This isn’t a government consultation, though it has the authoritative whiff of one, and many people will doubtless mistakenly believe it to be one, but it is definitely not one: it is only the Law Commission, who, having determined a pressing need to “modernise and improve wedding law”, have set out a few proposals which would basically further erode the status of the Church of England.
They have helpfully produced ‘Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law‘, which iterates and reiterates how current wedding laws are “outdated” and “restrictive”, not least because people are routinely denied “a wedding that is meaningful to them”. That’s to say if a couple of humanists want to tie the knot whilst undulating (or vomiting) on the Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the law currently prohibits them from doing so with the requirement for secular venues to be licensed. This restriction was deemed necessary in order to sustain the dignity and solemnity of the matrimonial service, but now that marriage has been reduced to a secular contract between any consenting parties of either sex or any gender (and number) which can now be nullified without blame within a few months, why not go the whole hog and dismantle the sanctity of the wedding service, as well?
The proposals pave the way for having tacky weddings in people’s homes and, of course, humanist weddings. There is already provision in law for humanist weddings: a civil ceremony may not include prayers or hymns or religious readings, but may incorporate pretentious poetry of the glories of man and waffly secular readings about the wonders of the ethical life. But this isn’t enough for Humanists UK (aka Secularists UK): they want a special provision for humanist ceremonies, so, like in Scotland, they can market themselves as “Humanists UK, the main providers of ‘non religious’ weddings (and funerals)”, and swell their coffers in the process. As the National Secular Society observe: If enacted these reforms would create a more secular and less restrictive system of marriage, giving couples the flexibility and freedom to marry in a way that is meaningful to them.” So they “look forward to responding to the consultation”, along with every other secular-humanist group agitating for ever more secularity, while the Christians sleep in the light.
As the law presently stands, the parish church is obliged to marry any parishioners who may lawfully unite and wish to do so in accordance with Anglican doctrine and liturgy (that’s to say, a union of one man and one woman). It is the default venue for many thousands of couples (37,000 in the latest stats), but this is only a quarter of all wedding services, falling from nearly a half of all services two decades ago. Civil wedding services are growing; religious wedding services diminishing.
If your local parish priest is reduced to the same status as all other celebrants, and universal civil preliminaries must precede the church service, the ‘religious bit’ becomes an add-on; God’s blessing upon what the state has already joined together (and may summarily put asunder). The legal effect of Anglican preliminaries would be abolished. And if the requirement for “prescribed words” were also to be abolished, couples would be able to write their own services and incorporate religious songs, readings and hymns as they wish.
And so, beneath an arch of white plastic roses on Brighton’s pebbly beach, the celebrant could proclaim:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this man in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church…
The Law Commission isn’t only engaged in a secularist push, but in deregulated liturgical desecration. If you wish to respond to these proposals, you may do so HERE. The deadline is 3rd December 2020.