Nothing in this Act shall give to any person any right—
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause does not affect the purpose of the Bill in any degree. The object of it is to prevent a consequence which is very distasteful to churchmen and nowadays, I think, distasteful to the House—the regulation by Parliament of matters which are strictly of a religious 2243 character. The policy of allowing the Church of England to settle strictly ecclesiastical questions seems to entail, as a consequence, the proposition that Parliament should not indirectly decide any question relating to the moral or religious discipline of the Church of England. The new Clause will exclude the indirect operation of an Act of Parliament by an express declaration that nothing in this Bill shall give to a person any right that he would not have had if the Bill had not been passed. The marriages which are made lawful by the Bill are contrary to the rule and discipline of the Church. The proper course is to leave that difficulty to be settled by the authorities of the Church and not to overrule them by Act of Parliament. It is most undesirable to complicate with modifications of the marriage law the exceedingly difficult question of the discipline of the Established Church.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Baird)
I am afraid I cannot accept the new Clause. The object of the Bill,? understand, is to put the man who marries his deceased brother's widow on exactly the same footing as the Act of 1907 put the man who married his deceased wife's sister, but my Noble Friend's proposal would introduce a considerable difference; he would impose disabilities. I shall certainly feel compelled to vote against my Noble Friend.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. GREIG
I hope the House will not accept the new Clause. There was a Clause put into the Deceased Wife's Sister Act, 1907, which specifically absolved any clergyman from any censure if he refused to officiate at marriages of that nature. It made it perfectly clear that persons who contracted such marriages were perfectly entitled to regard themselves as legally married, and in a well-known case it was decided that a clergyman of the Church of England could not repel from Holy Communion any such persons on the ground that they were notorious evil livers. That has been made perfectly clear by subsequent decisions with regard to a person marrying his deceased wife's sister. Now we have a new proposal to put a person marrying his brother's widow on exactly the same footing as the other class of persons I have referred to, but this Clause would subject them to the charge 2244 of being notorious evil livers if they went to receive Holy Communion. In fact, it precludes them from privileges which Parliament has allowed to persons availing of the Diseased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act, 1907, and which the Courts have decided those persons should have under the law.? am speaking in the presence of hon. and learned Members who know that this is the law. It is specifically stated in the headnote to the well-known case of Thompson and Dibdin:Section 1 of the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act, 1907, validates a marriage between a man and his deceased wife's sister for all purposes.Then it states:Where, therefore, the Arches Court of Canterbury admonished a clergyman, who since the passing of the Act had repelled the parties to such a marriage from Holy Communion, by reason of their marriage and cohabitation, to refrain from so repelling them in future. Held, that a writ of prohibition ought not to be granted to restrain the Arches Court from proceeding further in the matter of the monition.That is to say, if such parties come before a clergyman and ask him to marry them, he can stand aside and say, "No," but he cannot prevent them from being married in the church if they get another clergyman to perform the ceremony, and he cannot repel them from Communion. The headnote to the case of Banister and Thompson states:Lay members of the Church of England who have been baptised and confirmed and between whom a marriage legalised by the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act (1907) has been solemnised are not, either by reason of such marriage or by their afterwards living together as husband and wife, open and notorious evil livers within the rubric in the Communion Service, and neither the solemnisation of their marriage nor their subsequent cohabitation justifies the incumbent of the parish in which the parties reside in repelling them from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.This Clause, if it is passed, will prevent a man who marries his deceased brother's widow from taking part in Holy Communion, and, in fact, it will put a stigma upon him which the Courts of law and Parliament have refused to put upon persons in corresponding circumstances. I do not desire to go into the reasons for the Bill, because it has been thoroughly discussed and it is not on its merits that the Noble Lord takes his stand. What he does want to do is to take a certain action regarding people whom the State 2245 declares to be legally and properly married, and to put a stigma upon the class dealt with under this Bill.
§ Captain BOWYER
I was almost horrified when I read for the first time this morning the Clause which the Noble Lord proposes to add to the Bill. I would submit to him that, whether or not in fact this Clause makes any real difference, the implication is so serious that any persons who might avail themselves of the Act, if and when it becomes law, could not possibly go into the Church, either to be married or for the Communion Service, without feeling that at any moment they might suffer from the brand which my hon. Friend has just shown would be imposed upon them. Never in my short career as a Member of Parliament have I felt so strongly about anything. There is such a lack of charity in the implication contained in these words that I beg and pray of the Noble Lord to take one of two courses, either to withdraw the Clause altogether because of the oposition which has been raised, or tell us quite frankly whether it is his view that such persons should or should not be admitted to these two rites, so that the matter can be reconsidered and fully debated on a future occasion because vital issues are involved.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I rise to support the Noble Lord's Amendment. I do so on the ground that I have never believed the civil power had any right to interfere with religious matters. The civil power to my mind has no right whatever to dictate to any religious body as to what that religious body should consider to be a marriage in accordance with its tenets and permissible to its members. We in this House should not for one moment think of dictating to the Roman Catholic Church as to whether they were to admit to their ordinances people who contracted marriage contrary to the principles of their Church. We should not attempt to dictate to the Jews or to the Nonconformists on the same matter, and I maintain we shall never come to a proper solution of our religious difficulties and the difficulties with regard to marriage while we attempt to dictate to the Church of England in this matter either.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I know it is the Established Church. I am against its 2246 being an Established Church, and I am not prepared to support this interference with its religious affairs merely because it is an Established Church. I believe every change which goes to give the Church of England greater freedom, especially in matters of doctrine and ordinance, brings us nearer to the time when we shall have that which I have always been brought up to believe in as the true ideal—a free Church in a free State with no attempt on the part of the Church to dictate to the State and no attempt on the part of the State to dictate to the Church. Besides these matters of principle, I have another broad ground for supporting this Amendment. It is because hitherto progress, in what I conceive to be necessary reforms in the marriage system of this country, has been time after time, year after year, barred by the fact that all these reforms were sought to be imposed upon the Church of England, and therefore we had the opposition of the Church of England to every one of them. We shall continue to have the opposition of the Church of England to these reforms as long as we attempt to impose them upon the Church. We in this House are concerned with civil marriage only. We have no right, and no duty therefore, to interfere with religious marriage at all. We have to decide what we think are the limits within which the law will allow civil marriage, and allow amendments in the marriage system to bring it into accordance with the ideas of the great mass of lay people in this country, but if we go on to say, in addition, that when we have decided upon these changes in civil marriage we will impose them also upon this religious body and upon that religious body, then we shall go on doing what we have done for the last 20 or 30 years, that is, impeding the reform of the marriage system, which the country is crying out for, and which the country needs if we are not to have the marriage affairs of this country fall into a state of complete chaos. Therefore, both on the practical ground and on the theoretical ground, I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
If I understand rightly what my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil) proposes to do, I think there is an objection to the Amendment which has not yet been mentioned, and it is that the Amendment might seriously curtail the legitimate liberty of the individual 2247 clergyman. What my Noble Friend proposes is this. He told us that he wishes no door to be shut, so that the Church, under the powers which it has recently obtained from Parliament, should have the right to decide this matter for itself. At present there is no compulsion whatever one way or the other upon a clergyman of the Church of England with regard to these marriages. My hon. Friend (Sir J. Greig) told us just now that their liberty is expressly reserved in the Act of 1907. Those who think that these marriages are wholly unobjectionable are at liberty to give all the rites of the Church to those who have contracted these marriages; those who conscientiously think otherwise are entitled, apparently, to refuse certain rites of the Church to persons so married. My Noble Friend says, "I propose to leave this to be decided by the Church." That means that some Church body may pass a definite rule enjoining upon all the clergy of the Church that they shall not admit to the Sacrament persons so married, and that no clergyman, whether he thinks it unobjectionable or not, shall officiate at one of these marriages. I think that would be a very objectionable interference with the individual liberty of the clergyman in a matter which ought to be left entirely to his own discretion. Therefore, unless I have quite misinterpreted the meaning of my Noble Friend, I shall have to go into the Lobby against him.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
This is a House of surprises. The first surprise I had this morning was to read the Amendment on the Paper which we are now discussing. It was a surprise to me to think it possible that such an Amendment could be seriously moved, in this day of advance towards religious liberty and freedom. It is to me an appalling thing to realise the possibility of a man who has entered into the holy bond of matrimony being left under even the possibility of fear that some cantankerous clergyman—and there are some cantankerous clergymen as well as Nonconformist ministers—should suddenly discover that he was married in this way, and when he presented himself for Holy Communion, be able to bar him from the Sacrament. Whether that is to be followed by legal action, and the clergyman found to be wrong, does not enter into the question, to my mind. The 2248 question is the unfair position in which it places these people.
The next surprise I got was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams). The first sentence he uttered was a shock, namely, that he was going to support this Amendment. He did explain his reasons for it, but he did not justify his action one bit, because it does not matter to us whether we believe in the Established Church or not, and it does not matter to us what other people may think; we have got to recognise the fact that the Established Church is here, and established by law, and that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are adherents of the Church, and believe in the Church, and are communicants of the Church, and follow the Church teachings, and to my mind it is an abhorrent thing to think that a Clause of this kind should be inserted, which would be a ban even upon those who are most faithful to their Church and its teaching. I therefore hope and trust the Amendment will be withdrawn, but if it is not, I can conscientiously vote against it. This is not the time to give a speech on the Bill, but I have letters people have sent to me from which it appears that the very people who have appealed for this Bill to be passed will be under the ban of the Church if this Amendment is carried to-day. If it is not withdrawn, I hope it will be completely defeated.
§ Lord H. CECIL
There is a certain amount of confusion of thought in the minds of hon. Members who oppose this Amendment. The Amendment leaves the law in respect of these Church services as it stands at this moment. I do not know offhand exactly what the law would be interpreted to be, but it leaves it whatever it is. The principle of the Amendment is that Parliament should not make any change in the use of the service nor in the administration of Holy Communion, but that they should be left to the Church authority. Is it really suggested that this House is the proper authority to decide who is to receive the Holy Communion, for instance Is it thought to be even seemly? The Article of the 39 Articles which carries the doctrine of Erastian supremacy as far as it has been carried expressly lays it down that the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments is not given to princes; and if not to princes, certainly not to Parliaments.
§ Captain BOWYER
Is it not in the power and duty of this House to protect the citizens of this country from having implications put upon them and putting them into such dangerous positions as this Clause might put any man?
§ Lord H. CECIL
No implication could be made which cannot be made now. I do not seek to determine whether a man who makes a marriage of this kind is or is not fit to receive Holy Communion; I say it is for the bishops to determine. It certainly is not for this House to determine. Whatever the position is, so it would remain. If he is not fit, certainly this House cannot make him fit.
§ Lord H. CECIL
No. If this Clause is not passed a man has a Statutory right not to be repelled. It is not quite certain that he has a Statutory right to come, but it has been stated in respect of the principle of the Deceased Wife's Sister Act that he can no longer be repelled if Parliament has validated his marriage. Obviously, you cannot change the moral character of the person. Either these marriages are right or wrong. I think they are wrong. I do not conceal that I think a person who makes one of these marriages is wrong, and will find he is wrong in the ultimate judgment of Almighty God. But either he is right or he is wrong. Parliament cannot make an iota of difference one way or the other. Parliament cannot make a thing which is wrong right, or a thing which is right wrong. Who is to decide as to the discipline of the Church? Surely the bishops. I think on the whole the person ought to be admitted and warned of the danger he is incurring, but it is for the Church—the bishops—to decide. In all matters of the administration of the Communion the authority lies with the Bishop of the Diocese.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
Does the Noble Lord mean to say that, under the existing law, a clergyman, who is entitled, under the Act of 1907, to use his own judgment, can be coerced by the bishop one way or the other?
§ Lord H. CECIL
No, I am not speaking of the Act of 1907 but of these new marriages. The Act of 1907 is law. Although I Bought to amend it, Mr. 2250 Speaker ruled that it was outside the scope of the Bill. Of course, I should wish both to be treated in the same way. But the thing is this. The Church is a corporate body. It has certain moral and religious teaching. It obviously is not seemly that any individual clergyman should decide about that for himself. According to the rule and order of the Church, this matter of the Holy Communion is left to the bishop to decide. The clergyman acts under the authority of the bishop, and no one can be repelled from Communion without appeal to the Bishop. Is not that the seemly way? Let us suppose that the Bishop decides against it. Then it is quite open to any layman of the Church of England—and only Churchmen could be affected by this matter—to make representations and raise the matter in lay assemblies, and try to get the Bishops to change their minds. Is not that the proper course? Why should Churchmen not be bound by the rules of the Church? Why come to this House, which is the least proper body to decide matters of ecclesiastical discipline? All I seek here is to shut out Parliament from interfering, and leave it to the Church. Anything more irreverent and scandalous than to allow this House to decide how clergymen should be ruled, I cannot conceive.
§ Sir J. GREIG
Is the Noble Lord not aware that under the Statute of Edward VI., Chapter I., which I think is the Statute which actually confirms the Book of Common Prayer, it is enacted that a clergyman shall not, without lawful cause, deny the Communion to any person who devoutly desires it, and what has been held as a lawful cause is where there has been an unlawful marriage?
§ Lord H. CECIL
And all that my Amendment would do is that it would remain a lawful cause until the Church settled that it was not a lawful cause. Does my hon. Friend really suggest that all the Statutes of the Tudors in respect of ecclesiastical matters are to be perpetually binding on our conscience?
§ Sir J. GREIG
That is the Statute which happens to confirm the Articles and the Prayer Book of the existing Established Church of England.
§ Lord H. CECIL
True, and Parliament passed laws in the same period which would subject any Nonconformist to severe penalties for not attending the 2251 Church. One is as reasonable as the other. You cannot appeal to the ecclesiastical legislation of the House of Tudor unless you go the whole hog, and cut off the ears of Nonconformists and burn refractory Socinians, and all the rest of it. If we are to have rational principles in religious matters, and, above all, adopt that which, I think, the House adopted with overwhelming consent, and which, I believe, almost every hon. Member supported when asked by Churchmen at the late election—the principle that Church matters should be decided by the Church—why do you depart from this principle in this case? Why is not the Church competent to decide these issues as much as any other church? Why are we in this one particular instance to interfere with the freedom of the Church? The laity can represent any grievance they feel. One would think that the bishops and clergy were going to act in a tyrannical manner in imposing penalties without consideration. Nothing is more remotely improbable. All I ask is that Parliament shall not interfere, but shall say, "No, this is a matter for the Church to decide." Is it, again, really seemly that a religious body, which teaches that a particular marriage is wrong, should be required to allow particular ministers, who disagree with the general teaching of the Church on that subject, to read a service to these people who are entering into a marriage which the Church holds to be wrong? Is not that an outrageous scandal? Here you have the Church professing to be a moral and religious teacher, which says, "These marriages are sanctioned by the State, but are not in our view right," and, at the same time, you allow a particular minister to appear in the House of God, and, standing before the Altar of God, to solemnise these marriages which the teaching of the Church says are wrong. Is that not a scandal, a profound mockery, and is it seemly that this House should impose that scandal upon a religious body?
§ Captain BOWYER
The Noble Lord, who stigmatises it by these names, has not the right to say it is wrong.
§ Lord H. CECIL
If my hon. and gallant Friend looks it up, he will find it is so. It has been the unbroken teaching of the Church for many centuries.
§ Sir J. GREIG
It was the Tudor Statute of Henry VIII which made marriage with a deceased wife's sister illegal. That was what it rested on.
§ Lord H. CECIL
All these marriages within degrees of affinity were always prohibited by the Church until the Pope, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, began to grant this dispensation. This is the very issue on which Henry VIII sought to divorce his wife; because he said he ought not to have been allowed to marry his deceased brother's wife. All the universities of Europe were consulted, and they all said he was quite right, and ought not to have done it, and that the dispensation of the Pope was invalid. But there is realty no doubt at all about the Church of England. It may be mistaken teaching, but it is not decent that you should use the religious services of a religious body to bless in the most solemn manner a relation which that religious body teaches to be immoral. They may be wrong, but, then, change the mind of the religious body and persuade them to teach that it is moral. But so long as they teach that a thing is wrong, and at the same time bless it in the most solemn way in the Church, I say that is scandalous. No one who has any sense of the truth of religion can doubt it is so. All I plead for, therefore, is the liberty of the Church that they should be allowed to decide these things for themselves. I shall not trouble the House to divide, but I would ask them to consider whether, having told their constituents that they would support the liberty of the Church, they can deny it liberty in this matter?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
We ought to have no difficulty whatever in rejecting decisively the Amendment put forward by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University. I cannot congratulate him on his strange ally the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams). The Noble Lord, as we all know, is an ardent supporter of the Church and the hon. Member who is for the moment his ally, is a Disestablisher. This unholy alliance between a great apostle of the Church and a great destroyer of the Church finds a common grievance, and it is to some of us a source of wonderment. I listened 2253 very carefully to the Noble Lord who is a great authority upon these matters. He warned us against confusion of thought—as he generally does—yet I have found the greatest difficulty in understanding whether this Clause that he proposes is meaningless or imposes any disability on the people who contract these new marriages. At one point of his speech I came to the conclusion that the Clause was meaningless because he said, "We are altering nothing, but leaving the law and everything else as it stands." If that be so what on earth is the good of putting it forward?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
There I find myself entirely unable to follow the Noble Lord in finding out in what respect the law, civil or ecclesiastical, which governs the rights and liberties of the subject will or will not be altered. Supposing the Noble Lord tells me, as I gather he does now, that this proposed Clause is a disabling one, that it imposes an ecclesiastical disability or some other disability, the Amendment appears to me to place upon the marriage of those persons, legalised by this Bill, a disability which is not placed upon persons who contract marriages legalised under the Act of 1907.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
And sanctions placing marriages in a different position to that sanctioned by the Act of 1907. I say we are not going back to any ecclesiastical or old-fashioned law, or to accept the position which the House definitely repudiated in 1907. The hon. Member for Consett seemed to have some regard for clergymen of the Church of England who are asked to perform these marriages and administer Holy Communion. He wished for protection, which any clergyman of the Church of England is entitled to, or ought to get, in regard to the Act of 1907. He is entirely protected. I hope the House will not allow this Amendment to be withdrawn, but will unanimously, with the possible exception of my Noble Friend and his strange ally, decide against it.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
This is a matter of considerable importance, if not solemnity. There is one point upon which I should like to have a little enlightenment which seems to me to have been overlooked in 2254 the discussion. I am not going to deal with marriages in church, but rather with the other and more important question of the Holy Communion. The hon. Member for Buckingham dealt with this matter very warmly. I should like to ask this: Supposing there were a rector of a parish, perhaps a middle-aged man, who had taken Holy Orders long before the Act of 1907 or anything of the sort, and who really was convinced, with the Noble Lord on the front Opposition bench, that these marriages were immoral. He might be right or wrong, but he would be right in this respect, that he would have a perfect right to hold those views because when he was ordained that was the law of the Church. What will be his position? For 20 years, it may be, he has been preaching to his congregation and telling them that these marriages were wrong. Then if you propose to legalise these marriages you allow that these persons may receive Holy Communion, and by law he must administer it, or come under severe penalties—although for many years he has been preaching against this very thing.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
I am not a lawyer, and I said so, and that is the advantage of having many hon. and learned Members in the House, but I really think we ought to have some enlightenment on this point. Will the clergyman be able to refuse Holy Communion to these people who are in that condition against which he has so long preached? I think, if he refuses, that he would be liable to some action at law. Is that right?
§ Captain BOWYER
May I say that, of course, it is very difficult to decide and the subject is a deep one, but I never wished to prevent any man exercising his just convictions, be they what they may.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
The serious part of it is that it is a question of conscience. Here you have the case of a man who has been ordained, has been appointed rector, and has been preaching what is the law of the Church. Then it is contended that he must administer the Holy Communion though he considers it a sin to do so, or he will be penalised for not doing so. This matter does require a little serious consideration when we are dealing with this very vital question of conscience. 2255 I hope no one will accuse me of taking a narrow view on this matter. I am not taking an ecclesiastical view. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) in his speech yesterday said he always agreed with sticking to a bargain. When these clergymen were ordained the Established Church held that these marriages were not moral. I ask now is it fair to break that bargain and say to a rector, "After you have been preaching this doctrine for 20 years, you are now compelled to administer the Holy Communion in these cases although you have preached against it all that time?" It is not a question whether one side is right or wrong, but when you are dealing with a question of this kind it is a matter of a man's conscience.
Sir J. D. REES
I do not think this is a question whether or not a layman has a conscience, but how much violence should be done to the conscience of the clerk in holy orders. Why, if a particular clergyman thinks it is contrary to his religion that he should celebrate a certain marriage, he should be put by Parliament under any compulsion, I cannot understand.
Sir J. D. REES
Then how much worse off is anybody who contracts one of these marriages after the acceptance of this new Clause? I do not think it is any use at this time of day on such a question as this to refer to musty precedents. I cannot see myself, although I confess I have not studied the question very closely, how much worse anybody will be if my Noble Friend's proposal is accepted. The new Clause only says thatNothing in this Act shall give to any person any right,That does not prevent a person being married with civil rites, nor is any person deprived of Holy Communion because a particular clergyman as a matter of conscience is not willing to give it in an individual case. It is difficult for me to understand how this would prejudice anybody under the Noble Lord's proposal. My hon. and learned Friend 2256 the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) argued as if there was an obligation upon Parliament to make this Bill on all fours with the Act relating to the Deceased Wife's Sister Act. I cannot see that there is any such obligation. He argued that it would be right that this matter of marriage with a deceased wife's brother should be put on the same footing as marriage with a deceased wife's sister. If that is so, then the matter comes up for Parliament to deal with on its merits. Surely it is arguable that every departure from the law of marriage which has obtained for so many centuries should be regarded jealously, and in each case scrutinised and dealt with by Parliament upon its merits rather than take for granted that any precedent relating to one sex should be regarded as a precedent for dealing with a marriage of this sort in regard to the other sex. The argument is of an entirely different character, even allowing for the difference of sex. I was moved to intervene on account of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for York because he seemed to think that the whole House would be united in opposing the Noble Lord's proposal, and that it would only be supported by the Noble Lord himself and his unholy ally, as he called him, the Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams). Under the circumstances I will support the Noble Lord's proposal, if he divides upon it, as a matter of conscience, in spite of the unsavoury associations attaching to that word during the War.(a) to have his marriage solemnised in church according to the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer.
§ Lieut. - Colonel HURST
The hon. Member who last spoke has asked in what way anybody is prejudiced who is denied Holy Communion, having contracted a marriage under this Bill. The answer is that the only ground on which anybody can be refused Holy Communion is that he is a notorious evil liver. In this case the fact will be known in his neighbourhood that he is being refused Holy Communion on that ground. Therefore if this Amendment is passed it must inflict an injury upon anybody who has been refused on that ground. The real vice is that the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University and my hon. Friend (Sir R. Newman) have treated this question as if it were exclusively an ecclesiastical question. If it were, I certainly should not venture to speak at all, and I should bow to their 2257 far greater authority on the subject. Any Measure which deals with marriage and the treatment which people who contract legal marriages are to receive is, however, not only an ecclesiastical question, but also a social and constitutional question. If this new Clause be carried, it must have an effect upon the social life of the people, because it would involve a petty and ignoble persecution of those who take advantage of the facilities which Parliament is now giving to them. It sets them aside from the rest of the community as notorious evil livers who have no right whatever to the facilities which the Church gives either with regard to the sacraments or with regard to marriage. That is the social side of the question. Then there is the constitutional side. Is it right to enable any church to arrogate to itself the right of saying that that which the State says is a lawful marriage is still an invalid marriage or no marriage at all? If this new Clause be carried, then from the point of view of the Church those who marry under this Measure will be in the position of persons living—
§ Lord H. CECIL
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that the Roman Catholic Church says the same thing with regard to all divorced persons?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
I do not think that has very much bearing upon this matter, because the object of this new Clause is to insist that the Church shall have a law for itself absolutely distinct from the law of the land.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
This new Clause insists that the Church, like any other religious body if you like, shall have the right to say that that which the State declares to be a valid marriage is an invalid marriage, and that those whom the State declares lawful issue are illegitimate issue.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
That is the in-evitable result, and surely it is against all sound principles of constitutional policy that Parliament, while legislating with one hand to make these marriages legal, should with the other stultify its proceedings by saying that any religious body can say that marriages legalised by 2258 this Measure are illegal, and that children born of such marriages are illegitimate.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
In view of what has been said as to the Noble Lord's isolation in this matter, I should like to say that I am going to support him, and I think the reason is obvious from the speech to which we have just listened. The logical objection to this proposed Clause is the objection which has just been urged, that it is derogatory to the dignity of the State to allow anyone to teach a moral code different from that which is laid down by law. That appears to me to be a return to a rather dangerous doctrine of State persecution. I cannot conceive how anyone in this day and generation can set up such a claim on behalf of the State, that it should insist that its moral code in its law should be the only moral code which it should be lawful to teach. It is hopeless, of course, to expect that any Debate on any subject which touches the question of the Establishment should on either side be logical. That is unfortunately obvious from the nature of the case. I do think, however, as we heard a moment ago, that we should remember that which has been ignored in the course of this Debate, that there are a considerable number of Christians who are not members of the Church of England. No one, I think, except the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last, proposes to impose upon the minister of any other denomination the obligation to celebrate these marriages or to give the Holy Communion to people entering into these marriages. They only propose to impose the obligation on the Church of England, because it is the established Church. I think, from the broad point of view of policy, that the majority of those who now support the Establishment do not support it because the State is thereby enabled to exercise a control over the religion of its citizens, but because, as Christians themselves, they cannot, as citizens, say that the State should not recognise religion officially and formally in the form of an Establishment. That is the only reason, I fancy, why most of us support the Establishment at all, and I cannot be put into the position of saying that I support the Establishment for the purpose of imposing a particular line of conduct only and solely upon the ministers of a particular denomination.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.