Law and religion round-up – 11th February

A week in which General Synod welcomed plans for mutual recognition of ministries with the Methodist Church – and the Masons got their aprons in a twist…

Anglicans and Methodists

The Church of England General Synod has voted in favour of a motion welcoming the joint report, Mission and Ministry in Covenant, co-written by the two Churches’ faith and order bodies and published last year, which sets out proposals for intercommunion and the interchange of presbyteral ministries. Continue reading

“Public health funerals” and “direct cremation”

A little known, but long-established area of funeral legislation that is becoming increasingly relevant

The parliamentary research paper on Key issues for the new Parliament 2015 identified Funerals and burial space as an important issue in the area of social change which should be addressed by the incoming administration. The paper noted that

“[t]he costs of a basic funeral have nearly doubled over the past ten years. Meanwhile, space for burials is becoming increasingly scarce. Can people afford the cost of dying, and even if they can, will there be space for a burial if this is what they choose?”

It cited a report published by the University of Bath in 2014 which found a small but notable increase in demand for “public health funerals” and commented that “[i]n light of ongoing issues with the Funeral Payments scheme, there is concern that local authorities may be required to provide more Public Health Funerals as the number of deaths per year rises”.

This post reviews the legislation associated with “public health” funerals (sometimes referred to, incorrectly, as “pauper’s funerals”), and the related, but much more recent practice of “direct cremation” or “direct disposal”. Continue reading

Jehovah’s Witnesses and discrimination: JWs Association v Turkey

The background

In Jehovah’s Witnesses Association and Ors v Turkey [2016] ECHR 453 the facts were as follows. For many years, the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in İzmir and Mersin had been allowed to worship in private premises. The authorities in both cities then decided to close down their prayer rooms on the grounds that the Urban Planning Act (Law no. 3194) prohibited worship in premises that were not designated for that purpose and imposed certain conditions on the building of places of worship. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 17th April

A week during which names seem to have been a recurring theme…

Are there limits to what a parent can name a child?

“Yes!” said the Court of Appeal, in a very complex judgment of which this is only a very brief taster. The twins in C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 374 “were said to have been conceived as a result of rape and there [was] no known respondent father” [4]. Their mother, who has a long-standing diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia [5], wanted to call the boy “Preacher” (which she described as “a strong spiritual name”) and the girl “Cyanide” (which she described as “a lovely pretty name”) [12].

The Court was having none of it and dismissed the appeal from the Family Court. King LJ concluded that this was “one of those rare cases where the court, in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction, should intervene to protect the girl twin from the emotional harm that I am satisfied she would suffer if called ‘Cyanide'” [109]. She concluded that, though there was nothing inherently objectionable about the name “Preacher”, “the girl twin’s welfare can only met by neither she nor her brother having the names chosen for them by their mother” [115]. And quite right too.

New Lord Justice Clerk

Lady Dorrian is to be the new Lord Justice Clerk in succession to Lord Carloway, who recently became Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session. Continue reading

Legal protection for historic Welsh churches

New legislation in Wales to protect the historic environment

On 9 February, the Welsh Assembly passed the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill which is now in the four week post-stage 4 period of intimation (10 February – 8 March) in relation to the Assembly’s legislative competence in this area [1]. The Bill was introduced following extensive engagement and consultation with a view to making important amendments to the two principal pieces of legislation – the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – while also introducing some stand-alone provisions. Continue reading

Unpopular decision to prevent Leakey situation

Consistory court examines subsidence from trees where local council has responsibility for a closed churchyard

Nothing to do with roofs and guttering, but the potential liability in tort for events caused by nature where no human activity was involved, as in Leakey & Ors v National Trust [1979] EWCA Civ 5, [1980] QB 485; i.e. a situation similar to that to which we referred regarding the landslip from St Mary’s churchyard, Whitby. As with the recent news item on removing “rough sleepers” who had set-up camp in St Giles’ churchyard, Oxford, the case of Re Christ Church Lye [2015] Worcester Const Ct Charles Mynors Ch highlights another of the lesser known duties of local councils who have taken responsibility for the “care and maintenance” of a closed churchyard under section 215 Local Government Act 1972. Continue reading

Is a church a “community asset”? – redundant churches and the Localism Act 2011


The provisions of Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 require local authorities to keep a list of “community assets”: buildings or other land of community value. Local groups may nominate a building or other land for listing by the local authority as an asset of community value; and it can be listed if a principal (“non-ancillary”) use of the asset furthers (or has recently furthered) their community’s social well-being or social interests (which include cultural, sporting or recreational interests) and is likely to do so in the future.

The purpose of the legislation is to give local community groups a fairer chance to make a bid to buy a listed asset on the open market when it is to be sold. Generally speaking, an owner intending to sell a community asset must give notice of the proposed sale to the local authority and a community interest group then has six weeks in which to ask to be treated as a potential bidder: if it does so, the sale cannot take place for six months. The theory is that this period, known as “the moratorium”, will allow the community group to come up with an alternative proposal – though at the end of the moratorium it is entirely up to the owner whether or not a sale goes through, to whom and for how much. There are arrangements for the local authority to pay compensation to an owner who loses money in consequence of the asset being listed.

In General Conference of the New Church v Bristol City Council (Localism Act 2011) [2015] UKFTT CR 2014 0013 (GRC) the property in dispute was a church and adjoining land used by the Bristol Society of the New Church, a denomination based on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Continue reading