Our earlier post, The Marriage Pledge – Reaction within the US, summarized the issues arising in the United States following the publication of the Marriage Pledge on the First Things website: a debate that is still continuing. In contrast to the many individual commentators on and signatories to the Pledge, the Archibsihop and Primate of the Anglican Church of North America has issued a strongly worded institutional response advising ministers not to sign it, pending a detailed consideration of its implications. Continue reading
The publication of The Marriage Pledge on the First Things web site by the Rev Ephraim Radner and the Rev Christopher Seitz has been widely circulated, and is attracting comment within the United States and elsewhere. The two Anglican and Episcopal pastors are seeking to encourage priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages as a response to their concerns regarding the changing governmental definition of marriage. Whilst the Pledge is directed at the US, it acknowledges that similar changes are occurring elsewhere, and states, inter alia:
“The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.” Continue reading
Not a lot of black-letter law this week but quite a lot of comment…
Bar Council statement on the role of the Lord Chancellor
“Justice is not a service that governments can choose to provide or not. It is a vital part of our constitutional arrangements. It needs to be defended and promoted to make the separation of powers a continuing reality and thereby to safeguard our democratic way of life for the future. The Lord Chancellor must be a champion of the justice system as well as guardian of the constitution. He swears an oath that he will: ‘… respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and discharge my duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which I am responsible.’ His role is therefore different from that of the Secretaries of State for other departments. He is entrusted with lead responsibility in government to maintain the delicate balance between, on the one hand, upholding the rule of law and protecting the independence of the judiciary and, on the other hand, respecting the interests of the executive. Legal expertise is essential to fulfil such a unique role. The Lord Chancellor should be a very senior lawyer.”
Or, indeed, unlike the present incumbent, any kind of lawyer – even a fairly junior one…
Sexual abuse and the seal of the confessional
The report of the independent inquiry commissioned by the Archbishop of York and chaired by HHJ Sally Cahill QC into the Church of England’s handling of reports of alleged sexual abuse by the late Robert Waddington, formerly Dean of Manchester, was published on Thursday. Thinking Anglicans explains that the report will not be made available on-line but in hard copy only, in response to the request of some of those interviewed by the inquiry. Copies are available from Church House Bookshop.
A very mixed bag: the US Supreme Court on same-sex marriage and prisoners’ beards (but not at the same time), abortion in NI, statistics on sexuality in the UK, the future of the C of E parish system, performing right…
Same-sex marriage and the US Supreme Court
We normally keep well away from US law because there are lots of US law & religion experts out there (which we are emphatically not) and even more US law & religion cases; but we can’t ignore Monday’s decision of the US Supreme Court.
In June 2013, in United States v Windsor 570 US (2013) (Docket No. 12-307) a divided Supreme Court struck down s 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act 1996, which defined “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman. Lower federal courts then started to rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor to strike down five states’ bans on same-sex marriage – in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin – and on Monday, again by five to four, the Court turned down seven petitions for certiorari seeking review of those decisions of the lower courts. Continue reading
A positive plethora of news this week – the Conservatives on human rights, assisted suicide in Switzerland, same-sex marriage in South Africa, Scientologists in Russia and more – requiring some separation of the wheat from the chaff whilst retaining a few items of broader interest
A UK Bill of Rights – again
Being (we hope) sensible people with more interesting things to do with our lives, we now tend to give the party conference season a fairly wide berth. However, we can’t ignore one of the major news items of the week: that David Cameron told the Conservatives on Wednesday that if elected with a majority he would repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. This is what he said, according to the Conservative Party press release:
“Of course, it’s not just the European Union that needs sorting out – it’s the European Court of Human Rights. When that charter was written, in the aftermath of the Second World War, it set out the basic rights we should respect. But since then, interpretations of that charter have led to a whole lot of things that are frankly wrong. Rulings to stop us deporting suspected terrorists. The suggestion that you’ve got to apply the human rights convention even on the battlefields of Helmand. And now – they want to give prisoners the vote.
I’m sorry, I just don’t agree. Continue reading
The Leicester Mercury is a valuable source of current local information on the developments associated with the reburial of Richard III . However, this week it carried a story more pertinent to mainstream “law and religion” issues – the headline “’It is not a gay wedding’ – unholy row erupts over parish priest’s civil partnership service at church”. The story concerns the planned service of blessing in St Peter’s, Market Bosworth, to celebrate the civil partnership of the Team Rector of the Market Bosworth Benefice, Revd Dominic McClean, and his same sex partner. From the reported facts, this does not appear to raise any significant legal issues since it concerns the personal opinions of a parishioner which he has pursued in letters to the Bishop of Leicester and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A mixed week in which same-sex marriage and inter-Church cricket were both in the news…
Same-sex marriage and clergy discipline
On Monday it was announced that Jeremy Pemberton, who lost his Permission to Officiate after he married his partner Laurence Cunnington in April, had filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. Because Canon Pemberton no longer had a licence in that diocese Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust revoked its offer of a post as its chaplaincy and bereavement manager.
The announcement provoked an interesting debate on the Web, principally in Ian Paul’s blog, Psephizo. The whole issue of whether or not any particular cleric is “employed” and who may be sued in such circumstances is extremely complex. Some comments are better-balanced and better-informed than others – but you can judge for yourself.
Scotland, the Constitution and religion
In the margins of the debate in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum next Thursday a group of academics – Tufyal Choudhury, Professor Ian Leigh and Dr Deirdre McCann of Durham Law School and Sir Tom Devine. Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh – have produced detailed proposals for the protection of religious freedom in the event of a Scottish Constitution being drafted. In Religious freedom in Scotland: A legal proposal they conclude that any written Constitution: Continue reading