‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban not improper use of Mayor’s power

In April 2012 Transport for London decided not to allow an advertisement placed by Anglican Mainstream on behalf of the Core Issues Trust to appear on the outside of its buses. The proposed wording was “NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!”. It was intended as a response to an advertisement by Stonewall which had appeared earlier on the outside of TfL’s buses: “SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT!”. In Core Issues Trust v Transport for London [2013] EWHC 651 (Admin) (on which we posted at the time) the Trust submitted that TfL had abused its statutory powers for an improper purpose, alleging that the real reason for TfL’s ban was that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, disagreed with the views expressed in the advertisement and thought it could be a liability in his bid for re-election as Mayor.

At first instance Lang J had been prepared to accept on the facts before her that the decision not to run the advertisement had been made by Mr Everitt (Managing Director of Marketing and Communications at TfL) and had not been an improper use of power by the Mayor. In the Court of Appeal, however, further information had come to light: see R (Core Issues Trust) v Transport for London & Anor [2014] EWCA Civ 34. Lord Dyson MR (with whom Briggs and Christopher Clarke LJJ concurred) concluded that it was in the interests of justice that a further enquiry be conducted by the court as to whether or not the decision had been instructed by the Mayor and whether or not it had been made for an improper purpose. The Mayor (on behalf of the GLA) should be added back as a defendant and the case remitted to the judge for her to make the necessary order and give appropriate directions [para 48].

Judgment has now been handed down after the further hearing. In R (Core Issues Trust Ltd) v Transport for London & Anor [2014] EWHC 2628 (Admin) Lang J concluded as follows:

“(i) Mr Johnson was the Chair of the Board of TfL and, in his capacity as Mayor, he had statutory power to issue written instructions or directions to TfL. He did not issue either a written or verbal instruction or direction to TfL on this occasion.

(ii) TfL made the decision not to run the advertisements. Prior to making that decision, Mr Everitt of TfL requested the views of the Mayor’s office and Mr Johnson communicated a strongly-expressed opinion that the advertisements were offensive and should not appear on London buses. Mr Everitt of TfL was strongly influenced by Mr Johnson’s opinion when he made the decision not to run the advertisements.

(iii) Mr Johnson was not motivated by an improper purpose, namely, to advance his Mayoral election campaign” [para 143].

The claim was dismissed.

 

Lords probe Church on same-sex marriage clergy

Church of England Clergy in same-sex marriage

In the House of Lords on 30 July, the Rt Hon. the Lord Fowler, (Con) initiated a short debate with the question[30 July 2014 Vol 755 Col 1583]:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are satisfied with the enactment and operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013”.

to which Baroness Northover (LD) responded:

“My Lords, the first marriages of same-sex couples took place on 29 March—sooner than we had originally thought possible. We intend to bring the remaining elements of the Act into force on 10 December, enabling couples in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage, and couples to stay married, if they wish to do so, when one or both of them changes legal gender..”

However, in a follow-up question, Lord Fowler stated:

“I congratulate the Government on their progress but perhaps I could raise one point. Canon Jeremy Pemberton married his partner in April, as a result of which he has had his permission to work as a priest in Nottinghamshire revoked and been banned from seeking a new post as a chaplain and bereavement manager. Given that there are other clergymen at similar risk, will the Minister, as a matter of goodwill, look at the position and see whether anything can be done to help reconcile the difficulties?”

In response, Baroness Northover said:

“ . . . . My noble friend will know that the Bill sought to protect the position of religious organisations and that this is a matter for the Church of England. We hear what he says, and it is worth also bearing in mind that things can evolve. For example, it is good that we should soon see women bishops.”

to which The Lord Bishop of Sheffield added:

“My Lords, I thank the Minister for her affirmation that according to both the letter and the spirit of the legislation on same-sex marriage, it is for the Church of England and all faith communities to determine their doctrine and what is appropriate conduct for their clergy. Is the Minister aware that the recent guidelines of the House of Bishops state clearly that those who enter a same-sex marriage, together with children in their care, should be welcomed into the life of worshiping communities, and also that the Church of England is about to begin a two-year process of structured conversations to explore the changing attitudes to human sexuality and their implications for the life of the church and its disciplines?”

Noting the nature of these responses, (rather than a reply to the question), Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab) commented:

“My Lords, the Minister set out very clearly the Government’s intentions as far as the implementation of the Act is concerned. It was very reassuring to hear from the right reverend Prelate the current views of the church. However, I do not think that either she or—if I may say with respect—he addressed the question that the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, raised about the loss of employment that followed this incident. Can the Minister say anything further about the application, for example, of the Equality Act or any employment Act in situations where people lose their job over their sexuality?”

Those with an interest in these issues will be disappointed with these answers, for which no further clarification was offered.  However, for the record, the uncorrected minutes of the remainder of the debate contain the following exchanges:

Baroness Northover: As the noble Baroness may remember, the protections given to various religions in the equal marriage Act protect them in this regard from the operation of the Equality Act. It is up to the Church of England, but I note what the right reverend Prelate said.

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, to clarify the position for Church of England clergy during the next two years, will my noble friend confirm that clergy in civil partnerships are able to carry out their ministry in the normal way?

Baroness Northover: I think I need to write to the noble Lord to clarify exactly what the situation is at the moment within the Church of England—but again, it is a matter for the Church of England.

Conversion of civil partnerships to marriage

Further to the Statutory Instruments on the conversion of civil partnership that were tabled for debate on 29 July, reviewed here, Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) said [30 July 2014 Vol 755 Column 1583]

 “ . . .  Although they made the administrative process easy, they failed to recognize that many in a civil partnership would wish to celebrate their marriage in the same way as all other same-sex couples have since March. I know that the noble Baroness understands the importance of setting the date. Will she therefore update the House on when the revised regulations will be published and tabled for debate? Perhaps on this occasion she could even offer to share a draft before they are tabled. Will she reassure us that they will still come into force on 10 December?”

To which Baroness Northover responded

“We are indeed determined that the regulations will be in place by 10 December so that civil partnerships can be converted to marriages. As the noble Lord will remember, in the consultation prior to the Act, the emphasis that came through from people feeding in their views on this was that they wanted to make sure that their civil partnership was properly marked and could be translated into an equal marriage. They wanted that to be as straightforward as possible with as few hurdles as possible. That was what was built into the Bill.

As the noble Lord will know, since then some people have felt that they want to mark that transition. He will also know that the Bill and regulations allow ceremonies to be associated, but they want to make that link closer. We are determined to try to make sure that everything that people want in this situation can be done within the complexity that he is familiar with within the Bill. Indeed, we are determined to deliver this by 10 December, and we are happy to discuss those draft regulations.”

Comment

The gentle probing in today’s debate, and the view that it is up to the CofE to address such issues, contrasts with the attitude of parliament towards the Church of England in the debates, PQs &c which followed the General Synod’s defeat on 20 November 2012 of the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops.  Furthermore, the parliamentary record indicates that during this session of parliament, Sir Tony Baldry has not been required to respond or give a written answer on the marriage of clergy to their same-sex partners.

Postscript

The BBC’s take on the debate was the headline Stop Church sacking gay vicars who marry, says senior Tory followed by the summary “[t]he government should consider intervening to stop the Church of England sacking gay vicars who marry, a former Conservative chairman has said”.

Manorial Rights, Chancel Repair Liability and Fracking

With Parliament and the Law Courts not sitting, and civil servants away on their holidays, now is the time for public affairs professionals to catch up on preparing their responses to any outstanding consultations, before their attention turns to the party conference season at the end of September.  Summer is also a slack period for news, and in the attempt to gain readers’ attention, the “silly season” often gives rise ill-founded news stories in the media.

Last October we reported that it was necessary for the Church of England to issue a clarification on the media’s suggested links between its minerals registration programme and hydraulic fracturing/”fracking”, an issue linked to the Land Registration Act 2002, as is Chancel Repair Liability (although through different aspects of the Act).  There is currently: an on-going DECC consultation on hydraulic fracturing; a short inquiry by the House of Commons Justice Committee on the abolition of manorial rights; and a Private Members’ Bill on the abolition of Chancel Repair Liability.

Given the short corporate memory of some media organizations – many of which are still unable to distinguish between the European Union and the Council of Europe – there is the possibility of further confusion between this consultation and two other unconnected initiatives, although only the fracking consultation is likely to have an impact.

Chancel Repair Liability

Lord Avebury’s Private Members’ Chancel Repairs Bill [HL] 2014-15, is a short three-clause Bill, for the abolition of liability to repair chancels, viz.

“No person shall after the commencement of this Act be liable as lay rector for the repair of the chancel of any church or chapel”, [clause 1]

Clause 2 makes limited exceptions to the abolition of liability effected by clause 1 in certain cases in which the need for repair arose before the Act is passed. The Explanatory Notes state that these exceptions arise in connection with what the Law Commission identified[1] as a second problem over chancel repair liability: several liability: “in most cases in which there is more than one lay rector and the liability is not rent charge liability, each is liable for the whole repair costs[2].” In terms of its financial impact, at first sight it might appear that there would be no cost to public funds as a result of the change, but only a redistribution of liabilities between private parties: individual PCCs and lay rectors; [but see the comments of Greg Yerbury, below]

However, the Bill does not have government support, and currently no date has been set for its second reading.  In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 17th October 2012, reported here, it was clear from the response to the debate by Helen Grant, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, that the Government was not contemplating any change in the law, though the Ministry of Justice would keep the matter under review.

Manorial Rights

Manorial rights are certain rights over land that were specifically preserved when most remnants of the manorial system were abolished in 1926, and include: sporting rights and rights to timber, mines and minerals. These were the subject of the Westminster Hall debate Manorial Rights (England and Wales), [15 Jan 2014 Vol 584 Col 329WH]. As a result of changes introduced by the Land Registration Act 2002, manorial rights lost their overriding status in relation to properties if they were not protected by being registered before 13 October 2013.  This has led to large numbers of applications to enter a notice claiming manorial rights on properties in England and Wales being made to the Land Registry in recent years, and subsequent notifications of these claims being sent to landowners by the Land Registry.

The House of Commons Justice Committee received a number of representations calling for the abolition of manorial rights, and wrote to the Law Commission and the Government asking whether there were plans to review the law concerning manorial rights in order to consider whether such rights should be abolished.  It was informed that there are currently no such plans to do so, and therefore the Committee decided to undertake a short inquiry into manorial rights in order to instigate a debate on the current situation and inform any possible future review. The inquiry was launched on 20 June and the Justice Committee has asked for written submissions by Friday 5 September 2014.

Fracking

In an earlier post Fracking and the Church of England we noted that whilst landowners may not own the title to sub-surface minerals, they may currently prevent energy firms from accessing these minerals under their land through the law of trespass, following the judgement in Star Energy Weald Basin Limited and another v Bocardo SA.  On 23 May, the Government launched a consultation that would circumvent these restrictions, and would “simplify the existing procedure for shale gas and oil and deep geothermal underground drilling access.” It explains:

“The new proposals would simplify procedures which are costly time-consuming and disproportionate for new methods of underground drilling. Oil, gas and deep geothermal companies will be able to explore their potential, and will in return provide a voluntary community payment for access”.

The proposals would provide

  • Underground right of access for shale gas and deep geothermal operations only below 300m (nearly 1000ft);
  • A voluntary community payment of £20,000 per lateral well; and
  • A clear notification system to alert local people.

These proposals were accompanied by a further report by the British Geological Survey on shale gas resources in Great Britain which assesses the resources of the Jurassic shales of the Weald. The consultation closes on 15 August 2014 at 11:45 pm.

Comment

As noted above, these three issues are independent, and apart from the DECC initiative on fracking, are unlikely to progress without government support, although we would not discourage anyone with an interest in either of the consultations from submitting their views.

The government’s enthusiasm to press ahead with fracking is clear from the announcement on 28 July that it was opening the bidding process for companies seeking licences to explore for onshore oil and gas.  The BBC reports the newly-appointed Minister for Business and Energy, Matthew Hancock as saying “companies that are granted the new fracking licences would have financial commitments to the communities where the drilling takes place”, presumably anticipating the outcome of the DECC consultation.  The areas available for these new licences cover much of the UK, and identifies where existing licences exist and where areas in which shale reserves have been identified.

_____________________________

[1] Law Commission (1985). Property Law: Liability for Chancel Repairs. London. HMSO. Extracts from the Report are included as the Annex to the Explanatory Note.

[2] However, see the comment of Greg Yerbury to our post Chancel Repair Liability – Revision Notes

Civil partnership conversion to same sex marriage – Update

Unlike the House of Commons, which rose last week, the House of Lords has continued working and does not leave for its summer recess until Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon the Upper House was due to debate the Draft Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations and the Draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) (No. 2) Order 2014, both of which were laid before the House on 3 July and both subject to the affirmative procedure. However, concern was raised by Quakers in Britain, who had welcomed the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and eagerly anticipated when all Quaker marriages, of same-sex or opposite-sex couples, could be celebrated and reported to the state in exactly the same way. Recording Clerk Paul Parker said

 “This is more than a formality for those in civil partnerships . . . It is deeply unfair that Quaker couples are denied their opportunity to celebrate their long-term loving relationships in their worshipping community. Instead, from 10 December 2014 there will be a civil process and they will be issued a ‘certificate of conversion’ rather than a marriage certificate.”

Furthermore, the process could only be conducted by a senior registrar and, as a consequence, some might have to travel long distances in order to complete this merely bureaucratic procedure. The BBC reports that after pressure from Baroness Thornton (Lab), the draft SIs have been withdrawn and revised versions will now be debated in the autumn. It is anticipated that they will still be implemented in December.

Nevertheless, same sex marriage will be discussed by their Lordships on Wednesday morning during oral questions; and Lord Fowler (Con), will ask the Government “whether they are satisfied with the enactment and operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013”.

Religion and law round up – 3rd August

It turned out to be a busier week than we’d anticipated, so we decided to post a round-up after all…

Choosing diocesan bishops in the C of E

Our week began with a long guest post by Peter Owen, a former member of General Synod and part of the teams that publish Thinking Anglicans and Anglicans Online, on the process of appointment to vacant sees. It’s a fairly complex process but, as one would expect from a member of the Liverpool Vacancy in See Committee at the time of the last two vacancies, it is both authoritative and a model of clarity.

International Religious Freedom Reports 2013

The US Department of State submitted its annual International Religious Freedom Report to Congress. The Report, submitted pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act 1998, describes the status of religious freedom in every country individually and covers government policies that violate religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals.

One would hope (though probably in vain) that it would make pretty uncomfortable reading for some regimes – but it’s a mine of information for students of law and religion.

Ireland and crucifixes 

On 28 July the Irish Times carried an interesting comment piece by Ronan McCrea of UCL, Kerry County Council crucifix a challenge to religious diversity, about the rather extraordinary decision of Kerry County Council to install a crucifix in its newly-refurbished council chamber. The instigator of the move was Councillor John-Joe Culloty, whose supporters reportedly argued that they were “tired of apologising” for their religion and passed a motion calling for the erection of the crucifix “in light of our Christian faith and the strong Christian values contained within our Constitution”.

Dr McCrea points out that the upshot of the Grand Chamber judgment in Lautsi & Ors v Italy [2011] ECHR 2412 is that no-one has the right not to be exposed to religious symbols with which they may disagree; and in Lautsi the GC held that the presence of the crucifix merely perpetuated a preexisting cultural tradition. However, he feels that Kerry County Council’s decision is quite different because it means that

“… the values of a particular faith would have predominance in an institution meant to make rules for all the people of Kerry. This has nothing to do with tradition or identity, but with the promotion of a particular faith by a State institution. State bodies should not promote Catholicism, Islam or atheism, but be committed to co-existence and equal respect for those of all faiths and none”.

To which there is nothing we can usefully add.

Property matters

We noted the on-going DECC consultation on hydraulic fracturing, the short inquiry by the House of Commons Justice Committee on the abolition of manorial rights and the Private Members’ Bill on the abolition of Chancel Repair Liability. The three are unconnected, as David’s post explains.

Same-sex marriage and conversion of civil partnerships

On 30 July the Lords held a short debate on the operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 arising from an oral Question from Lord (Norman) Fowler (Con). It drifted into a discussion on the attitude of the Church of England to members of its clergy who enter into same-sex marriages.

Earlier in the week the Government withdrew the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations and the Draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) (No. 2) Order 2014 after pressure from the Quakers, inter alia, who objected that the proposal would deny those who wished to convert their civil partnerships from having a proper wedding and a secular marriage certificate.

“Outing” gay bishops?

Paul Johnson, of the University of York, published an interesting piece on the ECHR Sexual Orientation Blogspot asking Do Church of England ‘gay bishops’ have a human right not to be ‘outed’? in response to the news that Peter Tatchell is “considering outing gay C of E bishops who discipline gay clergy who marry”. You can read our take on it here.

The ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban

On a somewhat similar theme, we noted that after the further hearing. In R (Core Issues Trust Ltd) v Transport for London & Anor [2014] EWHC 2628 (Admin) Lang J had dismissed the claim, on the grounds that Boris Johnson, as Mayor, had not exercised his statutory power to issue any written instructions or directions to TfL on the advertisement and TfL made the decision not to run the advertisements. Though Mr Johnson had communicated a strongly-expressed opinion that the advertisements were offensive and should not appear on London buses he was not motivated by the improper purpose of seeking to advance his Mayoral election campaign” [para 143].

Are matters of doctrine justiciable?

We noted the recent Californian decision in Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St Mary of the Angels’ Parish v Anglican Church in America (CA App., July 23, 2014), in which the State Court of Appeal had to decide to what extent a dispute over control of a “continuing Anglican” parish could be resolved “resolved without reference to religious doctrine, and can instead be resolved by application of neutral principles of law”. The court decided that it could  very much in line with the recent Supreme Court judgment in Shergill & Ors v Khaira & Ors [2014] UKSC 33.

Mba v London Borough of Merton UKSC 2014/0031

It has only just come to our notice that leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused on 10 July on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time bearing in mind the facts as found by the Tribunal”.

Quick links

A few links to recent items that readers may wish to follow up:

Choosing diocesan bishops in the Church of England

As a follow-up to Women in the episcopate: legislation and its adoption, Peter Owen has kindly contributed the following guest post on the process of appointment to vacant Sees.  Peter is a former member of General Synod, is part of the teams that publish Thinking Anglicans and Anglicans Online and has his own web site. He was member of the Liverpool Vacancy in See Committee at the time of the last two vacancies.

This is a summary of the process; for more details see, in particular, the Briefing for Members of Vacancy in See Committees [1]. At the time of writing only men can be bishops so I have referred to then as “he”. I speculate at the end on how soon this will need to be changed to “he or she”.

Key Players

1. Vacancy in See Committee

 This is a standing committee of the diocese. It includes senior clergy (suffragan bishop(s), dean, two archdeacons), the diocesan members of General Synod, the chairs of the diocesan houses of clergy and laity, lay and clergy members elected by the diocesan synod, and up to four members nominated by the bishop’s council.

2. The Crown Nominations Commission

The membership is the two archbishops and three clergy and three laity, elected by STV (single transferable vote) for five-year terms from and by, respectively, the houses of clergy and laity of the General Synod [2]. In addition the vacancy in see committee elects six of its members to join the Commission for the consideration of their particular vacancy.

The membership for vacancies at Canterbury and York is slightly different. An additional lay member is appointed to chair the CNC, and for Canterbury there is also a representative of the Anglican Communion.

 3. The Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments (ASA) [3] and the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary for senior ecclesiastical appointments.

The ASA, currently Caroline Boddington, is secretary to the CNC. Amongst other tasks she maintains a list of people recommended as suitable for senior appointments by their diocesan bishops. Those recommended are asked to supply a personal statement and the names of three referees.

4. The Prime Minster

5. Her Majesty the Queen, who always takes the advice of her Prime Minister.

The Process

1. The current bishop announces his retirement. This may be several months in advance.

2. The Vacancy in See Committee meets on at least two occasions and (a) prepares a description of the diocese and a Statement of Needs, and (b) elects six of its members to join the Crown Nominations Commission for the consideration of their vacancy. Of these six at least three must be lay, and at most one of the senior clergy may be elected. The committee may, if it wishes, consult within the diocese before preparing the statement of needs. Typically a sub-committee prepares a draft statement before the full committee agrees the final version.

3. In parallel with the proceedings of the Vacancy in See Committee, the two appointments secretaries consult widely in the diocese, both within the Church of England, and more widely with ecumenical partners, other denominations, local government, civic authorities, etc. They also attend the first meeting of the Vacancy in See Committee. A notice of the vacancy in placed in the church press and people can send in comments and suggested names to the appointments secretaries. A summary of these consultations is given to the CNC.

4. The ASA draws up a list of potential candidates. Members of the CNC can ask for other names to be added to the list. There is a deadline for this, which is several weeks before the first CNC meeting.

5. The archbishops prepare a statement setting out the needs of the Church of England as a whole

6. The CNC holds two meetings in private, about a month apart. The meeting is chaired by the archbishop of the province with the vacancy. The Commission also conducts business by correspondence, both before and after the first meeting.

7. At its first meeting the CNC reviews the requirements of the diocese and the national church, and draws up a shortlist of candidates to be interviewed. Typically four people are invited for interview.

8. At the second meeting the shortlisted candidates are interviewed. The CNC then chooses two names to submit to the Prime Minister. Both of the names submitted must receive the support of two-thirds of the members, voting in a secret ballot. Because the six diocesan members are more than a third of the membership they can, if they all vote the same way, effectively veto any candidate. When the two names have been identified, a further vote is taken, again by secret ballot, in order to allow the Commission’s members to express a preference between them. It is this vote which identifies the preferred name.

9. The archbishop sends the two names to the Prime Minister. Both the current and previous PMs have said that they will always choose the CNC’s preferred name.

10. The PM asks the CNC’s first preference if he will accept nomination.

11. If he does, he has a medical and DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service check, previously CRB), the Queen is advised and she formally nominates him to the see. If for any reason he is unable to accept nomination the position is offered to the CNC’s second preference.

12. The public announcement is made typically four to eight weeks after the CNC’s second meeting. Number 10 issues a press release, and the nominee is taken on a public tour of the diocese.

13. The Queen issues instructions to the College of Canons of the cathedral of the vacant see to elect a bishop. She also tells them whom to elect. The College holds its election in private and then announces the result publicly.

14. The election then has to be confirmed by the Archbishop of the Province or by his Vicar-General on his behalf. Once these proceedings have confirmed that everything has been done correctly, the person elected becomes the bishop of the diocese.

15. If the new bishop is not already in episcopal orders he is consecrated shortly after the confirmation of his election.

16. The new bishop pays homage to the Queen. This can only happen when the Queen is in England, and her annual two-month summer stay in Scotland can sometimes cause a delay.

17. Finally the new bishop starts his public ministry with a grand, but largely symbolic, enthronement in the cathedral.

Europe

Arrangements are different in the Diocese of Europe, since its bishop is not a crown appointment.

Comment

The main constraint on the timetable is the CNC . The Commission fixes dates for six pairs of meetings per year [4], and vacancies are generally allocated to these dates in order of their announcement. At the time of writing the next vacant slot in their timetable is September/October 2015. Although there is nothing to prevent the process starting as soon as a bishop announces his retirement, in practice the early stages are scheduled backwards from the CNC meeting dates.

There are various deadlines for people to suggest names for consideration by the CNC, but the latest of these is the one for members of the CNC itself. In one recent case I understand this was two months before the first CNC meeting. I doubt that names of women would be accepted until they are legally able to become bishops, which will probably be on 17 November 2014.

The next CNC meetings are for St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (11 September and 15/16 October 2014) and Southwell and Nottingham (3 November and 2/3 December 2014), in each case too early to consider women.

The first diocese to have its CNC meetings after 17 November will be Gloucester (8 January and 19/20 February 2015) so it might be possible for women candidates to be considered. If a woman were to be chosen this would not be publicly known before March or April.

The next two dioceses (Oxford and Newcastle) will certainly be able to consider both women and men.

The process for choosing suffragan bishops is completely different [5]. The diocesan bishop makes the choice, although he consults widely. He is largely in control of the timetable. It is quite likely that some diocesans with suffragan vacancies are now moving slowly so that they can consider women candidates. Others may want to fill vacancies as quickly as possible because of the increase in their workload during the vacancy. But the timetable is such that a woman suffragan could be announced before the earliest possibility for a woman diocesan.

Peter Owen

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[1] Briefing for Members of Vacancy in See Committees

[2] Membership of the CNC

[3] Archbishops’ Advisers for Appointments and Development

[4] CNC dates

[5] Nomination Process for Suffragan Bishops

 

Religion and law round up – 27th July

With the Commons in recess and the summer holidays about to start, the next round-up will be published on 17 August, provided that there’s something to report . . . .

 . . . . however, we will continue to publish on the important developments in law and religion, and on Monday there will be a timely guest post from Peter Owen on the processes involved in the appointment of bishops.  Nevertheless, even we take holidays[1], and David will be holding the fort next week whilst Frank is away and will then be touring Normandy with the choir of SS Peter and Paul, Wantage.

Eid and Diwali as Bank Holidays

On Friday in Public holidays, religion and the law, we reviewed the sparsely attended Westminster Hall debate on whether Eid and Diwali should become bank holidays – they couldn’t become “common law”/public holidays.  We noted that the debate/government response did not provide the “positive answer” that MP Bob Blackman suggested the largest e-petition deserved; and  squeezing the debate into this odd spot, before MPs leave on their 5-week break, raises questions about the rigid bureaucracy associated with the e-petition system.  The debate was also reviewed by the NSS, for which its executive director, Keith Porteous Wood, said:

“Some of the UK’s public holidays have Christian (and before that, Pagan) associations, but in our secularized country are now celebrated as much by non-Christians as Christians. Any further public holidays granted on religious grounds will however prompt the next largest religion to demand its most revered days off, and then the next, which is unsustainable. Both the religious and non-religious should be able make arrangements to enjoy time off with their friends and family on days which are important to them. Schools and employers should be free to make their own arrangements as to what days they close, and presumably, reduce other annual leave entitlement and general holidays accordingly”.

Ecclesiastical Committee

The Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament met on 22 July to consider the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, following which Sir Tony Baldry reported on Twitter that it had been approved unanimously.  No formal report of the meeting is yet available, but there is a recording of the public part of their meeting, here.  For those not wishing to view this for the full for 1 hour 16 minutes, John Bingham of The Daily Telegraph has summarized aspects of the meeting in his article Church of England to use positive discrimination to boost women bishops.  There is a certain irony that the Church now has to justify the  future positive discrimination of women in the appointment process; and the new tranche of legislation which now contains provisions to accommodate the views of PCCs opposed to women in the episcopate; whereas its previous concerns in this area where the discrimination against women in the episcopate – all within the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.

Exclusive Brethren again

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR, or “Oscar” to its intimates) has confirmed the charitable status of two independent schools affiliated to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, otherwise the Hales Exclusive Brethren:  Focus School – Laurieston Campus and  Focus School – Millden Campus. OSCR paid particular attention to the Brethren community’s disciplinary practices of ‘shrinking’ or ‘excommunication’ and explored with the schools any consequences for a pupil whose parents were subject to the processes of shrinking or excommunication within the Brethren community. The charity trustees advised OSCR that shrinking and excommunication were used by the Brethren community in general only as a last resort and were not applied to children under the age of 17. Moreover, where a child’s parent or other family members were subject to shrinking or excommunication the child was still welcome at the school. On that basis, OSCR concluded that there were no unduly restrictive conditions on obtaining the benefit provided by the schools, nor was there evidence of disbenefit arising from their activities.

Coming as it does after the Charity Commission’s recent decision to register five meeting halls of the Exclusive Brethren in addition to Preston Down (which was registered in January), OSCR’s decision seems to end the uncertainty about the charitable status of the Exclusive Brethren – at least for the moment.

The murky world of marginal employment

Partly as a result of a query that Frank received, we published a note on.the rather confused status of church-workers who are not office holders or employees on standard contracts of employment. This is an issue that becomes more complicated by the month; and the only sensible conclusion is to be extremely careful when entering agreements to take on interns or similar and to remember that in case of a dispute courts and tribunals will look at the factual situation and the intentions of the parties, whatever they may have put in writing and whatever they may have thought they might have agreed.

And we’re still waiting to see what the Court of Appeal will make of Sharpe.

Halal food in French prisons?

Last November the administrative tribunal in Grenoble ruled that Saint-Quentin-Fallavier prison must begin serving halal meals in its canteen, citing French laws guaranteeing “free exercise of religion” and Article 9 ECHR after an appeal by a Muslim inmate. It was the first time that a court or tribunal had ruled that a prison must provide food in accordance with inmates’ religious beliefs and was hailed as “a major breakthrough” by the lawyer acting for the applicant.

But not for long. The Conseil d’Etat suspended execution of the judgment pending an appeal and on Tuesday the Cour Administrative d’Appel of Lyons annulled the direction to serve halal meals in prison. In justification, the court argued that

“… taking into account the opportunity for detainees to benefit from meals without pork or vegetarian meals, the availability of suitable food at major festivals and the ability to buy halal meat through the canteen, a balance was struck between the needs of the public service and the rights of detainees in religious matters”.

One for Strasbourg, perhaps?

Quick Links

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

And finally (with Yahoo) . . . . .

The Washington Post reports that Yahoo Japan has launched service to delete users’ files and send email to their relatives when they die.  It explains that in Japan, preparing for major events in life has become an institution: “shukatsu,” when seeking a new job; “konkatsu,” when looking to get married; and “ninkatsu,” for when hoping to become pregnant.  Recently, Yahoo has launched the “Yahoo Ending”[2] a service directed at the problems encountered by families who lack the passwords or legal authority necessary to close down the Facebook or other online accounts of relatives who have died.

When users register for this service, which costs $1.80 a month, they receive a booking number to share with someone they trust and when they die, that person calls a Yahoo Ending number and provides the booking number, and then the deceased’s funeral preferences are shared.  The funeral home sends the cremation permit to Yahoo to trigger the sending of e-mails and the deletion of files.

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[1] However, anyone coming across Four Weddings and a Fumarole will realize that over the last few years, David’s annual walking holiday in Italy has been accompanied by a short post on another site.

[2] “shukatsu”: pronounced the same but written differently in Japanese from the job-searching term.