An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Here comes the bride, maybe not!

There are two conflicting stories of marriage reported in the Church Newspaper today. First, guidance for clergy on how to spot sham weddings being undertaken for immigration reasons needs to be urgently issued, said the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds. Guidance has already been drawn up, following the jailing of Rev Alex Brown last year who conducted 360 sham marriages at a church in East Sussex, but hasn't been issued yet.
One wonders what the guidance could possibly contain and what the ramifications for clergy would be? Should clergy be on the look out when people of different skin colours want to get married or would it be about their different accents? This sounds rather ridiculous, I agree, but what other tell tale signs could there be? If clergy are advised to ask the couple questions to further clarify the matter then it puts clergy in a singularly difficult position because they would then be acting as de facto immigration officials. If the Vicar does find out that the couple aren't genuine in their intentions then is he/she advised to report the matter to the authorities? Where does this take the role of a Vicar?
Secondly, tax breaks for married couples is being called for by the Bishop of Chester who has received the backing of Dr Sentamu and Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi. The Bishop of Chester says that marriage may be a private choice but that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that it has public consequences on which any Government cannot ignore. Marriage is, therefore, to be promoted as an instrument of policy.
How does this glorification reside beside a situation whereby the next time a Vicar is approached he/she needs to consider whether the couple seeking to be married are lying or are being truthful about their intentions? Something makes for uncomfortable reading in all of this and I think it is the placing on a pedestal of a family model that will need to be 'policed' by people who aren't qualified to do so.

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