Incense in worship not caught by Psychoactive Substances Bill

An earlier post noted the potential criminalisation of the liturgical use of incense, as identified by Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab) during the report stage in the House of Lords of the Psychoactive Substances Bill. We updated the story here. In the course of the day-job I sent a memorandum on behalf of the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which was about to consider the Bill, asking the Committee to see clarification on the point. The Association of English Cathedrals did the same.

The Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, has now replied, assuring us that it is not the Government’s intention to criminalise the use of incense in worship. Continue reading

Caste discrimination again: Tirkey v Chandhok & Anor

Success for Claimant leaves the issue of caste unresolved

The previous proceedings

In Chandhok & Anor v Tirkey (Race Discrimination) [2014] UKEAT 0190 14 1912, about which we posted in December, Ms Tirkey had claimed that the Chandhoks had treated her badly and in a demeaning manner and initially sought “compensation for direct or indirect race discrimination and harassment including injury to feelings” and “compensation for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, including injury to feelings…”. She then claimed (by amendment) that her treatment was in part because of her low status which was “infected with considerations of caste”.

When the Chandhoks applied to strike out this amendment Langstaff J, sitting alone, concluded that though “caste” as an autonomous concept did not presently come within s 9(1) of the Equality Act, many of the facts relevant in considering caste in many of its forms might be capable of doing so, since “ethnic origins” in s 9(1)(c) had a wide and flexible ambit, including characteristics determined by “descent”; and it became common ground during the argument that it was possible that the facts found in hearing Ms Tirkey’s claim might come within the scope of that phrase. He held that

“… since the facts which the Claimant promises to establish if her claim is made out could come within section 9(1) of the Equality Act, a pleading to that effect cannot properly be struck out without hearing and determining the full facts. Employment Judge Sigsworth [at the original Employment Tribunal hearing] was right so to determine” [54].

The recent proceedings

A differently-constituted Employment Tribunal (Employment Judge Ord, Mr J Ruddick & Mr M Reuby) returned to the matter in Tirkey v Chandhok & Anor [2015] ET 3400174/2013.

Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 27th September

Faculties (& total ignorance), copyright, sharia, toe-curling church music – and that news story: a mixed week

Bishops in the House of Lords

House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30 pm. Bishop Rachel’s details are here. The new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, will take the place vacated by the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, who retires next week after forty years of ministry.

Bishop Christine’s Confirmation of Election Service took place after Evensong at York Minster on 22 September; the Consecration Service will be held on 30 November at York Minster; and the Inauguration Service in the Diocese of Newcastle will be held at St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle on Saturday 12 December.

Further examples of clergy disregard for faculty jurisdiction

The cases reviewed in our September round-up of consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations all contained examples of clergy disregard for the faculty jurisdiction, to a greater or lesser degree, and all involved works under the provisions of an archdeacon’s licence. In Re St Peter & St Paul Bassingbourn [2015] Ely Const Ct, David Etherington Ch temporary changes under an archdeacon’s licence resulted in “Heath Robinson” arrangements for screen and projector, the latter “[sitting] on a dinner tray set on top of a temporary board placed on top of the pews”, and poor electrical installation for which “a hole cut in the Rood Screen with exposed cabling [was] but one example”.

A strong message was sent by Chancellor Mark Hill QC to the diocese in the judgment Re St Thomas Sutton-in-Craven [2015] West Yorkshire & The Dales Const Ct Mark Hill Ch, which concluded:

“This judgment is disproportionately lengthy for what is a relatively straightforward petition. It has thrown up several procedural matters, the exploration of which may not have been dispositive, but they have been addressed and explained as way marks in the legal landscape in which the consistory court of the newly-formed diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales must operate, in common with every other diocese in the Church of England.”

Complete disregard for the faculty jurisdiction resulted in a censure for the priest and PCC in Re St Bartholomew Kirby Muxloe [2015] Leicester Const Ct David Rees Dep Ch but as in the other cases, one wonders whether these situations would have arisen had there been the “rigorous enforcement … expected from archdeacons.”


Coincident with David handing over his PCC copyright responsibilities this week was the news from the US District Court in California in relation to the song frequently sung, impromptu, at the end of Mass and on all sorts of other ecclesiastical occasion, “Happy Birthday”: see Rupa Marya et al v Warner Chappell Music Inc, et al US Dist CV04460 (CD Cal) 2015. As Jack of Kent points out, Continue reading

Consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations – September

Chancellor warns new diocese on strict compliance with ecclesiastical law, priest; PCC censured for disregard of faculty provisions; unsatisfactory “Heath Robinson” measures introduced under archdeacon’s licence; and new lighting schemes for two cathedrals

Relatively few judgments and determinations have been announced this month. However, on 16 September the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered a written question from Mark Hendrick MP about regulations relating to churchyards in Blackburn Diocese: “which Church of England dioceses have published regulations on monuments on burial plots and inscriptions on gravestones; which dioceses (a) allow and (b) do not allow nicknames on gravestones; which dioceses allow monuments; which dioceses (i ) allow and (ii) do not allow pictorial etchings on gravestones; and which dioceses (A) allow and (B) do not allow freestanding containers on burial plots, [9765]”.

Mrs Spelman informed Mr Hendrick that the information requested is not held centrally, and while there is central guidance available, each Diocese and Parish applies the regulations to their local circumstances. In relation to their local application, he was directed to the Diocesan Registrar for Blackburn and to the Diocesan guide to the churchyard regulations, [page 4].

Had such a request been made under the Freedom of Information Act, it is likely that it would have been refused on the grounds that dealing with it would have cost too much and/or taken too much staff time. However, the inquiry does raise the question of why it is necessary for each of the Church’s 40 UK dioceses to produce its own version of the central guidance “to suit local circumstances”, when such issues are more likely to be relevant at parish rather than diocesan level. Continue reading

The future of civil partnership in Scotland

Yesterday saw the launch of an on-line consultation on the future of civil partnership in Scotland. The publication, Review of Civil Partnership – A consultation by the Scottish Government, follows the coming into force of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 and the introduction of same-sex marriage. The options under consideration are:

  • no change, with civil partnerships remaining available to same-sex couples only; or
  • changing the law so that no new civil partnerships could be entered into in future; or
  • introducing opposite-sex civil partnership.

Continue reading

Rachel Treweek: Introduction to Lords

The House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, The Lord Bishop of Gloucester will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30pm.

Details of Bishop Rachel currently on the Parliamentary web site are: Continue reading