Law & Religion UK is intended as a forum for what we hope is academically-rigorous exploration of the interactions between law and religion, together with the associated human rights issues. We welcome pertinent guest posts and comments on current developments that reflect the views and opinions of their respective authors and meet the General Conditions applying to the site. Those that do not meet these criteria or which are otherwise unidentifiable are unlikely to be published, especially comments that are abusive or defamatory.

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington


© Copyright in individual posts is reserved to their authors.

Vesture: the House of Bishops Consultation

“…the truth is this: the canon is already very, very permissive. So when you are amending it from mandatory to occasional, look carefully at what it is you are amending”

… so said the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, when the Revd Christopher Hobbs’ Private Members Motion was raised at General Synod in July 2014. However, Mr Hobbs’ proposal was first put down for signature in November 2012 and, although scheduled for consideration in February 2014, was only discussed by Synod in the following June. Whilst the media were quick to repeat misguided perceptions of “dress-down Sundays” and “defrocking priests” associated with the proposal, here, here, and elsewhere, important corollaries relating to aspects of safeguarding and those purporting to be priests have tended to be adumbrated. We summarized these issues in our February 2015 post Clerical attire, officiants and safeguarding.

The Church of England is at present considering two aspects of vesture from different points of view: Continue reading

Contempt and ecclesiastical courts

Unlike the tribunals of other denominations, the Church of England’s courts are part of the English legal system. The final court of appeal in faculty cases that do not involve a question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council – a secular court. The ecclesiastical courts are subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court upon an application for judicial review.

Continue reading

Statement from Bishop Paul Butler on George Bell

In yesterday’s round-up we gave a brief summary the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, explanation of the main aspects of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure to the House of Lords on 29 January and his comments on the Church’s handling of the recent case of Bishop George Bell [below] [HL Hansard 28 January Vol 768(101) Col 1516]. In addition we provided links to recent items in the media and comments by the Bishop of Chichester.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, lead bishop on safeguarding has issued a statement today following various media comments on his recent contribution in the House of Lords regarding Bishop George Bell. Continue reading

Vexatious litigants and the consistory courts

The practicalities and limitations of legislation dealing with vexatious litigants

In our post Challenges to school admissions criteria and “vexatious litigation” we commented on the inaccurate use of the word “vexatious” by the Secretary of State for Education in relation to a proposed amendment of the rules relating to the Schools Admission Code in England. We explained that S42 Senior Courts Act 1981 provided for a restriction of vexatious proceedings, whereby: Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 7th February

“Brexit”, an unexpected snag in the Ashers Bakery case, further documentation on the George Bell saga – and an impending drought at the House of Commons?

In or out?

Much the biggest news of the past week was the draft proposal circulated by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, in response to the UK’s request for renegotiation of the terms of its EU membership. It will be considered in detail by the 27 other members states ahead of the European Council meeting on 18-19 February.

“Gay cake” row remains unresolved

On Wednesday the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland announced that the appeal against DJ Brownlie’s judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor [2015] NICty 2 has been adjourned for three months, following a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, on the issue of compatibility between Northern Ireland’s equality legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights. At a short hearing in the Court of Appeal Morgan LCJ, in a polite judicial understatement, described the lateness of the intervention as “most unfortunate”.

For a thoughtful reflection on the issue see Nick Spencer of Theos: Storm in a Gay Cake Tin. We aren’t sure we agree with him but, as Frank observed elsewhere, the balance between free speech and hate/offensive speech is an incredibly difficult one to strike – and it’s not clear we’ve managed to strike it yet. Continue reading

Approval for new “gene editing” techniques

Further progress in “gene editing” emphasizes the pressing need for a wider debate

On 1 February 2016, the Francis Crick Institute announced that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had approved a research application to use new “gene editing” techniques known as “Crispr/Cas9” to modify human embryos.

The Press Release states: Continue reading