Law and religion round-up – 7th February

“Brexit”, an unexpected snag in the Ashers Bakery case, further documentation on the George Bell saga – and an impending drought at the House of Commons?

In or out?

Much the biggest news of the past week was the draft proposal circulated by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, in response to the UK’s request for renegotiation of the terms of its EU membership. It will be considered in detail by the 27 other members states ahead of the European Council meeting on 18-19 February.

“Gay cake” row remains unresolved

On Wednesday the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland announced that the appeal against DJ Brownlie’s judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor [2015] NICty 2 has been adjourned for three months, following a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, on the issue of compatibility between Northern Ireland’s equality legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights. At a short hearing in the Court of Appeal Morgan LCJ, in a polite judicial understatement, described the lateness of the intervention as “most unfortunate”.

For a thoughtful reflection on the issue see Nick Spencer of Theos: Storm in a Gay Cake Tin. We aren’t sure we agree with him but, as Frank observed elsewhere, the balance between free speech and hate/offensive speech is an incredibly difficult one to strike – and it’s not clear we’ve managed to strike it yet. Continue reading

Ashers Bakery appeal (aka the “gay cake case”) adjourned to 9 May

The appeal against DJ Brownlie’s judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor [2015] NICty 2 has been adjourned for three months, following a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC.

Last year, the Belfast County Court found that customer Gareth Lee had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation when Ashers Bakery rejected an order from Mr Lee for a cake bearing the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 17th January

Round-up of a very quiet week – unless you were an Anglican Primate… 

Anglican Primates’ Meeting 2016

This week 37 Primates from the Anglican Communion met at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury for Primates 2016, “an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues face to face [including] a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion and deciding together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference”. The agenda was set by common agreement, and it was anticipated that this would include the issues of religiously-motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment and human sexuality. The announcement on the establishment of a common date for Easter, below, was unexpected.

In view of the sensitive nature of the discussions, no reports on the progress of the meetings were released, although the text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address was made available on Vanguard, a Nigerian website; and a statement from the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagali, on his reasons for leaving the Primates’ conference after two days, which was contained in a letter to his Church, was published online on Thursday. Continue reading

Law & Religion 2015 and 2016: retrospect and prospect

So that was 2015…


The General Election 2015

Inevitably, the biggest domestic news of 2015 was the outcome of the general election: a Conservative Government with an overall majority, a rout for the Liberal Democrats and a landslide for the SNP, which won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. The result raised several issues generally relevant to some of what we cover in this blog: the future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the domestic applicability of the ECHR, the UK’s future (or not) as a member of the EU and law reform generally.

After a Government defeat in the House of Lords following a debate on secondary legislation during which the Lords Spiritual played an important part, Lord Strathclyde was asked in October to consider “how to secure the decisive role of the House of Commons in relation to its primacy on financial matters and secondary legislation”. His recommendations were published in December.

Assisted dying

On Friday 11 September the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill, a private Member’s bill introduced by Rob Marris to mirror Lord Falconer’s bill in the House of Lords, was debated on second reading. It was defeated by 330 votes to 118: a majority of 212. That probably settles the matter for the remainder of the present Parliament.

Clergy employment Continue reading

Military Chapels and same sex marriage

Slow progress in this area was anticipated by both Houses when the Regulations were debated last year

On 7 December, Madeleine Moon (Bridgend)(Lab) asked the following “Named day” question on religious buildings on military bases, [18992]:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many military chapels there are in England and Wales; and how many such chapels are registered to conduct (a) same-sex and (b) other marriages”.

In reply, the Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces), Penny Mordaunt, (Portsmouth North) (Con) answered on 14 December:

“There are 190 military chapels in England and Wales registered for marriages under the rites of Church of England or otherwise, as described under sections 69 and 70 [respectively] of the 1949 Marriage Act. The Ministry of Defence allows same-sex marriages in military chapels, but none of the Sending Churches [Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Church of Scotland, Presbyterian, Baptist Union, United Reformed, Congregational, Free Church of Scotland, Elim Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Salvation Army] using the chapels currently allows same-sex marriages to be conducted there. I have asked the Chaplaincies of the three Services to advise me on how Parliament’s sanction of same sex-marriages may be fully implemented”. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th December

The round-up gets longer and longer: some interesting case-law, developments in both parts of Ireland, organ donation in Wales, the Lord’s Prayer again – and a sad end to yet another clerical reputation…

Just how far does anti-discrimination reach? 

Can a corporate body which is a member of an LLP claim to have suffered detriment because of the protected characteristic of an individual who happened to be its principal shareholder and member? An Employment Tribunal said “yes”; and Langstaff J upheld that ruling, dismissing the argument that because only an individual can have a protected characteristic, a corporate body cannot raise a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.

In EAD Solicitors LLP & Ors v Abrams (Age Discrimination) [2015] UKEAT 0054 15 0506 the issue, in essence, was whether or not a corporate body could bring a claim for direct discrimination in respect of detrimental treatment that it claimed to have suffered because of the protected characteristic of someone with whom it was associated. In this particular case the protected characteristic was age; but Langstaff J stated that the issue was a general proposition that did not turn on the particular facts of the case. Continue reading

Pemberton v Inwood: licensing of C of E clergy and same sex marriage – a case-note

The Employment Tribunal has found for the respondent in Pemberton v Inwood, Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham [2015] ET 2600962/2014


Canon Jeremy Pemberton married Laurence Cunnington on 12 April 2014. Following subsequent correspondence and a meeting with the respondent, at that time Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, (“the Bishop”), in June 2014 the respondent revoked Canon Pemberton’s Permission to Officiate in the diocese (PTO). Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust had offered Pemberton the post of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Manager; but in order to take it up he required a licence/authorisation (EPML) under the Extra-Parochial Ministry Measure 1967 (EPMM) from the Bishop – who refused to grant it [1]. He did so because he regarded Canon Pemberton’s marriage as contrary to the teachings and law of the Church of England [2]. Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust then withdrew its offer.

The claim

It was evidently common ground between the parties that Canon Pemberton was not employed by the Church and that he could not, therefore, bring a claim under s 39 (Employees and applicants) of the Equality Act 2010 [3]: instead, he brought a claim under s 53 (Qualifications bodies) [4]. He also brought a claim of harassment under s 53 in relation to what had happened [10]. Continue reading