the present, is in our post, John Smyth: A timeline. This also includes the Terms of Reference of the Makin Review. Unconfirmed reports have indicated that the process of “Maxwellization” is anticipated to take three weeks.

Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2024: commencement

The Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2024 (Commencement, Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2024 was made on 13 May. It brings into force the remaining provisions of the 2024 Measure that did not come into force on Royal Assent, except for section 11(5) (Disciplinary proceedings etc), which relates to a provision of canon law providing for diocesan safeguarding officers that is not yet implemented.

Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill

The Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill, a private Member’s bill sponsored by Fiona Bruce MP, completed its stages in the House of Commons on Friday. The Bill would put the role of Special Envoy on a formal footing and require every Prime Minister to appoint an envoy. The Bishop of Winchester will sponsor the Bill in the Lords and it is expected to have its Second Reading on 5 June.

Tynwald and the Bishop’s vote

As regular readers will know, the Isle of Man Constitution Bill 2023 is a private Member’s bill that would remove the Bishop of Sodor and Man’s right to vote (though not to sit) in the Legislative Council and Tynwald Court. As we recently noted, the Bill has passed the Keys and is set down for first reading in the Legislative Council on 11 June. On 19 May, it was announced that the new Bishop of Sodor and Man is to be the Ven Tricia Hillas, currently Archdeacon of Westminster and Chaplain to Mr Speaker. Whether she will be able to vote in the Legislative Council when she takes her seat remains to be seen.

The Liberal Democrats, Parliamentary candidates and religious views

The Telegraph reports that the Liberal Democrats have been reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission after a prospective parliamentary candidate was deselected because of his views on same-sex marriage. A complaint has been brought by party members who allege that David Campanale, the prospective candidate for Sutton and Cheam, “was driven out from his democratically elected position … because a vocal group within Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats refused to tolerate his Christian worldview”. The decision is being appealed. Whether or not the equality laws apply to political parties remains to be seen.

God’s Acre?

And finally, a case we failed to spot. In Adam (Formally Known as Michael Merrill) v Cheshire East Council [2024] EWCA Civ 536, “Adam” was appealing against a High Court sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months “on terms that he complies with certain requirements as to the removing of an unauthorised development on ‘Six Acres’, an area of land he owns at Wirswall Road in Wirswall”.  His principal arguments were that that he was not a “person” and therefore was not bound by the Enforcement Notice or the consequent order; that if forced to comply with the Notice and/or order he would commit a sin and “lose his soul”, contrary to Article 9 ECHR; that he was not the owner of any land (despite the Land Registry having him as the owner of the land in question); and

“That the learned Judge failed to take into account the appellant’s ability to comply with the order, perhaps because the plan attached to the order does not feature a ‘red line’ around the appellant’s land, but also because in any event, the land concerned is ‘God’s land’ and not the appellant’s; and to comply with the order would mean he would be ‘dead with God'” [14].

The Court of Appeal was deeply unimpressed. King LJ concluded that his sentence had been “proportionate and just” and had been suspended “in the expectation that the appellant would carry out the two modest requirements to which he had agreed. He has failed to comply and it is clear he has no intention of doing so” [36]. Appeal dismissed [37]. What happens next is anyone’s guess. [With thanks to David Lamming.]

Quick links

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