Law and religion roundup – 30th June

“…through our indiscriminate use of social media we are in danger of becoming stupid in our judgement of where to place our trust”

GS 2354 at [39]

We have no intention of changing the name of our blog in order to mislead potential readers – even to acquire further page-views. 

“See how these Christians love one another”

… as Tertullian didn’t quite say, even in Latin. In Uyi v Abraham (aka Imade, aka Pastor Osas Osakue of Light of Life Church) [2024] EWHC 1530 (KB), Mr Uyi was a pastor of the Gospel Church, Benin, Nigeria, while Mr Abraham was a pastor at the Light of Life Church in London. Mr Uyi claimed that four statements made about him by Mr Abraham in a video had been defamatory:

  • that he was “a false pastor of the seed of Belial”;
  • that he was “an anti-Christ now in a sheep’s clothing in the name of David to deceive God’s children”;
  • that “he also stole the church from someone who was raising a ministry”; and
  • that “blood is found on your hands”.

Hill J concluded that all four statements were defamatory:

“They alleged, respectively, that he was intentionally and/or recklessly misleading his congregation and the wider public; was acting in a dishonest fashion towards members of his own congregation; had supplanted the previous pastor by discreditable means; and had questions to answer about whether he failed in his moral responsibility for the safety of his congregation by allowing members of the congregation to come to harm (not necessarily fatally)” [60].

[With thanks to Simon Hunter.]

Canon law meets the High Court

Raffaele Mincione was convicted by a Vatican tribunal last year over the Holy See’s purchase of the former Harrods Depository at 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea for alleged money laundering and inflating the price of the transaction and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. He is seeking to appeal against that conviction.

However, in civil proceedings against the Vatican’s Secretariat of State that began in London on Wednesday, he is asking the High Court of England and Wales for a declaration that he and three companies over which he is said to exercise control had acted in “good faith” in relation to the Harrods Depository transaction.

According to various reports, his legal team is claiming that the offences for which he has been convicted seem to be based on a provision of canon law rather than civil law and is calling into question the independence and impartiality of the Vatican tribunal. Should be an interesting judgment when it appears: watch this space.

“The Eagle has landed”

Readers may recall the event on the morning of Monday 10 June when a solo man walked into the church of St Augustine, Edgbaston, removed the Victorian brass eagle lectern from the column, covered it in a blanket and walked out with it. The theft, aptly described as “brazen” by a churchwarden, was captured on the church’s CCTV. The eagle lectern had been a feature of St Augustine’s since its consecration in 1868 and was created by the eminent Victorian company of Hardman & Co, which also designed the stained glass windows of the Houses of Parliament. The theft was reported to West Midlands Police.

On 24 June 2024, the church announced, “We are delighted to report that our eagle has been recovered from a scrap metal dealer in the Black Country, thanks to a public-spirited informant. We would like to thank all those who have worked to secure the return of the eagle.” Unlike the theft of lead roofing where, once removed, the metal reverts from prime to scrap value, items such as brass lecterns are not destroyed on removal.

Women and the Roman Catholic diaconate in Belgium

The Catholic News Agency reports that a court in Belgium has fined the previous and current Archbishops of Mechelen, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel and Archbishop Luc Terlinden, for refusing to admit a woman into a diaconate formation program. Each has been ordered to pay 1,500 euros.

According to De Morgen, the woman, Veer Dusauchoit, had asked Cardinal Archbishop De Kesel to register for diaconal training in June 2023 and, after his retirement, asked Archbishop Terlinden again in October 2023: on both occasions, her request to join the four-year programme was refused. 

According to the reports, the court in Mechelen ruled that the archbishops were wrong to refuse Ms Dusauchoit’s entry to the programme, but it did not address the question of whether she could be ordained. The situation is possibly complicated by the fact that in Belgium the state pays the salaries of ministers of “recognised” religions, which include Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Islam. 

We suspect that a court in England and Wales would have thrown the case out – but in Belgium, who knows? The Archdiocese is apparently considering the ruling and presumably pondering an appeal

And finally…I

Not sure if this is “law and religion” except in the loosest sense, but the House of Commons and Westminster Abbey are currently advertising the post of Speaker’s Chaplain and Canon Rector of St Margaret’s, Westminster.

And finally…II

For any tort/obligations geeks out there: the memorial tablet to Donoghue v Stevenson on the site of the Wellmeadow Café:

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