§ MR. BROADHURST
asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether Canon Hoste, the Chaplain of Farnham Workhouse, has objected to visitors to the workhouse conversing on religious subjects with inmates belonging to the Church of England, and also to some of the aged paupers meeting for Bible reading and prayers without his consent; whether the Guardians have issued prohibitory orders in compliance with the chaplain's request; whether complaints on the subject have proceeded from any other quarter, and whether the practices complained of have in any way interfered with the necessary discipline of the workhouse, or led to any other objectionable result; and, what steps have been taken by the Local Government Board to prevent such an infringement of religious liberty?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The Chaplain of the Farnham Workhouse brought under the attention of the Guardians the fact that young lady visitors visited the wards and conversed upon religious subjects with inmates belonging to the Church of England, and that tracts had been left for the inmates, which he regarded as an interference with his duties, and that some of the men met in an unused ward for the purpose of praying and reading the Bible, the meetings being led by an aged inmate. The Board understand that the Guardians decided that visitors to the workhouse should not be allowed to go about the wards for the purpose of religious conversation, but should confine their visits to the particular inmates whom they came to see. They also negatived a proposal that an arrangement as to the inmates meeting together for Bible reading, &c. should be permitted. But they ordered a supply of large-type Bibles, and directed that every 807 inmate who wished it should have one for his own use. The Board are not aware that complaints have proceeded from any other quarter, or that the practices complained of have in any way interfered with the necessary discipline of the workhouse. The Board, when their attention was drawn to the matter, suggested, for the consideration of the Guardians, whether it was desirable to prohibit the meetings for Bible reading provided that they were held at times which did not interfere with the arrangements and discipline of the workhouse; that due regard was paid to the proper classification of the inmates; and that precautions were taken that undue pressure was not brought to bear upon inmates who did not desire to be present to secure their attendance. The Guardians, however, declined to alter their decision; and the Board, on the 14th instant, addressed to them a further communication, in which they expressed their regret, and pointed out the inexpediency of prohibiting these meetings if the conditions they suggested were complied with. They, at the same time, urged the Guardians to reconsider the matter.