The Bishop of the River of Hippopotamuses and the Archbishop of Cape Town

In a guest post, David Scrooby, an attorney of the Republic of South Africa, discusses a highly unusual recent case – the first of its kind in over 150 years… 


The case of Bishop Mlibo Ngewu v The Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Ten Others [2016] ZAKZPHC 88 is about the first canonical trial of a Bishop in Southern Africa since that of Bishop Colenso in 1864. The judgment of Her Ladyship Sharmaine Balton J, handed down in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on 6 October 2016, may not have the impact of that of the Privy Council in 1865 (to which Colenso appealed) or the canonical depth of that of the South African Labour Court in Cape Town in Church of the Province of Southern Africa, Diocese of Cape Town v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others [2001] ZALC 141. However, the judgment is important in a number of respects. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 26th June

So it’s goodbye to the EU, then…

… but not immediately

Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union reads as follows:

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
  4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
  5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.”

If a withdrawal agreement can be reached, it must be approved by the European Parliament and then by the Council, by Qualified Majority Voting. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 29th May

A week in which the Kirk held its annual General Assembly, the Government announced its promised review of sharia – and more on fonts and exhumations (but not simultaneously)…

The independent review into sharia

On Wednesday Home Secretary Theresa May launched the long-awaited independent review into sharia law in England and Wales, first mooted in March 2015. Almost simultaneously, Baroness Cox presented her private Peer’s bill, the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which she has promoted unsuccessfully on previous occasions.

Both seem to point to an issue that appears (to us, at least) exceedingly difficult to resolve. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 24th January

An apparent Government retreat, face-veils again, opposite-sex civil partnerships before the courts and three reflective posts on some wider issues…

Regulating out-of-school education

On Wednesday we posted on recent developments relating to the Department for Education’s call for evidence on inspection of informal out-of-school education in England, and the apparently reassuring response of the Prime Minister to a letter from Sir Gerald Howarth MP. Out-of-school education settings were also the subject of a Westminster Hall debate [HC Hansard 20 Jan 2016 Vol 604(100) Col 567WH] during which the Minister for Schools (Nick Gibb) gave an assurance that all the speeches made would be taken into account as the Government considers the responses to the consultation, which closed on 11 January and to which it had received more than 10,000 responses. The debate is covered in our post Regulating out-of-school education: is the DfE having second thoughts? Continue reading

Communiqué from the Primates

Further to the Statement from Primates 2016 issued yesterday, the following Communiqué was released in advance of the Press Conference to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral at the end of the Anglican Communion Primates’ meeting.


Walking Together in the Service of God in the World 

The meeting of Anglican Primates, the senior bishops of the 38 Anglican Provinces, joined by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, took place in Canterbury between Monday 11 January and Friday 15 January at the invitation of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first morning was spent in prayer and fasting. Continue reading

Statement from Primates 2016

The following statement was published this afternoon.

“Statement from Primates 2016

14 Jan 2016

Today the Primates agreed how they would walk together in the grace and love of Christ. This agreement acknowledges the significant distance that remains but confirms their unanimous commitment to walk together.

The Primates regret that it appears that this document has been leaked in advance of their communiqué tomorrow. In order to avoid speculation the document is being released in full. This agreement demonstrates the commitment of all the Primates to continue the life of the Communion with neither victor nor vanquished.

Questions and further comments will be responded to at a press conference tomorrow at 1500. Full details are available here. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 10th January

Roundup of a fairly quiet week…

“Grossly offensive” or just “offensive”?

On Tuesday Pastor James McConnell, of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in North Belfast, was found not guilty of making “grossly offensive” remarks about Islam. District Judge Liam McNally, sitting in Belfast Magistrates’ Court, advised Pastor McConnell to consider the impact of his words more carefully in future. However, he concluded that though the words complained of had been offensive, they were not “grossly offensive”. He agreed with Laws LJ in Karsten v Wood Green Crown Court [2014] EWHC 2900 (Admin) [at 21] that

“The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances.”

Unusually for the Magistrates’ Court, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service posted the transcript of the judgment: see DPP v James McConnell [2016] NIMag 1. We noted it here.

More on CORAB

Early in December we posted a note on the newly-published report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, Living with Difference: community, diversity and the common good and suggested that some of the early comments raised as many questions about the commentators as about the report. In a cross-post from the UCL Constitution Unit’s website, Bob Morris suggests that the recommendations are influenced as much by the nature of its membership as by any focus on the wider public interest: “the Commission largely assumes that the interests of religion are to be taken as read rather than, like as with any other institutions, open to and tested by challenge”.

Trinity Western Law School: round four begins Continue reading