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Law & Religion UK is intended as a forum for what (we hope) is academically-rigorous exploration of the interactions between law and religion – broadly defined – together with the human rights issues associated with them. We are always interested in guest posts from colleagues in the field of law and religion.

We also welcome pertinent comments on current developments that reflect the views and opinions of their respective authors and meet the General Conditions applying to the site. However, those that do not meet those criteria or which are otherwise unidentifiable are unlikely to be published, especially comments that are abusive or defamatory. For more information see our comments policy below.

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington

Lords Select Committee on Charities publishes its report

The Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, Stronger charities for a stronger society, was published on Sunday 26 March 2017: you can access all the Committee’s documents here. The committee received 184 written submissions and took oral evidence from 52 witnesses. It also visited the Charity Commission and held three roundtable events outside London. As promised by its Chair, Baroness Pitkeathley, it produced one hundred conclusions and recommendations – though in the case of some of them words like “apple pie” and “motherhood” came to mind and I suspect that the people who produced the draft may have struggled slightly to reach the magic number. The Committee made 42 concrete recommendations, some of which are more obviously relevant to religious charities than others.

The recommendations

The most important recommendations for religious charities are as follows: references in brackets are to paragraph numbers in the Report.

Trusteeship, trustee skills and training Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 26th March

A week in which events were totally overshadowed by the attack in Westminster

A thoughtful consideration of those events from an insider’s point of view was presented by the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, in his Yorkshire Post article From a Palace of democracy to an Abbey of prayer, the best and worst of humanity, written just two hours after the end of the lockdown of parliamentarians and others, who had been transferred to Westminster Abbey.

Progress on Brexit

Prior to the Commons consideration of the Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] and the subsequent adjournment and lockdown of the parliamentary estate, a first reading was given to Tim Farron’s Ten Minute Rule Bill, Terms of Withdrawal from the European Union (Referendum). A second reading was scheduled for Friday 12 May – although its chances of becoming law are zero. Continue reading

Archbishops write to Independent Reviewer re: Sheffield See

In our 11 March post we expressed our agreement with the comments in Dr Sentamu’s  announcement that “there must now be time for us all to reflect” on events in Sheffield and in the wider Church”; we also suggested that it would be appropriate to refer the matter for assessment by the Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer under the terms of paragraph 27 in the House of Bishops Declaration GS Misc 1087:

Today, the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York issued the following joint statement indicating that they had written to Sir Philip Mawer to address the concerns that have arisen in the Church following recent events.

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Funeral fees pursued in Crown Court

Former vicar sentenced for fraud in Liverpool Crown Court

On 23 March 2017, the Liverpool Echo reported An alcoholic vicar stole more than £100,000 in funeral fees from the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool and blew it on booze. Rather more sympathetically, the Archdeacon of Liverpool issued a Statement regarding [Michael] Fry which commenced:

“We are pleased that Michael has been a given a suspended sentence [and] believe that justice has been done. Continue reading

Registering religious groups: Genov v Bulgaria

The issue of state registration of religious organisations has come up yet again…

The background

In January 2007, in Sofia, seven people decided to set up a new religious association, “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – Sofia, Nadezhda” with Mr Genov as chairman. ISKCON, based in India, had already registered a Bulgarian branch as a religious organisation in 1991 and had re-registered it in March 2003. When Mr Genov applied to the court of first instance to register the new association, the Department for Religious Matters observed that the new association could not be distinguished from the one already registered. In March 2007, the court rejected Mr Genov’s application, finding that the name of the new association resembled that of the existing association, that the constitution was identical and that the stated aim of the new association – to change the organisation of the association that had already been registered – created a risk of schism.

Mr Genov’s subsequent appeal failed. Continue reading

Groundwater pollution from cemeteries

How will new guidance impact on development of cemeteries?

On 14 March, the Environment Agency (EA) issued a new tranche of guidance on groundwater protection. That relating to cemeteries is of particular importance in view of the current shortage of burial space and the need for future development, either by the extension of existing cemeteries or the creation of new ones, including grave plot reuse and ‘lift and deepen’ methods. This post outlines the underlying provisions, discusses their application, and examines some of the apparent inconsistencies.   Continue reading

Taking the Queen’s Shilling: the implications for religious freedom of religions being registered as charities

This guest post by Robert Meakin is an abridged version of a forthcoming article in the next edition of Law & Justice and is published here with the kind permission of the Editor, John Duddington. 

Introduction

There have been concerns recently about whether religions might have religious doctrines and practices challenged if they are registered as charities.[1] This article looks at possible grounds to challenge the Charity Commission, including the common law principles of non-justiciability, charity law (the definition of religion and public benefit) and human rights.

Grounds for challenging the Charity Commission’s approach to religious charities

  • The Principle of Non-Justiciability

Continue reading