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THE RATING OF TITHES BILL.

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THE RATING OF TITHES BILL. THE Government's new Tithes Bill is, in short, nothing, more nor less than a proposal for the further endowment of the Church of England. By doling out public money to a privileged class at the expense of the whole community, it outrages every canon of Liberalism,, which seeks the greatest good of the greatest number.. The Bill has been branded as a proposal as humiliating to the clergy themselves as it is opposed to every principle of true Local Taxation Reform. Like the recent endowment of the Voluntary Schools, the money it gives the clergy is a sheer gift. The whole principle," says the. Manchester Guardian," is that of robbing Peter by small instalments, which he does, not notice, to pay Paul in a lump sum, for which he is grateful and willing to barter ,his political support. Such a principle is the beginning of corruption in our politics in a new form which, it is only too clear, readily admits of gigantic development." In introducing the Bill, MR. LoxG said the Government proposed that owners of tithe rent charge or its equivalent should pay in future half only of the rates, to which they were at present liable. The amount required by the relief to be given under the bilL was X87,000, and that sum the Government proposed to take from the Local Tax- ation Account. The poorer clergy are undoubtedly deserving of some kind of re- lief but it is passing strange that the wealthiest of all religious communions should come upon the public purse for relief. Would not voluntary contribution be a more natural and healthier remedy for clerical poverty? There are many deserving and laborious ministers of religion among the dissenting bodies who, are poor also. They have to depend upon the voluntary offerings of those whom they .serve, or work for the work's sake, and endure poverty as, the, apostles did. The plea, of course, is that the value of tithes has fallen, and that the clergy who depend on that source are poor: but the income of most classes is subject to fluctuations downward from causes beyond their own control. That the income of the clergy has fallen is a poor plea for inviting the rest of the community to pay their legal charges, and the policy of doles must soon reduce itself to an absurdity for when the landlords and the clergy have had their portion, other people, will naturally put in their claims. Like the Agricultural Rating Act, the benefits of the Bill are. not confined to the class in whose interests it is ostensibly promoted; for the rich incumbent and the poor will reap the harvest alike. In fact, the relief it will bring will mean but a nig- gardly pound or two for the most deserving cases, while for the richly beneficed it will mean quite a sheaf of ten-pound notes. The Government may force the Bill through Parliament, but the day will soon come when the defenders of Church and State will be sorry they had anything to do with it.

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