2012 and 2013: retrospect and prospect

Somewhat to our surprise we have reached Post 200 – and here it is. So we thought that we would use it, Janus-like, both to look back at 2012 and to peer into 2013

 2012 in retrospect

2012 proved to be a very busy year for students of law and religion in the UK – busier, indeed, than we might have expected.

Same-sex marriage

The dominant issue was same-sex marriage, both in England and Wales and in Scotland – a proposal which provoked a reactions ranging from a warm welcome from the Unitarians and the Quakers to bitter opposition by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, who lambasted the proposal both in his Christmas sermon and in an interview with the BBC, in which he complained that

“There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen’s Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view it’s a shambles. George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre. I think the process is shambolic.”

Ministers also managed to upset the Church in Wales by including it in the “quadruple lock” proposals without, it appeared, having consulted it first.

Women as bishops in the C of E

The other dominant issue, at least for Anglicans, was the row over the General Synod vote on the legislation providing for consecration of women as bishops. It soon became more than merely a domestic issue for the Church of England, with a debate in the House of Commons and further consideration of the matter by the House of Bishops, which started from the premise that “the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions”.

Moreover, it became clear that at least some MPs and peers were beginning to have wider misgivings about Establishment in light of the Synod decision. The problem is that the average MP who is not closely interested in church affairs finds it difficult to understand arguments that would appear to proceed from the assumption on the part of some theologians that men and women are qualitatively different. “Different” in this context can very easily appear to mean “unequal” – and for the average politician, of whatever political persuasion, in the early years of the 21st century inequality is simply no longer to be contemplated.

Assisted dying

The year began with the publication in January of the findings of the (entirely unofficial) Commission on Assisted Dying, which was chaired by the former Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer QC. In July the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, in partnership with Dignity in Dying, launched a consultation on a draft Bill  

 ”to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specific assistance to end their own life, and for connected purposes”.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Margo Macdonald MSP continued to promote her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill lodged 23 January 2012: the successor to her End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill) that was defeated at Stage 1 on 1 December 2010. The new Bill was the subject of a consultation which closed 30 April 2012.

The reactions both of the Churches and of the British Medical Association were negative; however, the BBC website reported that two junior ministers, Anna Soubry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, and Norman Lamb, Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk, had come out in favour of change.

Catholic Care and adoption

The seemingly-interminable saga of Leeds-based adoption agency Catholic Care and its wish to restrict its services to heterosexual adoptive parents ground remorselessly on. The dispute has a very long history and what may possibly be the final appeal was heard in the autumn.

In Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission for England and Wales [2012] CA/2010/0007 UKUT (Tax & Chancery) (2 November 2012) Sales J held that the First-Tier Tribunal (Charity) had been correct to conclude that the less favourable treatment contemplated by Catholic Care would not be justified – see Catholic Care v Charity Commission for England and Wales [2011] UKFTT B1 (GRC) (26 April 2011) – and that Catholic Care had failed to meet the statutory test imposed by s 193 Equality Act 2010. The BBC subsequently reported that Catholic Care had issued a statement in which it said that if it could not change in its objects it would be forced to close its adoption service for lack of funds and that it would consider the decision in detail and decide what to do next – so presumably a further appeal is not out of the question.

Prayers at council meetings

In February the National Secular Society and Mr Clive Bone, a former Bideford town councillor, successfully challenged the practice of Bideford Town Council in saying public prayers at full meetings of the Council. In National Secular Society & Anor, R (on the application of) v Bideford Town Council [2012] EWHC 175 (Admin) (10 February 2012) Ouseley J held that such prayers had not been not lawful under s 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 and that the Council had no power to hold prayers as part of a formal meeting or to summon councillors to a meeting at which such prayers were on the agenda – though he also held that Mr Bone had not suffered any discrimination. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government then fast-tracked s 1 of the Localism Act 2011 to give local (and parish councils from April 2012) “power to do anything that individuals generally may do” in an attempt to restore their ability to hold “Council Prayers”. Nevertheless, there was some doubt as to the effectiveness of the measure; and a number of councils decided to remove prayers from their formal agendas.

A UK Bill of Rights?

In the wider world of human rights, the report of The Commission on a Bill of Rights was predictably bland. The majority of the Commissioners concluded that there was a strong argument in favour of a UK Bill of Rights – but one hedged about by several qualifications, not least that it should have at its core the rights currently in the ECHR and those Protocols to which the United Kingdom has acceded. Two Commissioners, Helena Kennedy and Philippe Sands, rejected the idea of a new UK Bill of Rights altogether and believed that the majority had failed to identify any shortcomings in the Human Rights Act 1998 or, for that matter, in its application by the courts.

Joshua Rozenberg suggests in The Guardian that nothing is likely to happen before the next election in any event. David Feldman, Rouse Ball Professor at Cambridge (and a former colleague of Frank Cranmer at the House of Commons), concludes that

“Having skimmed superficially over the report of the Commission, I am encouraged to find that it says nothing, and does so at great length. This is the best for which we could have hoped”.


Gay couples and bed & breakfast

In February the Court of Appeal decided in Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy [2012] EWCA Civ 83 (10 February 2012) that the refusal to honour a booking by a same-sex couple for a double-bedded hotel room constituted direct discrimination contrary to Regulations 3(1) and 394) of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. The matter came up again in October in the Reading County Court, where Ms Recorder Moulder held that the owner of the Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Cookham, Mrs Suzanne Wilkinson, had discriminated against a gay couple from Cambridgeshire, Michael Black and John Morgan, after she had refused on grounds of her religious beliefs to let them stay at her bed & breakfast accommodation in a room with a double bed: see Black & Morgan v Wilkinson [2012] EW (Misc) CC (18 October).

However, in August Peter and Hazelmary Bull were given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. It does not yet appear on the SC website so the likelihood is that we will not see a judgment until the middle of 2013 at the earliest.


2013 in prospect

There are already a number of important dates and events scheduled for the forthcoming year, and we have summarized some of the more relevant ones below.

Calendar for 2013

10 January: the College of Canons to meet in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral to elect Justin Welby as the new Archbishop, having received a Congé d’Elire from the Crown.

16 January: Ecclesiastical Law Society London Lecture, “Protest, Possession and Human Rights – the St Paul’s Experience”, Owen Carew-Jones and Emma Chadwick

18 January: Meeting of the Church of England House of Laity to consider the motion “‘That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House”: agenda here and papers here and here.

4 February: Ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral where the Dean of Canterbury will confirm to an episcopal commission that Justin Welby has been elected and will then become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

4–7 February: In place of the scheduled meeting of Synod the House of Bishops will meet to consider progressing ordination of women to the episcopate.

13–14 February: Supreme Court hearing in President of the Methodist Conference  v Preston – on appeal from [2011] EWCA Civ 1581 (20 December 2011).

13 March:  Ecclesiastical Law Society London Lecture, “The Faculty Jurisdiction and Questions of Theology”, Rupert Bursell QC, Chancellor Oxford diocese

21 March: Enthronement of Justin Welby at Canterbury Cathedral as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

19–21 April: Ecclesiastical Law Society Biennial Residential Conference in BirminghamShaping the future of Parochial Ministry.

9 May: Richard O’Sullivan Memorial Lecture, “Does Establishment Have A Future?”, Rt hon. Lord Mackay of Clashfern KT, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary 1985–1987, Lord Chancellor 1987–1997: The Parliament Room, Middle Temple 7.15 pm.

14 MayLaw and Religion Scholars Network, (LARSN) Conference, Cardiff

12th June:Ecclesiastical Law Society London Lecture, “Churchwardens: a case of mistaken identity?”, Dr Peter Smith.

5–9 July: Meeting of Church of England General Synod in York

20 July: LLM (Canon Law) graduation, Cardiff University

16 October: Ecclesiastical Law Society London Lecture, “Anglican Covenant or What?”, The Revd Canon John Rees, Provincial Registrar, Canterbury

18–20 November: Meeting of Church of England General Synod, London


Parliamentary timetables

House of Commons

House of Lords

Scottish Parliament

National Assembly for Wales

Northern Ireland Assembly.

European Parliament 


Bills before Westminster Parliament, 2012–13

  • Commercial Lobbyists (Registration and Code of Conduct) Bill: second reading 1 February 2013: private Member’s bill “to establish a public register of organisations and individuals that carry out lobbying of Parliament, the Government and local authorities for financial gain; to introduce a code of conduct for those on the register; to introduce sanctions for non-registration and non-compliance with the code of conduct; and for connected purposes”.
  • Energy Bill: (second reading 19 December 2012) committee stage (HC) to be announced: “to make provision for or in connection with reforming the electricity market for purposes of encouraging low carbon electricity generation or ensuring security of supply” – this is a current lobbying concern of the Church of England in relation to fuel poverty.
  • Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill: second reading 18 January 2013: private Member’s bill (Frank Field) “to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove discrimination against women in relation to consecration of bishops in the Church of England; and for connected purposes”.
  • Lords Spiritual Bill: second reading 18 January 2013: private Members’ bill (Frank Field) “to make provision for filling vacancies among Lords Spiritual sitting and voting as Lords of Parliament”.
  • Scrap Metal Dealers Bill: committee stage, HoL, 18th January 2013: Government-supported private Member’s bill (Richard Ottaway) “to amend the law relating to scrap metal dealers; and for connected purposes”.
  • Succession to the Crown Bill: second reading to be announced: “to make succession to the Crown not depend on gender; to make provision about Royal Marriages; and for connected purposes”.


Scottish Government

Consultation on Same-sex Marriage, closes 20 March 2013.

Welsh Assembly Government

Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill, Stage 1 – Committee consideration of general principles, 5 December 2012 to 20 March 2013.

Church of England

In addition to consideration of new legislation on women in the episcopate, action on the following is also in progress:

  • Business Committee position paper on how the House of Laity of General Synod and the houses of laity of diocesan synods are elected, motion agreed at General Synod 8 – 12 July 2011, here
  • Draft legislation from Archbishops’ Council “to embody this conviction {the manifestation of faith in public life] in the Canons of the Church of England”, Agreed Motion of General Synod, 8 July 2012.
  • Draft document on doctrine of marriage, prepared for the House of Bishops by the Faith and Order Commission in relation to the doctrine of marriage, here.
  • Final report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality, here

European Court of Human Rights

Chamber judgments will be delivered on the cases of Nadia EweidaShirley ChaplinLillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, heard on Tuesday 4 September 2012 and discussed here, here and here.

There will be a Chamber hearing and, presumably, a judgment at some point in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v United Kingdom 7552/09 [2011] ECHR 733 (12 April 2011), relating to the refusal of the local Valuation Officer to exempt the LDS Temple in Preston and some of its associated buildings from business rates under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 on the grounds that the buildings in question are not open to the public.

The Grand Chamber will hear an appeal in Fernández Martínez v Spain [2012] ECHR 6030/07 (15 May 2012) on whether the decision not to renew the contract of a laicised and married former Roman Catholic priest as a teacher of religion in a state school had violated his rights under Article 8 ECHR (private and family life).

The Grand Chamber will hear an appeal in the Romanian clerical trade union case, Sindicatul Păstorul Cel Bun v Romania 2330/09 [2012] ECHR (31 January 2012).


And a happy New Year to all our readers

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington