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.- -'--:......---THE SPIRIT…

THE LORDS' COMMITTEE ON CHURCH…

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THE LORDS' COMMITTEE ON CHURCH RATES. The following report has been presented by the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the present operation of the law and practice respeeting the assessment and the levy of church-rates 1. That it appears from the evidence that "by the common law-that is to say, by immemorial usage in this country, the parishioners are bound to repair the church, and to provide everything that is necessary for the decent performance of Divine service," and that for the attainment of these objects, recourse has, from very ancient times, been had to a system of parochial assess- ment, which assessment is still maintained in the great majority of parishes throughout the country. 2. That by the judgment of the House of Lords in the Braintree case, the law has been declared to be, that the church-rate is only assessable on the ratepayers by the vote of the majority of the vestry, and it appears in evidence that for the neglect to vote a rate there is no penalty at common law. 3. That, therefore, in some places no rate is made, and in some, though, made, it is not imtoreed against those who refuse to pay. 4. That where a church-rate has been refused, or has not been assessed, it has generally been attributable to one or other of the following causes viz., 1st. The abuse of the rate in its assessment for and application to improper objects, or in excessive charges. 2nd. The assessment of new parishes and districts having churches of their own to the rate of the mother church. 3rd. The unwillingness of churchwardens to propose a rate the collection of which might be rendered difficult or impossible by the uncertainty and inefficiency of the law. 4th. Local causes of irritation unconnected with the rate. 5th. The opinion entertained against church-rates by certain classes of Dissenters on reli- gious or political grounds. 5. That a great obstacle to the enforcement of a rate when made is, that a ratepayer summoned before the petty sessions for non-payment may then proceed to dispute the validity of the rate or his own liability (53rd George III., c. 127, s. 7); that thereupon the justices must forbear to give judgment, and the church- wardens can only proceed in the. Ecclesiastical Court. 6. That the entire abolition of the church-rate is opposed to the general feeling of members of the Church, is not universally called for by Dissenters of various denominations, and especially not by that large and influential body theWesleyan Methodists, and would, in the case of a great number of parishes, be attended with serious and prejudicial consequences, by restricting the existing means for the repair and maintenance of the parish church, by greatly increasing the labour and responsibility of the clergymen, and otherwise mate- rially impeding the ministrations of the Church in those parishes. 7. That, viewing the grounds of objection to the payment of church-rates, as well as the impediments which exist to their collection, it is expedient to alter the law in the following respects1. That, for the future, persons desirous of being exempted from contributing to the church-rate in any parish may give yearly notice to that effect to the churchwardens prior to the meeting of any vestry for the purpose of making a church-rate and that such persons shall "not be entitled to attend any such vestry, or to vote upon the making or application of such rate, or to act as churchwardens in any matter relating to the church, or to retain any scat appropriated to them in the church during the term of such exemption. 2. That the rate, when voted by the vestry, shall be levied upon all persons liable to it who have not given such notice. 3. That the items for which a rate may be made shall be definitely declared by law. 4. That the ratepayers in any new parish or district shall be rateable for the purposes of their own church .and for no other. 5. That there shall be the same powers for the recovery of church-rates as exist for the recovery of poor-rates and in case of objection to the validity of the rate an appeal shall lie to the General Quarter Sessions, and that the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts in such matters shall cease. 8. That the principle of assessing the owner instead of the occupier to the church-rate, is well deserving the serious consideration of Parliament in any future legislation on this subject. And the Committee have directed the minutes of evidence taken before them, together with an appendix, to be laid before your Lordships.

EYES AND NO EYES.

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