Canterbury Cathedral: Freemasons Service

On 18 February 2017, Canterbury Cathedral held a service to celebrate the tercentenary of the formation of English Freemasonry. The compatibility of Freemasonry with Christianity is a source of continuing debate, and the private nature of this “all-ticket” event prompted media speculation and comment on its content. This post examines some of the concerns that were raised, a number of which suggested a need for the Church of England to revisit its relationship with Freemasonry, last considered by General Synod in 1987. Continue reading

IICSA: Public hearings begin

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has issued the following Press Release concerning the commencement of its public hearings on 27 February. The inquiry was set up in 2014 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, and it has been delayed by controversy on the choice of chairperson, and resignations of senior legal staff.  Continue reading

The CJEU and the ECtHR: an idiot’s guide

Five years ago we posted a piece entitled ‘Church and State III – the European dimension’. Perhaps the title was misleading, but some people still don’t seem to be able to understand the difference between the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, so the following is an updated version, without the references to freedom of religion and belief.

Introduction: the great divide

In the not-too-distant future, the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union and the UK will begin the process of withdrawal. EU law will cease to apply to the UK when the withdrawal agreement enters into force or two years after notifying the European Council of the intention to withdraw unless there is a unanimous agreement to extend the negotiations. The House of Commons Library has produced a helpful note on all this: see Brexit: how does the Article 50 process work?

Until 2019, however, we shall still be members of the EU – and the extent to which we shall be obliged to take account of judgments of the CJEU after Brexit is still something of an open question, depending on what kind of trade deals we negotiate. Likewise, it would appear that the Conservative Party might well include repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 and, possibly, withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights in its manifesto for the 2020 General Election. (Although it is possible that a General Election could be held before this date, under the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 that would raise a number of practical difficulties.)

As of now, we are still full members of both institutions; and what follows sets out the basic structure of the two major European institutions: the European Union (“EU”) and the Council of Europe (“CoE”). There also are other less well-known Europe-wide political institutions, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, but they are much less important terms of domestic law.

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Law and religion round-up – 26th February

Opposite-sex civil partnerships, RE, funny handshakes – and some of the media still don’t understand the difference between Brussels and Strasbourg…

Opposite-sex civil partnerships? Not yet

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their appeal against the Administrative Court’s refusal to review the Government’s policy on the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples: see Steinfeld & Anor v Secretary of State for Education [2017] EWCA Civ 81: we noted the decision here. Continue reading

Bristol Cathedral, Edward Colston and slavery

On 22 February, Bristol Cathedral issued the following Press statement in relation to press stories this week about the Colston Hall concert venue in Bristol, named after Edward Colston (1636-1721), who was a local wealthy merchant and was complicit in the slave trade. The Dean also gave an interview to Premier, here. Continue reading