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RECENT CASES (continued)-
Nasmyth's Trustees v. National Society for the Prevention
Scots Law, GLEANINGS FROM: The Law of DEATH-BED... 298
STATISTICS, JUDICIAL, 1913: CRIMINAL 306; Civil
LAW MAGAZINE AND REVIEW.
No. CCCLXXIV.-NOVEMBER, 1914.
1.-CHURCH AND STATE.
HE passing of the Welsh Church Bill under the
Parliament Act, subject, however, to its suspension till after the present international crisis is over, may be a suitable opportunity to direct attention to certain aspects of the relation between the Church of England and the State which have been suggested by two very different publications: the one a compendium of the laws against Nonconformity which have stood upon the Statute Book of England, and the other the Blue Book of the First Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on matters affecting the Church in Wales, which was appointed to inquire and report inter alia whether the constitution of the Convocations of the Church of England has ever been altered by Act of Parliament without the assent and against the protest of Convocation. The former does not profess to be more than a summary of the statutes passed, in order to secure conformity with the established religion, and those subsequently enacted by way of relaxing the fetters of uniformity: and the net result is to leave a mental impression similar to that which would be created by a like collection of the laws which have at various times constituted capital felonies. It is, at most, a record in a convenient form of the repeated attempts of the Legislature in former times to impose a uniform pattern on the whole religious life of the Kingdom. This was bound to yield to the claim-bound up as it is with the progress of enlightenment and civilisation-of liberty of conscience, and the rejection of any religious test in relation to civic life. That the Church of England was thereby placed in a privileged position in relation to other religious denominations is of course undeniable; and it is true that certain of its privileges remain. Thus, the reigning Sovereign must be a member of it: it is represented in the House of Lords, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the premier subject of the realm after the Royal Family; it has a special position as regards marriages and burials, owing to its possession of parish churches and churchyards; and the divinity degrees and professorships of some of the older Universities are still confined to its members. But there
1 The Laws against Nonconformity. By T. Bennett, LL.D. Grimsby : Roberts & Jackson. 1913. 2 Par. Paper, 1914, No. 238.
. are counteracting disadvantages, e.g., the exclusion of Anglican priests and ministers from political life-a disability to which Roman Catholics are also subject—while the Nonconformists are exempt from it.
Jews and Roman Catholics are debarred from the high offices of the Regent of the Kingdom, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and the High Commissioner to the Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland. Such ancillary rights of Church authorities as the exercise of individual patronage of benefices, north and south of the river Trent, belonging to Roman Catholics, by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge respectively, and the exercise of such patronage belonging to Roman Catholics by virtue of any office by the Archbishop of Canterbury, are only part of their administrative working
These privileges of the Church can hardly be described as going beyond what is incidental to its official connection with the State; nor can Nonconformists reasonably object to such requirements of the law (obviously on the ground of public policy) as the registration of places of worship of Nonconformists, in order to obtain exemption from local burdens and from the jurisdiction over charitable trusts, and in order that marriages may be performed in such buildings, and also in order to obtain exemption, for their ministers, from service, as church wardens or jurymen, on making declarations before a justice. For all practical purposes, Protestant Nonconformity stands on a footing of complete equality with the Church of England; and the greater bodies, such as the Wesleyan, Independent or Congregational, and Baptist denorninations, enjoy the express privilege of direct access to the Sovereign.
It is not gathered that the author of this work desires to convey that the advantages of the Church above mentioned constitute continuing grievances of religious inequality; but the bare enumeration of the various restrictions imposed by statute from time to time on Nonconformists, may leave an impression that the Church called in the help of the State to uphold its monopoly of the nation's religious life, even by depriving members of other bodies of the full rights of citizenship, and that it has continuously opposed the claims of the other religious bodies to full recognition of their spiritual position during a struggle of more than two centuries. The facts are really the other way.
It was the civil government which, as a matter of policy, made adherence to the official Church compulsory. The endeavour after religious uniformity was the result of the State's direct interference with the spiritual province of the Church, and no less in the time of Parliamentary and Cromwellian supremacy than under the Monarchy did the Legislature strive to curb the licence of free individual religious thought.