Law and religion round-up – 17th September

Brexit (inevitably), school dress codes, clergy employment, humanist marriage, religious karaoke – another mixed bag…


On Monday, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was given its second reading: Ayes, 326: Noes: 290. The Bill stands committed to a Committee of the whole House for eight days of detailed debate.

The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government both declined to recommend that legislative consent be given to the Bill by their legislatures unless it is amended to address their specific concerns.

Primary school uniform

Also on Monday, we reported the case of a husband and wife who had withdrawn their six-year-old son from his Church of England primary school after a boy in his class was allowed to wear a dress to school. Continue reading

Limits on preaching in a prison chapel: Trayhorn


In Trayhorn v The Secretary of State for Justice (Religion or Belief Discrimination) [2017] UKEAT 0304/16/0108, Mr Trayhorn was a gardener/horticulturalist at HM Prison Littlehey, which houses a large number of sex offenders and young offenders. He has also been an ordained Pentecostal minister since 2009. At a Pentecostal service in the prison chapel on 31 May 2014, he spoke to a congregation of prisoners about homosexuality as sinful, quoting from 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11.

There had been a previous complaint by the LGBT coordinator in February 2014 about Mr Trayhorn’s comments during a service on 8 February 2014. Continue reading

Church leaders’ statement in advance of the General Election

Leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have issued the following statement in advance of the General Election:

“As we prepare for the General Election, we recognise that Christians across our nations will prayerfully vote for a variety of parties and candidates in good conscience. We celebrate the fact that Christian people are inspired by their faith to debate passionately – and to disagree well – on how the United Kingdom should be governed at this present moment. Continue reading

Banns of marriage – their development and future


The legal requirement to read banns for couples intending to marry in church services was considered by members of the Church of England General Synod on 14 February 2017. Though Synod rejected moves that sought to end this “ecclesiastical preliminary” to marriage, important arguments were cited both for their retention and for their removal. In this post, we summarize the development and current usage in England and Wales, Scotland and the two jurisdictions in Ireland, and examine possible future directions. Continue reading

Roof Repair Fund 2016 – grants announced

Some light relief from Brexit, and welcome news for hundreds of churches

On 6 July, the successful applicants to the second round of the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund were announced. A total of 401 places of worship in the UK received between £10,000 to £100,000 to meet the costs of urgent repairs to roofs and rainwater disposal systems. Money is also being provided for structural investigations; specialist reports and bat surveys. Lyford Church, IMG_6389(2)The Fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) on behalf of the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS); the first round awards were covered in our post last year. This year’s list of successful applicants includes an award of £62,400 for the church of St Mary, Lyford, Oxfordshire, which is in the Benefice of Cherbury with Gainfield. Continue reading

Employment status of clergy: goodbye to the ‘Servant of God’?

A paper given at the conference of the Law & Religion Scholars Network in Cardiff

Recent cases suggest that the courts are taking a more nuanced approach to the employment status of clergy. But developments in other areas, such as tax law, seem to be based on a narrow view of ‘ministry’ as synonymous with ‘ordained ministry’. So is it time for a rethink?


Introduction: the ‘Servant of God’

In President of the Methodist Conference v Parfitt [1984] ICR 176 a Methodist minister failed in a claim for unfair dismissal before the High Court. It was held that the doctrinal standards of the Methodist Church did not provide for a contractual relationship between the Church and the individual minister; and in the Court of Appeal, at page 186F May LJ famously adopted the dictum of Waterhouse J in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) below:

‘The concept of a minister as a person called by God, a servant of God and the pastor of His [ie, presumably, God’s] local church members seems to me to be central to the relationship.’

Lord Templeman used the expression again, in Davies v Presbyterian Church of Wales [1986] 1 All ER 705:

‘A pastor is called and accepts the call. He does not devote his working life but his whole life to the church and his religion. His duties are defined and his activities are dictated not by contract but by conscience. He is the servant of God.’

On which Peter Edge comments – correctly, in my view – in Legal Responses to Religious Difference (Kluwer Law International 2002, 241) that it was unfortunate that Lord Templeman did not ‘expressly begin his analysis by considering whether there was an intention to create legal relations’. But was the concept of the minister of religion as ‘a servant of God’ ever very helpful in terms of employment law? And what is a ‘minister of religion’ anyway? Continue reading

What is a “church” in English law?

In this guest post, Simon Hunter, of 13 Old Square Chambers, muses on the interesting question of what is a “church” for the purposes of English law?



In recent weeks and months there has been much soul-searching about the future of the Anglican Communion. The Primates’ communiqué may well be destined to please no-one – too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals – and it may be that holding the Communion together is a Sisyphean task.

However, the discussions got me thinking about the nature of the Communion, and of communion. The Anglican Communion, quoting the 1930 Lambeth Conference, describes itself on its website as a “fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury.” This quotation itself raises an interesting question about what in this context and more broadly it means to be or to say “a church”. Continue reading