Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Monday, 31 January 2011

Free Coke and a Bag of Popcorn

Right - if I want to rent a DVD in the greater Halifax environs I am required, according to the rules laid down for such things, to take at least two forms or ID - one with my picture on, and both with my current home address on, as evidence that I am who I say I am, I belong where I say I belong, and can be chased down like a dog if I fail to return Pretty Woman on the agreed day.

Now imagine if you will that I want to get married in a church.  There are various rules about how I qualify to do this.  Perhaps this is the church where I am resident, or where I worship, I am part of the community, I am known - I therefore meet all the rules necessary to get married there.  However this scenario, in my current parish, is very rarely the case, and more often than not we are meeting and welcoming people who are getting married under the churches new rules about marriage by connection.

I now come to my grumble for the day - there is no expectation that I will confirm who people are as part of the legal processes of marriage in a church - yet there is the expectation that I will discern (by my magical priesty powers??) if they are involved in something shonky - like a marriage scam.  In this day and age Banns are a nonsense in 99% of cases, they are not an effective way of giving legal notice - who in the pew would know???

I ended up asking someone about their legal right to marry in this country the other day - essentially because they had a funny accent - and was wildly angry with myself and the church afterwards for putting me in a position where there is not a level playing field and I felt like I was being discriminatory.  I cannot be expected to discern whether or not someone is a UK citizen on the basis of how they look or sound - but there seems to be no expectation that anyone who comes to me requesting a marriage in my church should prove whether they do or don't meet the most basic legal criteria to marry in this country.  I believe that introducing simple proof of ID to the legal process for marriage in church could save a lot of clergy a lot of heartache and would cut down on those targeting us to exploit a lax administrative process.


Ray Barnes said...

Is there no such requirement? I ask in all innocence, since one of my 'volunteer' jobs in our church is that of writing up the banns book, marriage register etc., and I had always assumed that 'someone' had already ascertained that the proposed marriage was legally valid.

Rachel F said...

There is no legal requirement that we confirm someone's identity at present - and neither is there a requirement that we prove someone's 'connection' to the church if they say they have one - although many clergy insist on this being proved (marriage certificates/baptism records) to be on the safe side.