93. Act repealing several clauses in Statutes imposing penalties for not coming to church.
[September 27, 1650. Scobell, ii. 131. See Commonwealth and Protectorate, ii. 3.]
The Parliament of England taking into consideration several Acts, made in the times of former Kings and Queens of this nation, against recusants not coming to church, enjoining the use of Common Prayer, the keeping and observing of holy days, and some other particulars touching matters of religion; and finding, that by the said Act divers religious and peaceable people, well-affected to the prosperity of the Commonwealth, have not only been molested and imprisoned, but also brought into danger of abjuring their country, or in case of return, to suffer death as felons, to the great disquiet and utter ruin of such good and godly people, and to the detriment of the Commonwealth, do enact, and be it enacted by this present Parliament, and by authority of the same, that all and every the branches, clauses, articles, and provisoes expressed and contained in the ensuing Acts of Parliament; viz. in the Act of the first of Eliz. intituled, 'An Act for uniformity of prayer, and administration of Sacraments'; and in an Act of the thirty-fifth of Eliz. intituled, ' An Act for punishing of persons obstinately refusing to come to church, and persuading others to impugn the Queen's authority in ecclesiastical causes '; and all and every the branches, clauses, articles, and provisoes contained in an Act of Parliament of the twenty-third of Eliz. intituled, 'An Act for retaining the Queen's subjects in their due obedience'; hereafter expressed, viz. 'Be it also further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that every person above the age of sixteen years, which shall not repair to some Church, Chapel, or usual place of Common Prayer, but forbear the same, contrary to the tenor of a statute made in the first year of her Majesty's reign, for uniformity of Common Prayer, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall forfeit to the Queen's Majesty for every month, after the end of this session of Parliament, which he or she shall so forbear, £20 of lawful English money; and that over and besides the said forfeitures, every person so forbearing by the space of twelve months as aforesaid, shall for his or her obstinacy, after certificate thereof in writing made into the Court, commonly called the King's Bench, by the Ordinary of the diocese, a Justice of assize and gaol-delivery, or a Justice of Peace of the county where such offender shall dwell, be bound with two sufficient sureties, in the sum of .£200 at the least, to the good behaviour, and so to continue bound until such time as the persons so bound do conform themselves and come to the church, according to the true meaning of the said statute made in the said first year of the Queen's Majesty's reign: and be it further enacted, that if any person or persons, body politic or corporate, after the feast of Pentecost next coming, shall keep or maintain any schoolmaster, which shall not repair to church as is aforesaid, or be allowed by the Bishop or Ordinary of the diocese where such schoolmaster shall be so kept, shall forfeit and lose for every month so keeping him, £10: provided, that no such Ordinary or their Ministers shall take anything for the said allowance: and such schoolmaster or teacher presuming to teach contrary to this Act, and being thereof lawfully convict, shall be disabled to be a teacher of youth, and shall suffer imprisonment without bail or mainprize for one year. And be it likewise enacted, that all and every offences against this Act, or against the Acts of the first, fifth, or thirteenth years of her Majesty's reign, touching acknowledging of her Majesty's supreme Government in causes ecclesiastical, or other matters touching the service of God or coming to church, or establishment of true religion in this realm, shall and may be enquirable as well before justices of peace, as other justices named in the same statutes, within one year and a day after every such offence committed: anything in this Act, or in any other Act to the contrary notwithstanding'; and all and every the branches, clauses, articles, and provisoes expressed and contained in any other Act or Ordinance of Parliament, whereby or wherein any penalty or punishment is imposed, or mentioned to be imposed on any person whatsoever, for not repairing to their respective parish churches, or for not keeping of holy days, or for not hearing Common Prayer, or for speaking or inveighing against the Book of Common Prayer, shall be, and are by the authority aforesaid, wholly repealed and made void.
And it is also hereby enacted and declared, that all proceedings had or made by virtue of any the clauses, branches, or articles mentioned and contained in any of the aforesaid Acts, and hereby repealed, against any such person or persons as aforesaid, shall be fully and wholly superseded, made void and null.
Provided, that this Act, nor anything therein contained, shall extend to the taking away of any Act or Ordinance made by this present Parliament, concerning the due observation of the Lord's day, days of public thanksgiving and humiliation.
And to the end that no profane or licentious persons may take occasion by the repealing of the said laws (intended only for relief of pious and peaceably-minded people from the rigour of them) to neglect the performance of religious duties, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all and every person and persons within this Commonwealth and the territories thereof, shall (having no reasonable excuse for their absence) upon every Lord's day, days of public thanksgiving and humiliation, diligently resort to some public place where the service and worship of God is exercised, or shall be present at some other place in the practice of some religious duty, either of prayer, preaching, reading or expounding the scriptures, or conferring upon the same.
And be it further declared by the authority aforesaid, that every person and persons that shall not diligently perform the duties aforesaid, according to the true meaning hereof (not having reasonable excuse to the contrary) shall be deemed and taken to be offenders against this law, and shall be proceeded against accordingly.
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