Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Revised Jersey Marriage law and Quakers

The Revised Jersey Marriage law and Quakers

“Friends regard marriage as both a civil contract and a religious commitment.”

"The members of the Quakers Friends Society, and those who profess the Jewish religion, will be able to contract and celebrate marriage according to their customs provided that [one of the spouses is] 26 of the said society or religion respectively ; provided that the notice of marriage has been given to the Superintendent and that he has granted the certificate or license required by that Act. The license or certificate shall be delivered to the Recorder of the Society of Friends, or to the Secretary of the Synagogue of the Jews, which Recorder and Secretary will ensure, either whether or not they were present at the wedding, that their respective uses were duly observed; they will register the marriage in duplicate and without delay in two "Registers of Marriage, "which will be provided for this purpose; they will sign the two inscriptions, and observe the other formalities required by Article 27." (LOI (1842) SUR L’ETAT CIVIL)

The proposed amendment to existing law appears to alter matters as follows, in that the following, and only the following, can celebrate a marriage. New Article 6 sets out who can solemnize a marriage in Jersey:

1. Superintendent Registrar and Deputy Superintendent Registrars: Must take Oath in Royal Court before solemnizing marriage

2. Authorized civil celebrant: Must take Oath in Royal Court before solemnizing marriage

3. Authorized religious official: No requirement to take Oath in Royal court, as they have an Oath to their religious authority

4. Anglican incumbent: No Oath in Royal Court

So where exactly do Quaker Weddings stand?

Robin Beth Schaer describes a Quaker wedding thus:

“Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, marry without a lot of fanfare. Often referred to as the silent ceremony, Quaker weddings differ from the traditional Protestant ceremony in four significant ways: there is no officiant; no giving away of the bride; a wedding certificate is signed; and there is a long period of silent, open worship after which those attending may speak on the couple's behalf.”

And yet for the purposes of Jersey law, they are recognised as a religion, indeed as a church. Current practice, as described in 2011 is as follows:

Clerk for Jersey Quakers: “We have a registry officer and you can be married in the Quaker Meeting House. It is not very often that we hold marriages but yes you can be. At the most recent one that we had in the Quaker Meeting House, the registrar also attended as well as our Quaker registrar and there was a small part of it, just very small, slightly on the side, that was conducted and that part was the registrar.”

So where do they fit? They are not civil celebrants, and yet how can they be “Authorized religious official: No requirement to take Oath in Royal court, as they have an Oath to their religious authority”? Quakers, it may have escaped notice of those drawing up the law, do not ever take oaths!

But Quakers have no hierarchical system of religious authority in people, although there is the framework of Quaker Frame and Practice:

“Quaker marriage is not an alternative form of marriage available to the general public, but is for members and those who, whilst not being in formal membership, are in unity with its religious nature and witness. Usually, however, one or both of the parties being married will be members or they will be otherwise associated with the Society.”

Equally, Quaker marriages are seen not as a merely civil contract but as a religious act.

One assumes that the situation can continue as it stands, but it would be nice for there to be some clarity.

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