‘Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission’


The current debate within the Church of England on human sexuality commenced with the House of Bishops announcement on 1 July 2011 that it intended to “draw together material from the listening process undertaken within the Church of England over recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality. It also committed itself to offering proposals on how the continuing discussions within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process”. Two new pieces of work were commissioned:

  • a review of the HoB’s Pastoral Statement on civil partnerships “in the light of subsequent developments”: this was to include examination of whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops, an issue on which this 2005 statement was silent.  The review was to be completed in 2012, and the group undertaking this work was chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt Rev Robert Paterson.  Its membership was announced on 1 December 2011 and the report Men and Women in Marriage published on 10 April 2013.
  • a wider look at the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships in the light of the listening process launched by the Lambeth Conference in 1998, with a view to producing a consultation document in 2013. This group, whose membership was announced on 5 January 2012, was chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling and published its findings, the Pilling Report in November 2013.

Recent Developments

Following a meeting of the College of Bishops on 27 January 2014, the Church issued a statement which accepted the recommendations of the Pilling Report and requested the Archbishops to commission a small group to design a process for “facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level”, supplemented by additional material.

The outlines of the process were agreed by the House of Bishops in May, when it was decided that for consistency and clarity in reporting the process should be managed centrally, a decision endorsed by its Standing Committee on 18 June.  On 26 June, these plans were published in Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission, GS Misc 1083, which outlines the next steps in its process for shared conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.  The document has been sent to members of the Church’s General Synod for consideration at its meeting in York, 11 -15 July.

‘Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission’

The two objectives of this short paper by the Rt Rev Steven Croft,  Bishop of Sheffield, both focus on the church’s mission:

  • to reflect, in the light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place, and clarifying how the Church can most effectively be a missionary church within this changing culture around sexuality;
  • to clarify the implications of what it means for the Church of England to live with what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called “good disagreement” on these issues.

The process across the Church of England will be supervised by Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, and a team of ~20 trained facilitators who will “bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory”. Milestones within the timeline include:

  • September, 2014: Two-day meeting of the College of Bishops, working in small groups with facilitators. This will mean that the bishops are exposed to the process first, helping them to offer leadership and reassurance in their dioceses, and also enable the process and resource materials to be refined in the light of experience. Additional resources will include “substantial theological material commissioned from scholars with differing viewpoints”, and once these have been “road-tested” by the College of Bishops, they will be published for use by the other conversation groups.
  • Extension of process across the dioceses, which will work in clusters “to enable 12 regional conversations, each involving around 60 participants, to experience the process”. Participants will be chosen by diocesan bishops, subject to certain criteria.  Apart from the bishops there will be:
    • equal numbers of clergy and laity; equal numbers of women and men; twenty five per cent under 40 years old;
    • representatives of LGBTI views should comprise more than one person in each diocesan group;
    • the range and balance of views in the group should, as far as possible, reflect the range and balance within the diocese itself;
    • participation from within the Anglican Communion will be achieved through diocesan companion links.
  • July 2016: envisaged conclusion. The General Synod, recently elected for 2016 to 2021 to spend two days in shared conversations. Reports from all conversations will be drawn together so that the direction and impact of the whole process can be evaluated.


Neither of the objectives within this latest document alludes to any change in the basic teaching of the Church on marriage.  This is emphasized in paragraph 4 which states:

“[t]here is no expectation of achieving any consensus – in either direction – in the foreseeable future. But there is a task to be done of encouraging those within the church who are at odds on this issue to express their concerns in a safe environment, listen carefully to those with whom they disagree profoundly, find something of Christ in each other and consider together what the practical consequence of disagreement might be.”

Nevertheless, it is possible that these considerations may result in changes in the approach of the Church to some of the associated issues: the blessing of same-sex couples; its tolerance to clergy in same-sex marriages; or even the celebration of same-sex marriages.  However, any such changes are unlikely to be implemented until late 2016, and this leads to the question of how the Church will then address the decisions it took in the intervening period, such as the removal of Permission to Officiate.

With regard to the participants chosen for the “regional conversations”, diocesan bishops must inevitably adopt a pragmatic approach to some of the more prescriptive criteria, which if applied strictly would lead to the “over-representation” of some groups would not necessarily “reflect the range and balance within the diocese”[1].  Further representational issues arise in relation to ethnicity, and to “LGBTI” views.  With regard to the criterion that “representatives of LGBTI views should comprise more than one person in each diocesan group”, spokespersons will need to be chosen who can represent the views of all those with this group.


[1] See: Statistics for Mission 2012: Ministry.

Religion and law round up – 29th June

In addition to the Supreme Court judgment on the “right to die”, the week provided a number of other news items across the law and religion spectrum

The Supreme Court and the “right to die”

On Wednesday the Supreme Court handed down judgment in R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice [2014] UKSC 38. By a majority of seven to two it dismissed the appeal brought by Mr Nicklinson and Mr Lamb. It unanimously allows the appeal brought by the DPP and dismissed the cross-appeal brought by “Martin”. Each of the nine Justices gave an individual judgment – which we are still studying.

Same-sex marriage and civil partnership

In a positive frenzy of Government activity:

  • HM Passport Office published the Approved premises list, which summarizes the premises that have been approved for civil marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales.  However, more up-to-date information may be available from local authorities;
  • the Government Equalities Office and DCMS published the report on the conclusions following the review of civil partnership in England and Wales as required under section 15 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013; and
  • the Ministry of Justice announced a consultation on Marriages by non-religious belief organisations on whether the law should be changed to permit such marriages as required by section 14 of  the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

During the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through parliament, the government expressed its opposition to the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, and also to the broadening of the law to include marriage by non-religious belief organizations: sections 14 and 15 were introduced into the Act as a quid pro quo to counter amendments that had been laid by supporters of these measures.  We will therefore follow its response to submissions on these consultations with interest.

Same-sex marriage and CofE Clergy

On Tuesday the Church of England issued a statement denying stories carried in the weekend papers claiming that there was a “blacklist” of clergy who had married their same sex partners.  However, the Church did acknowledge the existence of an informal, non-executive group under the bishop of Norwich, which was available to diocesan bishops who required information or advice.

The action that may be taken against clergy in contravention of the House of Bishops’ Statement on same sex marriage is dependent upon the circumstances under which they are authorized to conduct their ministry: those relating to the Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s Permission to Officiate, (PTO), in the diocese of Nottingham and Southwell differ from his employment as Deputy Senior Chaplain with the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and his Licence from the Bishop of Lincoln.  The other married priest in the news, Fr Andrew Cain, is subject to a further different set of terms and conditions of appointment.

In contrast to these issues of immediate concern, on Thursday the Church published Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission, which progresses the recommendations of the Pilling Report and outlines the next steps in its process for shared conversations on the broader aspects of human sexuality.  It is anticipated that this work will come to a conclusion in July 2016 when the (then) recently-elected General Synod will itself spend two days in shared conversations on this topic. Reports from all the conversations will be drawn together so that the direction and impact of the whole process can be evaluated.

Religion or Belief in the Workplace – and another religious discrimination case at Heathrow?

On Thursday the Equality and Human Rights Commission published an updated version of Religion or Belief in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers Following Recent European Court of Human Rights Judgments.  As one would expect, it looks broadly sensible; however, the fact remains that employment cases are highly fact-sensitive and one cannot lay down simple, bright-line rules.

In that connexion we noted the case of Mrs Nohad Halawi, a Christian who worked at Heathrow Airport, whom The Guardian reports as taking a claim to the Court of Appeal. According to the report, she alleges unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination by Muslim colleagues. She lost both in the Employment Tribunal and in the Employment Appeal Tribunal [see Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd (t/a World Duty Free) & Anor [2013] UKEAT 0166 13 0410] and since “religion” was nowhere mentioned in the EAT judgment we missed it first time round. But watch this space.

Did the Pope excommunicate the Mafia?

Well yes, and no. On June 21, Pope Francis visited the diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, Calabria, an area that an area which is the stronghold of the local organized crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta, a Mafia-type criminal organisation.  During his homily at Mass in Sibari, he said [1] “When the worship of the Lord is replaced by the worship of money, it opens the way to sin, self-interest and oppression; when you do not worship God, the Lord, we become worshipers of evil. . . . Those who follow this path in their life of evil, as are the mafia, they are not in communion with God, are excommunicated!”

The National Catholic Register suggests that the use of “excommunicated” here was a reflection of theology rather than canon law and acted as a call to conversion for those in organized crime.  The CNR quotes Fr Ciro Benedettini, Vice-Director of the Holy See Press Office, who explained that these words were not a formal legal decree, but more of a message that they cannot receive the sacraments because of their activities.  This view was supported by Father Davide Cito, Professor of Canon and Penal Law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross who suggested the the Pope “did something ‘more’ than the canonical punishment . . . He wanted to bind the ‘excommunication’ to the personal life of mafiosi.

Hijabs and burqas

There were various reports that Turkey’s Constitutional Court has decided by 16-1 that the rights of a female lawyer who was barred from entering a courtroom because she was wearing a headscarf had been violated. The lower court’s refusal to allow headscarf-wearing women into trials was contrary to the Turkish Constitution’s Articles on equality before the law and freedom of religion and conscience. Yet another sign that secularist Turkey is not as secularist as it used to be.

On a similar theme, the Court of Appeal held in R (Baradaran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor [2014] EWCA Civ 854 that the fact that the French Law 2010-1192 of 11 October 2010 prohibiting “in public elementary schools, middle schools and secondary schools, the wearing of symbols or clothing by which the students conspicuously indicate their religious belief ” was not a sufficient reason for halting the removal to France of an Iranian father and daughter. The fact that the girl would not be able to wear religious dress to school did not violate her Convention rights, since the ECtHR had decided that the 2004 Law did not amount to a violation, let alone a ‘flagrant’ violation of Article 9.

But the big event of the coming week will be on 1 July, when the Grand Chamber ECtHR will hand down judgment in SAS v France: the challenge to the more general French law banning face-coverings in public places.

Allah for Muslims only?

In his Religion Law Blog, Neil Addison reviewed the judgment of the Federal Court of Malaysia which supported a ban by the a state Government on the Catholic Herald of Malaysia preventing it from using the word “Allah” as a title for “God” and ending a years-long legal battle that has caused religious tensions in that Muslim-majority country. In addition to his analysis, Neil includes a helpful summary of the history of the case from the Malay Mail Online.

Organ donation: Wales

The 17th June Westminster Hall debate on the Organ Donor Register highlighted the lack of public awareness in this area, a particularly important issue in Wales in view of the introduction of the new “opt-out” legislation from December 2015 when it will become the first UK nation to introduce a system where people will be presumed to have agreed for their organs to be donated.  The Welsh Government has announced that the first in a series of public information television, radio and digital adverts about the new organ donation legislation in Wales would be broadcast from Monday 23 June.

Television adverts will be broadcast during episodes of ITV Wales’ Coronation Street and S4C’s Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley) and will continue across radio, television and social media in the run up to national transplant week (7-13 July).  In addition, the bilingual twitter account, @OrgDonationCYM, and the organ donation Wales Facebook page will provide the latest information about the soft opt-out legislation.  Both will be updated daily and will act as forums for questions about the forthcoming change in Wales while also providing facts about organ donation in general.

Neonatal organ donation

An aspect of organ donation not addressed in recent debate is the situation relating to children from 37 weeks gestation to 2 months of age.  The Code of Practice for the Diagnosis and Confirmation of Death produced in 2008 by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges concludes that “given the current state of knowledge it is rarely possible confidently to diagnose brain-stem death at this age”.  As a consequence, it is not possible for organs from children in the UK within this group to be used for transplants, and it is necessary to rely upon organs imported from Europe where such constraints do not apply.  A recent report noted:

“[u]nlike in other European countries, Australasia and the USA death verification/certification standards [in the UK] effectively prohibit use of neurological criteria for diagnosing death in infants between 37 weeks’ gestation and 2 months of age and therefore donation after neurological determination of death. Neonatal donation after circulatory definition of death is also possible but is not currently undertaken,”

and concluded

“[w]ith around 60 paediatric organ donors in the UK annually, there does appear significant potential for donation within the neonatal population. Reconsideration of current infant brain stem death guidelines is required to allow parents the opportunity of donation after neurological determination of death, together with mandatory training in organ donation for neonatal teams, which will also facilitate donation after circulatory definition of death.”

Quick links to other events this week

Below is a selection of links to other stories in the news this week that may be of interest to our readers.

And finally . . . . . . .

On 23 June, Christian Today carried the story Church gives away AR-15’s to attract young men to the flock [greengrocer’s apostrophe in the original]  For those such as ourselves who are not up to speed with firearms terminology, the Wikipedia entry provides the helpful description:

“The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm/.223-caliber, magazine-fed, air cooled rifle with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation. It has been produced in many different versions, including numerous semi-automatic and selective fire variants.”

The Missouri non-denominational Ignite Church gave away two semi-automatic rifles on Father’s Day to encourage fathers to bring their children and their own fathers to worship service.  To attract men aged 18 to 35 they were given one raffle entry for each child they brought and an additional ticket if they brought their own father to church with them. The Joplin Globe quotes Pastor Heath Mooneyham as saying that the AR-15 giveaway was the best way to reach that population.

“That’s the biggest black hole in our society … If we get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel. If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.”

Pastor Heath further disagreed with the AR-15s being described as “assault rifles” believing “guns don’t kill people – guns in the hands of the wrong people, kill people” (the mantra of the National Rifle Association). His initiative did not receive universal approbation but, disturbingly, Ignite is not the first Christian institution to give away guns: the Kentucky Baptist Convention promoted “Second Amendment Celebrations” in March, in which churches across the state raffled off weapons; and Grace Baptist Church in Lansingburgh, New York also raffled off an AR-15 in the same month.

To which one’s only rational response can be John 11:35…


[1] Google Translation of: “Quando all’adorazione del Signore si sostituisce l’adorazione del denaro, si apre la strada al peccato, all’interesse personale e alla sopraffazione; quando non si adora Dio, il Signore, si diventa adoratori del male . . . . Coloro che nella loro vita seguono questa strada di male, come sono i mafiosi, non sono in comunione con Dio: sono scomunicati!”.  The full text (in Italian), is available in il Bollettino.

Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd: Another religious discrimination case?

The Guardian reports that Mrs Nohad Halawi, a Christian working at Heathrow Airport, is taking a case to the Court of Appeal claiming unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination. She alleges that she and other Christian staff were victims of systematic harassment by Muslim colleagues and that this led to her losing her job. She was unsuccessful both before the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal: see Halawi v WDFG UK Ltd (t/a World Duty Free) & Anor [2013] UKEAT 0166 13 0410.

Mrs Halawi worked as a uniformed beauty consultant airside at Heathrow Terminal 3. The duty-free outlet World Duty Free [WDF] withdrew her store approval, which meant that she was unable to work airside any longer. She had no written contract of employment and worked in the way that she did as a result of a complex web of relationships:

  • she had formed a company called Nohad Ltd;
  • each month Nohad Ltd invoiced the second respondent, Caroline South Associates [CSA], for Mrs Halawi’s work at Terminal 3 at an hourly rate set by CSA;
  • CSA provided a management service to a cosmetics firm, Shiseido, which included the staffing of Shiseido’s space at the airport;
  • Mrs Halawi wore Shiseido’s uniform while selling its products in WDF;
  • WDF bought the cosmetics from Shiseido, took the profit from sales and managed the outlet as a whole, including the IT and till system;
  • WDF arranged Mrs Halawi’s airside pass; and
  • WDF provided a set of working rules for those occupying the selling space under the WDF banner [para 2].

The core issue was whether or not Mrs Halawi was an employee for the purposes of s 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, a worker within the meaning of Regulation 2(1) of the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employee within the meaning of s 83 of the Equality Act 2010 or a contract worker within the meaning of s 41 of the 2010 Act. The Employment Tribunal found that she was none of these and she appealed on the third finding. It was argued for Mrs Halawi that the complex web of relationships under which she operated was a disguise for what was in reality an employment relationship and that the definition of “worker” was to be given a wide scope in the context of anti-discrimination provisions. Langstaff J, sitting alone, rejected that argument and dismissed the appeal.

Nowhere in the judgment are specific examples of religious discrimination mentioned (which is why we didn’t notice the case when the EAT judgment was handed down); however, Langstaff J stated that:

“It is claimed in these proceedings that they did so for reasons that were discriminatory, and for the purposes of these proceedings that must be taken as so, although it is of course denied” [para 2].

And there, for the moment, the matter rests. Further details may emerge in the Court of Appeal.

Same sex marriage and civil partnership: update

Further to our post Same sex marriage at British Consulates overseas, which reported that as from 3 June 2014 same-sex couples will be able to marry at British Consulates in 23 countries, under the Consular Marriage and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014, there has been further progress in the implementation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Approved premises

On 24 June, HM Passport Office published the Approved premises list, also available in Excel format, which summarizes the premises that have been approved for civil marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales. It notes that venues are authorised on a regular basis; and because not all the current venues may be included it recommends contacting the appropriate local authority for the most up-to-date information about approved venues.

 Review of civil partnership in England and Wales

On 26 June, the Government Equalities Office and Department for Culture, Media & Sport published the report on its conclusions following the review of civil partnership in England and Wales as required under section 15 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The Government concludes that “[g]iven the lack of consensus on the way forward for civil partnership, [it] will not be making any changes”. All the documentation relating to the consultation, including a summary of the responses, is available here.

Paragraph 1.4 of the initial consolation document stated that:

“The Government’s decision not to make changes to civil partnership in the Act was because civil partnership currently plays an important role in the lives of many couples. Civil partnership was created to give same sex couples access to equivalent legal rights to marriage at a time when they did not have access to marriage itself. The Government saw little benefit at that stage in changing a well-understood legal institution without evidence of a clear need to do so and of the impact such a step would have”.

Given the Government’s initial stance, its conclusion is hardly a surprise.

As to extending civil partnership to opposite-sex couples, the analysis reveals that this was opposed by respondents by about three to one: 21.8 per cent in favour and 76.2 per cent against. But that might not be the end of the story. Ferguson & Ors v United Kingdom (Application No. 8254/11), in which the applicants argue that the UK’s failure to provide civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples breaches their Convention rights, is currently awaiting a decision at Strasbourg as to whether or not it is admissible.

Marriages by non-religious belief organisations

On 26 June, the Ministry of Justice announced a consultation on Marriages by non-religious belief organisations on whether the law should be changed to permit marriages by non-religious belief organisations.  The consultation document explains [page 13]:

“During the passage of the 2013 Act a number of opposition amendments were tabled to allow the British Humanist Association, and potentially any other non-religious belief organisation, to solemnize marriages. The Government had not consulted on belief marriages as part of its consultation on marriage of same sex couples and felt that a public consultation should take place before a decision was reached on further amending marriage law in this respect”.

As a consequence, section 14 was introduced into the 2013 Act: it requires the Secretary of State to arrange for a review and full public consultation of whether an order should be made permitting marriages according to the usages of belief organisations to be solemnized on the authority of certificates of a superintendent registrar and, if so, what provision should be included in the order. The outcome of the review had to be produced and published before 1 January 2015.

The consultation, which closes on 18 September, asks for views on:

  • whether there is a substantial case for changing the law in England and Wales to establish non-religious belief ceremonies as a third type of legal marriage ceremony alongside religious and civil ceremonies;
  • which non-religious belief organisations could meet the Section 14 definition [“an organisation whose principal or sole purpose is the advancement of a system of non-religious beliefs which relate to morality or ethics”] in order to be registered to conduct belief ceremonies, whether the definition is appropriate and what the issues would be related to such changes;
  • where, if allowed, such marriages should take place;
  • which safeguards would be needed to deal with any resulting risks, and
  • what would the equality would impacts.

As to the issue of location, the paper invites views on three options for change:

  • Option 1: permit non-religious belief organisations to solemnize marriages within their own buildings or buildings where the organisation meets to manifest its beliefs and that are certified for that purpose.
  • Option 2: permit non-religious belief organisations to solemnize marriages anywhere (other than religious premises) meaningful to the couple, including outdoors.
  • Option 3: permit non-religious belief organisations to solemnize marriages at “approved premises” (other than religious premises), such as a stately home or a hotel.

The document notes that

“In Scotland, the law has been changed in recent years to allow for humanist and other non-religious belief marriages within a system in which individual celebrants are registered to solemnize marriages. We have a different system, with different safeguards, predominantly based on the registration of buildings”.

And so we do: but we can’t help wondering whether the Scottish version might not be simpler to administer and generally less cumbersome than the English one. In recent years the authorities in England and Wales have tied themselves into knots over registration of buildings and one of the reasons for that has been the comparative inflexibility of registration under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855: see R (Hodkin) v Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages [2013] UKSC 77. Because the Scots simply license individuals rather than buildings, their system is much more flexible.

David Pocklington & Frank Cranmer 

Non-stunning response: e-petition

The e-petition End non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare has now exceeded the threshold of 10,000 signatures and therefore qualifies for a response from the department responsible for the issues raised, in this case the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra. On 24 June the NSS reported the headline in the Smallholder: “Positive response from government to slaughter petition”.  However, in view of its lack of action to date, we  would disagree with this assessment.

The Petition

We call for an end to slaughter without pre-stunning for all animals. EU and UK law requires all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain until death supervenes. But non-stun slaughter is permitted for certain communities.

We support BVA, RSPCA, HSA, FAWC and FVE who conclude that scientific evidence shows that non-stun slaughter allows animals to perceive pain and compromises welfare.

We must differentiate between religious and non-stun slaughter. Our concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter.

We note:

– over 80% of UK Halal slaughter is pre-stunned

– hind quarters of animals killed by (non-stun) Shechita can enter the market unlabelled

While non-stun slaughter is permitted we call for clearer slaughter-method labelling and post-cut stunning to improve welfare.

Non-stun slaughter affects millions of animals. We support a good life and a humane death for all animals.

The Response

The Government encourages the highest standards of welfare at slaughter and would prefer to see all animals stunned before they are slaughtered for food. However, we also respect the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs. Recently, the Prime Minister has confirmed that that there would be no ban on religious slaughter in the UK.

Both EU Regulation 1099/2009, on the protection of animals at time of killing, and the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK), as amended, permit slaughter without stunning to be carried out in accordance with religious rites. Within both regulations there are strict requirements on where, how and who can slaughter animals in accordance with religious rites. These requirements are monitored and enforced by Official Veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency to ensure that animals are spared unnecessary suffering, distress or pain during the slaughter process.

The Government is aware that there is public concern about meat from animals slaughtered in accordance with religious beliefs being sold to consumers who do not require their meat to be prepared in this way. Currently, there are no specific EU or national legal requirements governing the sale and labelling of halal or kosher meat. However, where any information of this nature is provided it must be accurate and must not be misleading to the consumer.

The Government believes that consumers should have the necessary information available to them to make an informed choice about their food. We are awaiting the results of a European Commission study on method-of-slaughter labelling which is due this summer. We will look at possible options in light of that report.


At the time of writing the e-petition had attracted 70,308 signatures since it was launched at the end of May 2014, and it therefore seems likely that it will exceed the number required (100,000) to be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee.

We reviewed developments relating to religious slaughter in our round-up of 11th May this year, and suggested

“Although the Prime Minister is reported to have indicated that the halal meat labelling could be reviewed “in a few months’ time”, given government’s continued procrastination on labelling throughout its term of office, it seems more likely that this would be introduced as a result of consumer pressure on the supermarkets.”

The recent response from Defra differs little from the government position outlined in 2012  by the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice), [HC Deb 8 March 2012 Vol 507 Col 837W and HC Deb 1 May 2012 Vol 543 Col 1386W] and therefore gives us little reason to change our view.

French ban on religious dress in schools not a bar to deportation to France

In R (Baradaran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor [2014] EWCA Civ 854 the appellants, B and M, were an Iranian father and daughter who challenged the Secretary of State’s decision on 5 December 2011 to refuse their asylum claims on safe third country grounds and to remove them to France (which had accepted responsibility for taking them). Before Hickinbottom J they challenged their return to France on the basis that the French Law 2010-1192 of 11 October 2010 provides that “in public elementary schools, middle schools and secondary schools, the wearing of symbols or clothing by which the students conspicuously indicate their religious belief is prohibited” and that this would breach their rights under Articles 3, 8, 9, 11 and 14 ECHR. Hickinbottom J had dismissed their claims.

The Court of Appeal [Dyson MR and Moses and Patten LJJ] dismissed the appeal in its entirety. Delivering the judgment of the Court, Lord Dyson said that he accepted the need for great caution and that the court should be very slow to decide that the law of a democratic member state of the EU was incompatible with the Convention. The UK courts were not powerless to assess the compatibility of foreign legislation with the Convention and there might be exceptional circumstances in which it would be appropriate to do so; but he was not persuaded that such circumstances existed in the present case [para 18].

The courts had drawn a distinction between alleged violations of Articles 2 and 3 (which require a “real risk” of violation) and alleged violations of other Convention rights (which require a “flagrant” violation) [para 19]. The present claim came nowhere near satisfying the stringent “flagrancy” test required in an Article 8 or 9 case:

“First, the ECtHR has decided that the 2004 Law does not amount to a violation, let alone a ‘flagrant’ violation of Article 9 … Secondly, the ECtHR has held that a similar prohibition on the wearing of headscarves in educational institutions is not a violation, let alone a ‘flagrant’ violation of Article 9 [citing Sahin v Turkey (2007) 44 EHRR 5] … Thirdly, M would not be exposed to the possibility of criminal sanction for wearing a burka at school (although she would eventually be expelled). Fourthly, M would retain the possibility of being educated privately, at home or by correspondence, in the event of her expulsion for wearing a burka at school (although I note that it is said that B could not afford to pay for private education). Fifthly, M would be permitted to wear her burka at home and at places of worship” [para 21].

Appeal dismissed.

Marriage of clergy to same-sex partners

On 24 June 2014 the Church of England issued the following statement in relation to weekend press reports concerning the marriage of clergy to same-sex partners:

“The recent press report that the Bishop of Norwich has been asked to keep a blacklist of clergy who marry same sex partners is untrue. The House of Bishops agreed in February to establish a small informal monitoring and reference group which is available to diocesan bishops who may wish for information or advice. The group has no formal powers. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York asked the Bishop of Norwich to chair the group and for the Bishops of Sheffield and Willesden to be members.”


We covered the action taken against Canon Jeffrey Pemberton as a postscript to our 22nd June news round-up, but made no reference to any blacklist of clergy. The updated version states:

 “Pink News reported today that Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who married his long-term partner in a civil ceremony in April, has had his Permission to Officiate, (PTO), removed by the Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev Richard Inwood, thereby revoking his permission to perform services in the diocese.  His position as a lay clerk at Southwell Minster is unlikely to be affected.  The BBC quotes the bishop as saying “it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives . . . In view of this I have spoken to Jeremy Pemberton and subsequently written to him to tell him his permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham has been revoked.”  Canon Pemberton declined to comment but subsequently confirmed that the reports are “basically accurate”.

Permission to Officiate is issued under Canon C 8 (3) entirely at the discretion of the bishop, creates no employment-like rights, and can be withdrawn at the absolute discretion of the bishop without the need for a disciplinary process. In contrast, Canon Pemberton is employed as Deputy Senior Chaplain with the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust in the diocese of Lincoln, under the Extra-Parochial Ministry Measure 1967, for which he holds a licence from the Bishop of Lincoln.  However, although employed by the hospital, that employment is generally dependent upon the Bishop’s licence which can only be terminated following a disciplinary process, s8(2) Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. No public announcement has been made regarding this licence.


The CofE statement has been greeted with scepticism by some of those commenting on the Thinking Anglican report of the announcement.  Against such concerns, however, it would be unusual if the Church had not established a group to monitor developments in a sensitive area such as this, and would be subject to criticism if it did not adopt a consistent approach in the interpretation of the House of Bishops Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage: there is a degree of uncertainty in the sanctions that may be applied under ecclesiastical law and a further degree of complexity is added through the range of possible employment situations as these current examples demonstrate.

With regard to comments relating to “blacklisting”, on 13 March 2013 the House of Bishops issued Personal files relating to clergy: Guidance for Bishops and their staff which considers inter alia the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.  Paragraph 2 states:

“[t]he guidance deals only with personal files about clergy (“clergy personal files”). It does not cover personal files relating to readers and other licensed lay ministers, although the same general principles apply to these. Nor does it cover files relating to those who are exploring a vocation to ministry or who are in training but not yet ordained. Ministry Division issues guidance to DDOs [Diocesan Directors of Ordinands] about record keeping in this context.”

Of relevance in the present context are paragraphs 3 to 11 which concern “Circumstances in which personal information will be shared”, and in particular the following:

3. Where a bishop (‘the receiving bishop’) submits a request at any time for personal information about a priest or deacon to another bishop (‘the sending bishop’) and the receiving bishop confirms in writing that the sharing of the information is in the substantial public interest and is necessary (a) for the prevention or detection of any unlawful act or (b) for the protection of the public against dishonesty, malpractice, or other seriously improper conduct by, or the unfitness or incompetence of, that priest or deacon or another person, then the sending bishop will share that information with the receiving bishop. In these circumstances data protection legislation permits personal information to be shared without the individual’s consent being sought.

4. Where a priest or deacon is being considered for an appointment or permission to officiate in the receiving bishop’s diocese, and the sending bishop receives a request from the receiving bishop for an Episcopal Reference and Clergy Current Status Letter (‘CCSL’) , the sending bishop will share with the receiving bishop such personal information about that priest or deacon as is necessary to provide a full and accurate response.