Law and religion roundup – 9th June

The Equality Act, Human Rights Act and Climate Change Act as new electoral shibboleths?

The current election campaign in the United Kingdom has been subject to misinformation, manipulation of images and deliberate untruths on key issues. This has been promoted by the widespread use of social media, although in the present climate it is a naïve politician who anticipates that false claims will go unscrutinised, as events of the past week have shown. On Tuesday 4 June, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Robert Chote, wrote to leaders of political parties to ask that their parties and candidates use statistics appropriately and transparently. 

Full Fact conducts useful fact checks about the UK General Election 2024.  On L&RUK, election-related posts are limited to the legislation associated with the election, such as General Election 2024: campaigning and political activity, rather than claims made by candidates.

New development in teaching of canon law

This week a new academic pathway to the teaching of canon law was announced at St Padarn’s Institute in Llandaff, Cardiff. St Padarn’s is not affiliated to Cardiff University but is the Theological Education Institution (TEI), and part of the Common Awards initiative in which TEIs of the Church of England and the Church in Wales offer higher education qualifications validated by Durham University. The new degree is an MA in Theology with a Canon Law specialism. There is also the option to study for a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma. It is hoped that a specifically titled MA (Canon Law) may be approved during the duration of the course, in which students will be given the option to transfer to the new degree.

Solar panels, planning permission and missional priorities

In Re St Anne Ings [2024] ECC Car 2, although the Petition satisfied criteria imposed by the Church of England, the installation of 28 black solar panels on the south-facing roof of St Anne, Ings, raised concerns from the amenity bodies and had been refused planning permission by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA)[*]

In assessing the harm associated with the installation of the solar panels, Fryer-Spedding Ch noted that the application of the Duffield guidelines may properly import a consideration of missional priorities such as the Fifth Mark of Mission, and took that to have been the approach taken by Leonard Ch in his decision regarding the installation of solar panels at King’s College Chapel, Re King’s College Chapel Cambridge [2023] ECC Ely 1 at paragraphs 59, 73 and 90.

““[93]. …the Church of England expresses its approach to net zero carbon planning principles in immediate and imperative calls to action, directed at “…all parts and levels of the Church of England”, an approach based in theology and an express recognition “…that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and unjust to the poor and future generations…Furthermore, the Church of England embraces “… the call to net zero carbon as an integral part of our mission; caring for creation, achieving climate justice, ending poverty, creating a viable future for ourselves and coming generations, and increasing engagement with our communities.”

He also noted that with regard to the reversibility of the installation:

“[96]. It seems to me … that where proposals are not only capable of being reversed but must be (by virtue of a condition) undone after a certain period of time, then that is a way in which harm may be restricted”.

Space to pray in secular schools?

Asked at the end of a lecture given at Allen Hall, the Roman Catholic seminary in southwest London, whether more secular schools should give children the space to pray, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, is reported as having answered: “That’s an easy one. Yes.” She believes there is a misunderstanding that the education system in non-faith schools is akin to the French secular one – which is not the case:

“I was an RE teacher and the Education Act tacitly says we need to deal with the children’s spiritual, social and moral development.

There has been a misunderstanding with some of the discussions I’ve seen around some of these areas recently that we have some kind of secular French education system, but I always say ‘thank goodness for the Anglicans’ because [without them] we would not have had a school system at the turn of the century. Our system has always had a pastoral system and been concerned with children’s spiritual and moral needs.”

This, of course, comes in the wake of the decision in R (on the Application of TTT) v Michaela School [2024] EWHC 843 (Admin), on which we published a critical guest post by Russell Sandberg, here. [With thanks to Religion Media Centre.]

Religion and foster care

In A Health and Social Care Trust v A Mother Re (A Child) [2024] NIFam 4, the court was confronted with a dispute between the applicant Trust and the mother, an agnostic, about the placing of her child in foster care with a family of devout Pentecostal Christians – the mother arguing inter alia that this was a breach of her Article 9 rights. The Trust sought a declaration that the child be permitted to attend church services and church-based social activities with a spiritual content while in her foster placement and to engage in spiritual activities in her foster home. McFarland J agreed, concluding that the court should exercise its inherent jurisdiction and grant the relief sought by the Trust.

We hope to post a full note on the case later in the week.

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