Law and religion round-up – 14th May

Reciprocal heresy trials”, an episcopus vagans and Matthew 6:3

At the end of a week of fast-moving events following the consecration in Newcastle of the Revd Jonathan Pryke as a “bishop in the Church of God” by the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA), here, here, and elsewhere, we are left with little clarity on how events will be progressed by GAFCON, GAFCON-UK, AMiE or even the Church of England, which – no doubt wisely – has adopted a low-key approach to the situation.

The piecemeal release of statements &c has been followed by commentators, and many identifying themselves as evangelicals have been critical of the initiative and of the organizations concerned: Order! Order!”: Reflections on The Jesmond Consecration, Andrew Goddard, FulcrumShould evangelicals be embarrassed by Newcastle?, Ian Paul/Peter Carrell, Psephizo; and Why now? The deeply strange timing of the renegade conservative Anglicans, Andy Walton, Christian Today. Legal issues have been addressed by Andrew Goddard’s observations, supra, and Philip Jones’ piece A Rogue Bishop.   

[Update: This evening, Thinking Anglicans included a copy of the Q and A document handed out in the morning at Jesmond Parish Church about its reasons for the episcopal consecration. Legal issues are not addressed, although it states inter alia [emphasis added]:

“such [New Style] bishops need to be faithful to 1) the biblical miracles of the virginal conception of Jesus and his Resurrection and empty tomb; 2) the biblical ethic that sex should be reserved for lifelong heterosexual monogamous marriage; and 3) the biblical principle that means bishops should be male – all issues in the North East in recent years“.

[…]

“the aim is not to create a new denomination. No! This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation. This is not a step of ‘leaving the Church of England’ It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have ‘left the Church of England’ doctrinally. This is a step to preserve the Church of England’s heritage and mission which we have received”.]

A report in Christian Today on 9 May commented, “The Archbishop of York … is being kept informed but is yet to make a formal response”. We await developments with interest.

More about bishops

Following its final meeting in Dublin in 2016, Members of the Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers held a reunion at the Venerable English College in Rome on Wednesday evening 10th May. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 18th December

Brexit, Brexit, yet more Brexit, IICSA soldiers on – and the Joint Committee on Human Rights turns a beady eye on suspending the ECHR in times of conflict

Brexit

Robert Craig, of the LSE Law School, has produced an extraordinarily helpful summary of the proceedings before the UKSC in Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union:

  • Day 1: Initial Statement and the Attorney General.
  • Day 2: James Eadie QC, the Advocate General for Scotland, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and Lord Pannick QC.
  • Day 3: Lord Pannick QC, Dominic Chambers QC, David Scoffield, Ronan Lavery QC and the Lord Advocate.
  • Day 4: the Lord Advocate, Richard Gordon QC, Helen Mountfield QC, Manjit Gill QC, Patrick Green QC, Advocate-General for Scotland and James Eadie QC.

Brexit – II

Whilst government continues to struggle with the meaning of “Brexit”, the word has now entered the Oxford English DictionaryContinue reading

Religious circumcision and parental consent: L & B

Background

In L and B (Children: Specific Issues: temporary leave to remove from the jurisdiction; circumcision) [2016] EWHC 849 (Fam), AB was the father of two boys, L and B, aged 6 and 4¾. Their parents were never legally married, though they went through an Islamic marriage ceremony in January 2009. The relationship broke down in 2012: the father had not formed another relationship but the mother had a new partner with whom she had a two-year-old daughter.

The father had the children to stay on alternate weekends and sought to extend his contact time so as to move towards sharing their care more equally. He also sought permission to remove them temporarily from the jurisdiction of England and Wales, envisaging that they would travel regularly to Algeria in order to benefit from knowing both sides of their extended families and cultures. He offered a formal undertaking to the court to return the children to the jurisdiction at the end of each such period of contact and his sister offered to put in place a bond of £50,000 against him defaulting in his obligation to do so [30 & 31]. Finally, he asked for the court’s permission to allow the children to be circumcised under local or general anaesthetic, Continue reading

UN Special Rapporteur on children, parents and freedom of religion or belief

The UN has published the latest report of its Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on “the rights of the child and his or her parents in the area of freedom of religion or belief”.

He begins by noting that Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognises the child as a rights holder of freedom of religion or belief and that it should be understood “in continuity with all other international standards of freedom of religion or belief”, including Article 18 UDHR, Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. His principal theme is that children, too, have the right to respect for their religions and beliefs:

“Parents have the rights and duties to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her freedom of religion or belief in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child” [emphasis added].

In an accompanying press statement he points out that, as in other matters, the interests of parents and children in the area of freedom of religion or belief are not necessarily identical. His specific conclusions are as follows: Continue reading

PACE resolution on Freedom of religion and living together in a democratic society

On 30 September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] (not to be confused with the European Parliament) agreed a Resolution on freedom of religion: the report on which it was based is available here. The Resolution noted the renewed importance of religion in European societies but expressed great regret and anxiety that the growth of non-European faiths gave rise to “tensions, lack of understanding and suspicion, and even to xenophobic attitudes, extremism, hate speech and the most despicable violence”. It noted that freedom of thought, conscience and religion was an established, universal and inviolable human right under the UDHR and the ECHR and, as such, “non-negotiable”. Continue reading

Religion and Law round-up – 25th January

Although the “zombie Parliament” had time to progress some religion law, it’s been a very bad week for the DCLG and a somewhat mixed one for the Archbishop of York

Progress of legislation

The latest claims that the coalition government’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 had created a “zombie Parliament” came from Baroness Boothroyd, Commons Speaker between 1992 and 2000, who referred to it is as “an act of irresponsibility” that had led to MPs sitting around waiting for the election.  The BBC states that MPs sat for just 44% of weekdays over the past year, and only 11 new bills have been introduced in this Parliamentary session – the second lowest in recent history[1]. During this week, however, there has been progress on a number of items of religion law.

On 16 January the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill, a private Member’s bill introduced with tacit Government support that aims to put beyond doubt the power of local councils to begin meetings with prayer, had a fairly brief report stage and third reading in the Commons. No amendments were made and it now goes to the Lords.

On 19 January the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill went through all its Commons stages in one day and was sent to the Lords: the Hansard report of the debate starts here. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 12 February.

In the House of Lords, three Church Measures presented for Royal Assent were considered on 22 January – Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure; Ecclesiastical Property Measure; and Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Measure. There were accepted by the House and now proceed to the House of Commons for consideration.

Department of Communities and Local Government

In terms of its stated policy “Bringing people together in strong, united communities”, DCLG has not had a good week. Continue reading

Religion and law round up – 27th April

Inevitably a fairly quiet week, dominated by the PM’s views on cultural Christianity and complaints about the lousy soundtrack on Jamaica Inn

A Christian country?

We have studiously avoided posting on the recent dispute about whether or not the United Kingdom (or, as people who should know better nevertheless insist on calling it, “Britain”) is a Christian country. We’ve kept quiet partly on the grounds that if it is a law & religion issue it’s a fairly marginal one, partly because it’s a matter of debate rather than fact, partly because some of the key documents are behind various paywalls – and partly because we’ve no reason to suppose that anyone would be interested in our views on the matter anyway. Following, however, is what we hope is a useful (and balanced) selection of links to some of the main contributions to the discussion:

But for a dispassionate judicial view we cannot do better than to refer readers to the speech by Sir James Munby P on Law, Morality and Religion in the Family Courts. In light of the above it bears re-reading.

Foodbanks, human rights and the PM Continue reading