GAFCON, Lambeth I:10 and the Church of England

What will the recent GAFCON paper achieve?

The Church of England Daily Digest on 15th November provided a link to an article Christian Today/Premier concerning the release by GAFCON UK of a list of clergy known to be in same-sex relationships or who have officiated or publicly supported gay unions in the Church of England. Presented at a recent briefing to GAFCON Primates “on the situation in the Church of England regarding attitudes, teaching and practice on sexual ethics, official and unofficial”, Continue reading

The “gay cake” case: Ashers Baking loses its appeal

Slightly updated version of the note posted earlier.

The background

Ashers Baking is owned by the McArthur family. It offered to bake cakes iced with a graphic of the customer’s own design. Gareth Lee is gay; and to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in May 2014 he ordered a cake from Ashers bearing the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie. Ashers initially accepted his order but Mrs Karen McArthur subsequently telephoned him to say that his order could not be fulfilled because Ashers was a Christian business and that, with hindsight, she should not have taken the order in the first place. She apologised and refunded his money.

Before Belfast County Court, in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor [2015] NICty 2 Mr Lee had claimed that he had been discriminated against contrary to the provisions of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and/or the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998. District Judge Brownlie found for Mr Lee, concluding that Ashers Baking was liable under the 2006 Regulations for the unlawful acts of its two directors, Mr and Mrs McArthur, and that they, in turn, were liable under Regulation 24 for aiding Ashers Baking to act unlawfully. As a result of their actions, the company had discriminated unlawfully against Mr Lee. They appealed and the matter came before the Court of Appeal in Belfast by way of case stated.

The decision of the Court of Appeal

In Lee v McArthur & Ors [2016] NICA 29the Court of Appeal [Morgan LCJ, Weatherup and Weir LJJ] held that Ashers Baking Company had directly discriminated against Gareth Lee on grounds of sexual orientation by refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage. It further held that the relevant legislation was not incompatible with Articles 9, 10 or 14 ECHR. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 16th October

A week dominated by Brexit (and just how often will we read that?) – but there was a mixed bag of other news as well…

In the courts this week

The big news in England & Wales has been the hearings in R (Santos and M) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which began on 13 October before the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales. There is an uncorrected transcript of the proceedings here and a summary by Robert Craig, of the LSE, here. The speculation is that if and when the judgment – whichever way it goes – is appealed, it will go straight to the Supreme Court. (Yesterday, we published the latest instalment in our Brexit Basics coverage.)

In Strasbourg, the Grand Chamber heard argument in Károly Nagy v Hungary (application no. 56665/09). Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 2nd October

A week in which IICSA seemed in crisis yet again, another burkini ban was slapped down and the size of the House of Lords came under fire …

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The woes of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse seem to continue undiminished. On 28 September it was announced, and confirmed on 29 September, that the senior member of the Inquiry’s legal team, Ben Emmerson QC of Matrix Chambers, had been suspended from duty; and on the following day he resigned from the role of Counsel to the Inquiry. At the same time, it came to light that Elizabeth Prochaska, Emmerson’s immediate deputy, had already resigned. The BBC reported her as saying:

“I can confirm that after 15 months working on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, I resigned from my position as Junior Counsel with effect from 15 September 2016. I very much valued the experience of working with the Inquiry and I wish all my former colleagues the best as they continue their work.”

In a letter to the Chair on 29 September, Mr Emmerson notified Professor Jay of his resignation and  Continue reading

Do UK state pension rules disadvantage transsexuals?

In MB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKSC 53 MB was born on 31 May 1948 and was registered at birth as a man. MB was married on 21 September 1974. In 1991 she began to live as a woman and in 1995 underwent sex reassignment surgery. MB had not applied for a gender recognition certificate since the Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force because she and her wife continued to live together (and still do so) and wished to remain married: for religious reasons they were unwilling to have their marriage annulled and enter a civil partnership [13] – hence this post. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 31st July

A week in which a French priest was murdered while saying Mass and safeguarding was in the news on both sides of the Border…

Fr Jacques Hamel RIP

On Tuesday morning two men entered the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, and took five hostages: Fr Jacques Hamel, two nuns and two parishioners. They slit Fr Hamel’s throat as he was saying mass, after which they filmed themselves preaching in Arabic by the altar. According to the latest information on the Web, one of the freed hostages is still in a critical condition.

David is an Anglican in the Catholic tradition: Frank is a Quaker of the Unitarian-Universalist tendency. For both of us, however, there is something peculiarly repulsive in the cold-blooded murder of someone in church, at prayer. Or as Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, tweeted:

“Just when you were worried Europe was backsliding to 1930s, turns out it’s the 1130s. Solidarity with all people of goodwill .”

Security in the church

On Wednesday, the Home Office announced the Places of worship: security funding scheme for the provision of protective security measures for places of worship in England and Wales. The scheme is part of a wider cross-government Hate Crime Action Plan which sets out the government’s plan of actions to deal with hate crime until May 2020. It applies to England and Wales only. Bids for security funding can be made for the next 8 weeks until 5pm on 20 September 2016. A second round of bids will open in spring 2017. In parallel with this initiative, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has issued protective security advice specific to Christian places of worship which stated that while there is no specific intelligence relating at attacks against the Christian community in the UK, police are urging the community to be alert but not alarmed, report concerns to the police and review their security as a precaution. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 17th July

A week of unexpected events, from the premature election of a new Prime Minister to the tragic deaths in Nice and those in the attempted coup in Turkey…

Brexit Basics 4

When it seemed as though there was little else to be said about Brexit and we were contemplating pulling the plug on “Brexit Basics”, the dynamics changed again as a result of the election of Theresa May as Conservative Party Leader on 13 July. The unexpected timing, the subsequent Prime Ministerial appointments in the new government and the proposed rearrangements in Whitehall have added further uncertainty to the proceedings. These will be covered in Brexit Basics 4, to be issued early next week along with the supplement “Brexit means Brexit”, doesn’t it? in which we attempt to throw some light on this question. Continue reading