The Bishop of the River of Hippopotamuses and the Archbishop of Cape Town

In a guest post, David Scrooby, an attorney of the Republic of South Africa, discusses a highly unusual recent case – the first of its kind in over 150 years… 

Introduction

The case of Bishop Mlibo Ngewu v The Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Ten Others [2016] ZAKZPHC 88 is about the first canonical trial of a Bishop in Southern Africa since that of Bishop Colenso in 1864. The judgment of Her Ladyship Sharmaine Balton J, handed down in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on 6 October 2016, may not have the impact of that of the Privy Council in 1865 (to which Colenso appealed) or the canonical depth of that of the South African Labour Court in Cape Town in Church of the Province of Southern Africa, Diocese of Cape Town v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others [2001] ZALC 141. However, the judgment is important in a number of respects. Continue reading

How not to depose an Anglican bishop in Australia: Slater

Background

The former Bishop of Grafton, Keith Slater, resigned on 17 May 2013 and retired to the Diocese of Brisbane. In 2015 under the terms of the Diocese of Grafton’s Professional Standards Ordinance 2004 (the “2004 Ordinance”), his successor, Bishop Sarah Macneil, deposed him “from Holy Orders in the Anglican Church of Australia” in accordance with the recommendation of the Professional Standards Board of the Diocese of Grafton [4]. The matter ultimately came before the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia, in Appeal of Keith Francis Slater [2017] 19 January. It’s an unusual judgment.

Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th November

A week in which everything else paled into insignificance beside… 

…Brexit: a spanner in the works

The big news of the week was that a max-strength Divisional Court of Queen’s Bench [Thomas LCJ, Etherton MR and Sales LJ] ruled in R (Miller & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) that the Government has no power under the Crown Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 process for withdrawal from the European Union without the prior approval of Parliament. Unsurprisingly, a Government spokesperson said that HMG was “disappointed” with the outcome. Equally unsurprisingly, the Government is to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Prime Minister said subsequently that she was “confident” that the Government would win the appeal. But presumably the Government was “confident” of winning at the initial hearing…

Subsequent events

Following the High Court ruling, a number of commentators have suggested that this could result in the Prime Minister calling a “snap election”. However, that possibility  is now governed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced by the Cameron administration; S2 requires the resolution of a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, or a motion for an early parliamentary election supported by two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons (including vacant seats). Furthermore, the option of repealling the 2011 Act is no simple matter, as explained by Lord Norton; he suggests that whilst this is possible, it is not necessarily simple, or politically feasible.

Barristerblogger, Professor Mark Elliott and others noted that In the wake of the dramatic Article 50 judgment, various Brexiteers have been venting their feelings. On 5 November, the Bar Council, the representative body of all barristers in England & Wales, passed a resolution calling on the Lord Chancellor to condemn the recent attacks on the judiciary. A measured summary of the situation has been produced by Harry Bingham, eldest son of the late Lord Bingham, in an open letter to Liz Truss.  A brief statement was issued by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday afternoon, but this stopped short of condemning attacks on senior judges over the Brexit ruling.

The Supreme Court has indicated that it will hear the government’s appeal over 4 days during the week of 5 December with a larger than usual panel of judges. We suspect that Ms Truss’s cursory dismissal of the media attacks will be further tested in the run-up to the UKSC hearing, and afterwards.

Abortion – or its absence – in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. On Wednesday, an appeal began in the Supreme Court against the judgment in R (A (A Child) & Anor) v Secretary of State for Health [2015] EWCA Civ 771, in which the appellants were a girl, A, and her mother, resident in Northern Ireland. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 4th September

A week dominated by headlines about ‘bouncers’ in churches (which we reported) and the C of E and sexuality (which we did not, until now) …

… and which, thankfully, marks the end of the “silly season” for news stories. However, St Chrysostom’s blog has provided us (and coincidentally, Thinking Anglicans) with one last example – Unusual names of the Anglo Catholic clergy – which complements its earlier On the names of Bishops.

Security in places of worship

Last week, National Churchwatch – a multi-faith organisation dedicated to reducing crime in places of worship – produced a helpful guidance note on Counter Terrorism Advice for Churches which caused some rather sensationalist reactions in the media: the Telegraph reported it as “Vicars told churches should have ‘bouncers’ due to terror fears”. There was also an element of confusion that it was advice from the Home Office – which it was not: the author is  Nick Tolson, Director of National Churchwatch, a former police officer who advises the Home Office’s places of worship security committee. But the headlines did make us start to wonder about the possibility of the Western Church restoring a redesigned Minor Order of “Doorkeeper and Bouncer”. We noted the guidance here.

Banning the burqa in the UK? Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 24th July

A week in which the Prime Minister put the finishing touches to her ministerial team, Brexit continued to dominate the headlines – and Parliament disappeared for the summer adjournment… 

Brexit

On Wednesday, David Allen Green (aka Jack of Kent) tweeted the following spoof exchange, the irony of which was lost on some readers:

  • Merkel: What does the UK actually want?
  • May: Brexit means Brexit.
  • [Pause.]
  • Merkel: You don’t know, do you?
  • [Pause.]
  • May: No.

Nevertheless, it does expose the confusion created by this meaningless phrase, on which we attempted to provide some enlightenment in our Monday post “Brexit means Brexit”, doesn’t it?  Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 17th July

A week of unexpected events, from the premature election of a new Prime Minister to the tragic deaths in Nice and those in the attempted coup in Turkey…

Brexit Basics 4

When it seemed as though there was little else to be said about Brexit and we were contemplating pulling the plug on “Brexit Basics”, the dynamics changed again as a result of the election of Theresa May as Conservative Party Leader on 13 July. The unexpected timing, the subsequent Prime Ministerial appointments in the new government and the proposed rearrangements in Whitehall have added further uncertainty to the proceedings. These will be covered in Brexit Basics 4, to be issued early next week along with the supplement “Brexit means Brexit”, doesn’t it? in which we attempt to throw some light on this question. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 5th June

Opposite-sex civil partnerships: update

Readers may recall that, earlier this year, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan were unsuccessful in their crowd-funded challenge to the restriction of civil partnerships by s 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to “two people of the same sex” [disclosure: Frank contributed to their appeal for funds]. We posted about the judgment in Steinfeld & Anor v The Secretary of State for Education [2016] EWHC 128 (Admin) at the time.

The couple have just announced that their appeal will be heard on 2 and 3 November. Presumably, judgment will be handed down at some time early in the New Year: watch this space. Continue reading