Law and religion round-up – 4th February

The week in which Rose Wild gave the blog a name-check (£, alas) in The Times…

…but we can give you unlimited free access to our original post, Paganism, religion and human rights.

Education and social cohesion and HM Chief Inspector

On Thursday, Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, made a speech at the conference of the Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership. Perhaps her major concern was the need to ensure that schools upheld “fundamental British values” and equality. She called for “a muscular liberalism” that had “no truck for ideologies that want to close minds or narrow opportunity”. We summarised her speech here, to which the CofE Press Release of the conference made only passing reference.

Marriage certification

You wait 182 years for a mother’s name to be included on the statutory marriage certificate, and then it appears in three Bills within the same parliamentary session. The Marriage Act 1836 provided the statutory basis for regulating and recording marriages and since it was introduced, there have been a number of calls for the inclusion of the mother’s name. A Commons Library briefing paper provides information about the various calls for details of both parents of the bride and groom to be included in marriage registration in England and Wales. Different legislation and marriage registration systems apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Three Private Members Bills have been introduced in the current Parliamentary session, two in the House of Commons and one in the House of Lords. The Registration of Marriage (No.2) Bill 2017-19 and the Registration of Marriage Bill [HL] 2017-19 are in similar terms (and also in the same terms as the Private Member’s Bill introduced by Edward Argar in the 2016-17 Parliamentary session). The Home Office has prepared Explanatory Notes for the Registration of Marriage (No.2) Bill 2017-19, which was presented to Parliament by Dame Caroline Spelman on 14 November 2017.  Both bills would enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to amend other legislation governing marriage registration with the intention of changing the way in which marriages are registered in England and Wales. There would be a move from a paper-based system to registration in an electronic register. The Bill would enable changes to be made to the register entry, now and in the future, and would facilitate inclusion of mothers’ details. The Government considers that this would create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records.

The third Private Member’s Bill in the current session is the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 2017-19, introduced by Tim Loughton (Conservative), which goes much wider. Explanatory Notes have been prepared by the Home Office with the consent of Tim Loughton and there is further information in a separate Commons Library analysis: Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill (CPB 08217, 1 February 2018). The Bill was given a second reading on 2 February and Tim Loughton has agreed to incorporate the contents of the other two bills on registration during the committee stage. The Government expressed support for an amended version of the bill: we noted the second reading debate here.

Equal marriage in Jersey

On 1 February, equal marriage legislation was passed by the States of Jersey with politicians voting 42 votes to 1, with one abstention. Changes were approved to the Marriage and Civil Status (Jersey) Law 2001, paving the way for gay couples to get married in Jersey. Additionally, the amended law will:

  • make it significantly easier for people to organise their wedding in Jersey, including overseas visitors who want to get married on the beaches and in the open air;
  • provide much better safeguards against sham and forced marriage, protecting people from potential harm and supporting immigration control; and
  • allow couples more choice about the music and content of their civil marriage ceremonies.

Significantly, Jersey politicians voted by 40 votes to five to reject a clause which would have permitted traders to refuse to serve same-sex couples if it was deemed incompatible with their religious beliefs. The amendment was put forward by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel as a result of views sought whilst reviewing the wide-ranging legislation put forward by the Chief Minister.

Anti-Semitic incidents on the increase

The International Business Times reports that, according to figures from the Community Security Trust (CST), there were 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the UK in 2017: the highest ever recorded by the monitoring group for a calendar year. The number of recorded violent assaults had risen by more than a third compared to 2016. The most common type of incident in 2017 involved verbal abuse randomly directed in public at visibly-Jewish people.

Data protection and privacy

Deutsche Welle reports that Advocate General Mengozzi has given an Opinion in an action brought by the Jehovah’s Witnesses against Finland in which the JWs assert that its members’ notes are gathered only individually and do not breach EU data protection rules. The Finnish authorities had found that JW members took notes on family members and the religious orientations of those visited without the individuals’ permission for use in later visits and the JWs brought the case after the Finnish data protection commission ruled that, under EU and Finnish privacy laws, the JWs could only record and process information on people to whom its members had spoken.

The text of the AG’s Opinion is not yet available on-line. It is not binding on the Court. [With thanks to Donlu D Thayer.]

Abortion referendum in Ireland

The Irish Government has agreed to hold a referendum at the end of May on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The Amendment inserted a new sub-section after section 3 of Article 40. The resulting Article 40.3.3° reads:

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Currently, abortion is only allowed when a woman’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that he will campaign for repeal and that the Government is to draft legislation in advance of the referendum which will provide for unrestricted access to abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy and in exceptional circumstances thereafter.

Jeremy Pemberton

Readers who have followed the story thus far will recall that Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who married his male partner, was unable to take up an appointment as chaplaincy and bereavement manager for Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust because the Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham revoked his Permission to Officiate and refused him an Extra Parochial Ministry Licence. He brought proceedings – unsuccessfully – in an Employment Tribunal, complaining of unlawful direct discrimination because of sexual orientation and/or marital status and of unlawful harassment related to sexual orientation. He was also unsuccessful on appeal to the EAT.

Last week, his case was heard by the Court of Appeal: judgment will presumably be handed down at some point after Easter.

Safeguarding and the Church of England

A further preliminary hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) into the Anglican church investigation took place on Tuesday 30 January, and a transcript of the proceedings is available.

An earlier CofE Press Release gave the background to the IICSA hearings:

“To date, there have been three preliminary hearings for the Church’s investigation in March and July 2016 and October 2017. These have laid out the approach that the Inquiry will be taking. It is expected that the hearing on Tuesday will provide further details of the first public hearing due to start on 5 March 2018 and is expected to last for three weeks, which will be a case study into the Diocese of Chichester. A further one-week hearing has been set for July into the Bishop Peter Ball case”.

The transcript to the recent preliminary hearing clarifies that “the inquiry is not going to examine the truth or substance of the allegations made concerning Bishop George Bell”, (page 26, lines 18 to 20). However, in view current disputes on the Church’s current approach to safeguarding, it is interesting to note that in her introductory comments, Ms Fiona Scolding, counsel to the IICSA investigation stated (page 5, lines 15 to 22):

“In line with other preliminary hearings, where it is necessary to do so, I will generally refer to those who have made allegations of sexual abuse as ‘complainants’, save where there has been a criminal trial which has resulted in a conviction or where the fact of abuse has otherwise been formally established, in which case the description ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ will be applied, depending upon the individual’s personal preference”.

Bishop Bell: on-going developments

In addition to noting the IICSA Preliminary Hearing on 30 January, a statement from Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop on safeguarding, included a link to an announcement from the National Safeguarding Team:

“new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations. The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments”.

Lord Carlile is reported to have said that it was “unwise, unnecessary and foolish to issue a press release in relation to something that remains to be investigated”. The Church’s handling of recent (and past events) concerning Bishop Bell will almost certainly be raised at General Synod next week.

Henry Brooke RIP

Sir Henry Brooke CMG, former Vice-President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal, a staunch defender of human rights, due process and the rule of law, tireless advocate for access to justice and author of one of the most interesting legal blogs on the Web, died last week after an unsuccessful heart operation. He was a fine man and the legal blogging community is very much the poorer for his passing.

On-line resources

This week Russell Sandberg tweetedlink to “some of the most useful online resources on Law and Religion collated for ‘Religious Studies Review’”. L&RUK is described as:

“This blog concentrates primarily on interactions between secular law and religion in the United Kingdom and Europe, though it occasionally reports on developments in other common law jurisdictions, mainly but not exclusively in the Commonwealth. It includes notes on recent cases and legislative developments, current news items, and occasional longer analytical posts”.

Can’t say fairer than that, though we were pleased when another commentator also liked the GSOH occasionally apparent in our posts.

Quick links

And finally…I

Meet South Africa’s ‘king of tombstone bling’ says the BBC. Looks like a suitable case for treatment by the faculty jurisdiction…

And finally…II

Prior to General Synod 8-10 February, Members have been circulated with a revised Code of Conduct, which Christian Today has interpreted as Brawling and abuse banned as Church of England’s synod told to play nicely. In a covering letter, however, there is the truthful but self-defeating disclaimer that the Business Committee has no legal power under the Standing Orders or the National Institutions Measure to enforce the Code, to sanction those who infringe it, or comment on actions &c of Synod Members in any arena outside the General Synod — Game on.

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