Law and religion round-up – 23rd April

A week dominated by…

…the General Election, June 2017

On 18 April we published a short post on the announcement by the Prime Minister of her intention to move a motion for an early election in the House of Commons on the following day, under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The House of Commons Library immediately published a helpful short guide to the election, and for anoraks, it answers the question: Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead? vide infra. The House of Commons Library has also produced a briefing on the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

On 12:57 pm on 19 April, the Prime Minister moved “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. [HC Hansard, 19 April Vol 624 Col 681]. After a 90-minute debate, the House divided: Ayes: 522; Noes: 13.  Continue reading

Campaigning by charities (and Churches) during elections

It has been confirmed that so-called “purdah”, the pre-election period during which there are restrictions on contacts with civil servants and campaigning by charities – which include religious charities, whether they are registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales or not – will begin tomorrow: Saturday 22 April. Continue reading

Monks’ charitable status challenged

Today, BBC Devon carried the story “Strip ‘violent wine’ monks of charity status, say secularists“; this states: “monks who make Buckfast tonic wine linked to violent crime in Scotland should be stripped of charitable status…The National Secular Society says the beverage made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon is harmful. Buckfast Abbey Trust does not pay tax on the income because it is a charity, which the society claims is an;abuse of the charitable system'”. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 9th April

“Egg-bound” thinking by Church and State this week…

… but un oeuf is un oeuf, and so no more egg-related puns. However, we certainly didn’t expect the CofE Easter story statement to be about the “Trinity of Chocolate” (Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry). It was left to Dr Michael Sadgrove, Dean Emeritus of Durham, to inject a degree of sanity into the Church’s position in his comments to the Church Times.

Gratefully accepting a gift-horse of a metaphor, the BHA described it as a storm in an eggcup; it was a gift to the cartoonists and bloggers, while Quakers might shed a silent tear for three businesses founded by Friends. Meanwhile, the willingness of Theresa May to wade into this media-generated nonsense emphasized her lack of action on weightier matters. David Tollerton, of Exeter University, suggests that the whole affair is redolent of “dog-whistle politics”: an undercooked mess that feeds English nationalism, while Esther McConnell, a direct descendant of John Cadbury, pointed out in a tweet that, as a Quaker, he didn’t celebrate Easter anyway.

A busy week in the courts Continue reading

Jehovah’s Witnesses lose appeal to block New Moston inquiry

In Tayo & Ors (Trustees of Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses) v Charity Commission for England and Wales [2017] UKUT 134 (TCC), the trustees of Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses lost their appeal against the First Tier Tribunal’s refusal in 2015 – which we noted at the time – to review the Charity Commission’s decision to open a statutory inquiry into the charity under s 46 Charities Act 2011. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 2nd April

We managed to avoid initiating or endorsing “fake news” on April Fool’s Day…

…although we did enjoy Bishop Paul Bayes’ tweet: “Anglican news: Sodor & Man annexes @LivDiocese. Bp of Warrington invokes Article 50. @paulbayes flees, demands Methodist/CofE citizenship“. However, at L&RUK we will continue to report on issues relating to Brexit, which has tended to attract “fake news” and misinformation from both sides.

Talking of which … Brexit

The Brexit process began on Wednesday, when the UK Ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, handed over the Prime Minister’s formal letter of notification under Article 50 TEU to the President of the European Council. Continue reading

Lords Select Committee on Charities publishes its report

The Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, Stronger charities for a stronger society, was published on Sunday 26 March 2017: you can access all the Committee’s documents here. The committee received 184 written submissions and took oral evidence from 52 witnesses. It also visited the Charity Commission and held three roundtable events outside London. As promised by its Chair, Baroness Pitkeathley, it produced one hundred conclusions and recommendations – though in the case of some of them words like “apple pie” and “motherhood” came to mind and I suspect that the people who produced the draft may have struggled slightly to reach the magic number. The Committee made 42 concrete recommendations, some of which are more obviously relevant to religious charities than others.

The recommendations

The most important recommendations for religious charities are as follows: references in brackets are to paragraph numbers in the Report.

Trusteeship, trustee skills and training Continue reading