Law and religion round-up – 8th October

A typical eclectic mix of news from the world of law and religion…

Organ donation – presumed consent

One aspect of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday that received relatively little media attention was her announcement of plans to move to a system of presumed consent for organ donation under which everyone would be presumed to agree to the removal and reuse of body parts after their death unless they opted out, rather than the present situation in which it is necessary to opt in to organ donation. However, the issue is not straightforward and the approach of different faith groups to organ donation complicates the matter. Continue reading

Pork, school lunches and laïcité in Chalon-sur-Saône

Two years ago, we posted a note on the news that Gilles Platret, the Mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, near Dijon, had decided in deference to the principle of laïcité to remove pork substitutes from school lunch menus and that his decision had been upheld by the local court. The result was that on some days the menu would offer either pork or … pork.

Needless to say, the local Muslim population was outraged by the change and, as we speculated at the time, that was not to be the end of the story. Continue reading

May a parish council grant-aid a place of worship?

The following is based on a recent submission of the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance (HRBA) to the DCMS English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review and is posted with the kind permission of the HRBA Chairman, Trevor Cooper.

The Historic Religious Buildings Alliance (HRBA) has called on the DCMS English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review to examine and help resolve the current confusion over whether or not parish councils may spend money on local church buildings.

Under the current law, parish councils and similar bodies raise a precept that enables money to be spent on matters that are important to, and benefit, the local community. Continue reading

Consultation – Sunday Trading

Following an announcement in the Summer Budget, the government has launched a consultation on the devolution of powers in Sunday trading

On 5th August,  the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, (BIS) and the Department of Communities and Local Government, (DCLG), launched the expected Consultation on devolving Sunday trading rules. The Executive Summary states:

“The current Sunday trading rules were established over 20 years ago in the Sunday Trading Act 1994 (‘the 1994 Act’).They limit the opening hours of large stores (those with a relevant floor area over 280 square metres / 3,000 square feet) to 6 hours on a Sunday. Smaller stores can open all day. But in the 20 years since the 1994 Act the internet has come of age and consumers can now order goods online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Internet sales now account for 11.5 per cent of all retail sales compared to just 2.8 per cent nearly a decade ago when this data was first collected, with the value of internet retail sales averaging £734 million a week in May 2015.” Continue reading

Prayers at council meetings? Not in Canada

Alain Simoneau regularly attended the public meetings of the municipal council of the City of Saguenay. In one of the council chambers there was a Sacred Heart statue fitted with a red electric votive light: in another, there was a crucifix hanging on the wall. At the start of each meeting, the Mayor would recite a prayer after making the Sign of the Cross while saying “au nom du Père, du Fils et du Saint-Esprit”.

Mr Simoneau, an atheist, was uncomfortable with this and asked the Mayor to stop doing it. Continue reading

Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill – Passed

On Wednesday 25 March, the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill completed its third reading in the House of Lords, and now awaits Royal Assent. Lord Cormack moved that the “Bill do now pass”, and in the following short debate clarified questions raised by Lord Avebury (LD) and Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab), Lords Hansard 25 Mar 2015 Vol 760(125) Col 1424.

Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 22nd March

A very mixed bag: charitable status and the Exclusive Brethren, Magna Carta, kirpans at the Cricket World Cup, socialism as a protected belief and naked ramblings – but not by us…

The Charity Commission and the Exclusive Brethren

On Tuesday The Times reported (£) that the Charity Commission had “struck a deal” with the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (aka the Exclusive Brethren). The Times claims it had seen leaked documents that

“… lay bare the extraordinary lobbying campaign waged by the Brethren to win political support and overturn a decision in June 2012 to refuse charitable status to one of its gospel halls”.

According to the report,

“Charity Commission officials were followed to unrelated events by Brethren members, pressured by supportive ministers and MPs and had their offices deluged with more than 3,000 letters from adherents.”

A spokeswoman for the Charity  Commission was subsequently reported by Third Sector (£) to the effect that the Commission’s decision to change its mind and register the PDT had been objective and based on fact: Continue reading