Religion and law round up – 31st August

A week that saw Donald Tusk approved as the next EU president, a continuation of the domestic row about the ECHR – and L&RUK passing another milestone… 

Halal and shechita

On Thursday we again posted on the debate surrounding religious slaughter, following a report in The Times (£) that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb has called inter alia for experiments on stunning sheep and cattle in order to satisfy consumers of halal meat.  Although not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, the 16-page report is nevertheless an important document: it summarizes the results of the APPG’s Inquiry during which it receive oral and written evidence from a wide range of stakeholders such as industry experts: Shechita UK, the Halal Food Authority; veterinary professionals, the Farming Minister George Eustice and the European Commission.

The fact that it has been in the public domain since early August is perhaps a reflection of the balanced nature of its findings, to which we will probably return at a later date.  A more detailed summary is available here.

UK population statistics

Also on Thursday the the Office of National Statistics published the most recent data on the UK population in the period to the end of 2013: It includes annual estimates of the UK population by country of birth and nationality and annual statistics on live births, including the countries of birth for non-UK born mothers and fathers. For those interested in issues of religion and society it is extremely useful general background. It also confirms what many of us suspected: Polish is not far from overtaking Welsh as the second most widely-spoken language in the UK.

Human rights again

The low-level war of attrition over the Human Rights Act 1998 continues to rumble on. On Thursday The Times (£) published an interview with Lord Faulks QC, Minister of State for Justice, in which he told Frances Gibb that

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Latest UK Population Statistics

On 28 August, the Office of National Statistics published the most recent data relating to the aspects of the UK population in the period to the end of 2013.  Whilst not strictly a “law and religion” issue, these data underpin the analysis of various measures in this area, and the latest information includes: annual estimates of the UK population by country of birth and nationality; and annual statistics on live births, including the countries of birth for non-UK born mothers and fathers.  Of less relevance here are statistics relating to migration, also published on the same day, here and here. Continue reading

Halal and shechita in the news again

With apologies for being somewhat repetitious…

The Times reports (£) that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb has called for experiments on stunning sheep and cattle in order to satisfy consumers of halal meat. The Meat Trades Journal (which isn’t behind a paywall) reports that the Group:

“… suggests more research should be done in certain areas. The report highlights the measurement of pain in animals at the time of slaughter; concerns among religious groups that the bleed-out of the carcase is affected by stunning and whether there are methods of recoverable stunning that would be acceptable to some halal consumers, as areas which require further investigating”. Continue reading

Recent consistory court judgments; registry appointments and retirements

The issues raised in the first two of the following judgments are specifically addressed by the Canons of the Church of England: the unsuccessful petition in St Michael and All Angels Uffington, which sought to install a dual purpose table that could be used both as an altar and for the provision of more worldly refreshment; and St Michael and All Angels Edenham, where the repositioning of the font was the major concern.  In contrast, Re St. Helen Edlington and Re Ronald Carr deceased concern the application of Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] 299 and whether the particular circumstances in each meet any of the criteria that it laid down in relation to exhumation and re-interment. Continue reading

Religion and law round up – 24th August

Retrospect on a quiet week…

FCO and religious freedom

Further to the reply by Lord Wallace of Saltaire on 24 July (HL Deb Vol 755 cols 1324–8) to the debate on Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government how many officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are specifically focused on freedom of religion and for what percentage of their time; and what resources are specifically allocated for the promotion of Article 18 through United Kingdom diplomatic services. In Written Answers of 18 August 2013, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con) stated:

“Within the Human Rights and Democracy Department (HRDD), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has one full time Desk Officer wholly dedicated to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), who works closely with the Team Leader in the Equalities and Non-Discrimination Team, who themselves spend approximately 50% of their time on FoRB.  Additionally, the Head and the Deputy Head of HRDD spend approximately 5% and 20% respectively of their time on FoRB issues; one Human Rights Advisor spends 5% and one HRDD Communications Officer approximately 10%.

As FoRB is one of only six thematic human rights priorities for the FCO, a considerable number of other FCO officials in London and overseas are engaged directly on FoRB as part of their wider human rights work. Given that violations of FoRB can be closely associated with other threats to UK interests around the world, I cannot provide a precise figure for the total number of FCO officials working on FoRB, though the number is high and rising.

This year, seven FoRB projects around the world were approved and received total funding of £307,835”.

Treatment of cremation ashes

Following the publication of the report of the Infant Cremation Commission chaired by Lord Bonomy on infant cremation at Mortonhall, Edinburgh, reviewed here, the Scottish Government published its response in which it announced the establishment of a national investigation team to look into all the families’ allegations. The investigation team is to be headed by the former Lord Advocate, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini QC DBE, who also led the Mortonhall investigation. Prior to the publication of his report, Lord Bonomy noted emergence of further allegations regarding the joint cremation of babies and adults at Hazlehead Crematorium in Aberdeen. Last year, BBC Scotland revealed that no ashes had been offered to the families of infants cremated in Aberdeen over a five-year period, although the report indicated that an earlier council investigation had found no evidence of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, this week the BBC reported that a senior member of staff at an Aberdeen crematorium who was being investigated over its handling of babies’ ashes has lost his job. Continue reading

Same sex marriage statistics: 2014, Q1 & Q2

On 21 August, the Office of National Statistics, (ONS), released the first provisional statistics for same sex marriage in England and Wales between 29th March, the earlier date on which these marriages could be solemnized under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and 30th June 2014, which marks the end of Quarter 2.  The ONS release provides the following information: Continue reading

Recent consistory court judgments: reordering, extensions and building works

Re St John the Baptist Burford [2014] Oxford Cons Ct, Alexander McGregor Ch

The vicar, one of the churchwardens and the chairman of the PCC’s fabric committee petitioned the court for a faculty to authorise works associated with the extension of the church hall, (Warwick Hall), including: removal of two trees; relocation of memorials; removal and rebuilding gate post; alterations to churchyard wall; resurfacing of path. They subsequently applied to amend the petition to omit “alterations to churchyard wall” from the Schedule of works or proposals.  This was significant since a number of the objections to the scheme related to changes to the wall: the petitioners contended that although they still wished to carry out the works to the wall, these are not subject to the jurisdiction of the court: it is not situated on land that forms part of the churchyard or other curtilage of the church, but on land that belongs exclusively to the parochial church council as the owners of Warwick Hall. Continue reading