18th August 1846. Tolerance.
The 19th century saw a widening of tolerance to religions other than the Church of England (CofE), with the first victory coming in The Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. This gave relief against previous Acts of Uniformity, Test Acts and Penal Laws.
Then legislation in 1846 resulted in alleviation for the Jewish community, as the Act’s preamble said: ‘To relieve Her Majesty’s subjects from certain penalties and disabilities in regard to religious opinion’.
It was Today in 1846 that The Religious Opinion Relief Act was passed. It stated, ‘That Her Majesty’s subjects professing the Jewish religion in respect to schools, places of worship, education and charities and properties held so under, shall be subject to the same laws as Her Majesty’s Protestant subjects and Dissenters from the Church of England and all subject to and not further or otherwise’.
The Act of necessity required the abolition of certain parts of those Acts from the Middle Ages of Henry III and Edward I and of the Tudors, those of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth, when the CofE was the only church, by law allowed. Much outmoded they were in direct contradiction to the 1846 Act.
However though the 1846 Act removed many disabilities of the Jews, it still denied them the right to become an MP, but this was to follow closely on the Act’s heels.
Other hurdles still to be surmounted not just for Jews, but Catholics, Dissenters and importantly, for women, was the exclusion from ‘Oxbridge’ Universities, where fellows and undergraduates still had to be male and in Communion with the Church of England.
History demonstrates the gradual toleration extended not just to religions, but in all aspects of life. In late 20thc Britain this has been seen in the integration of different races and religions, as with Muslims, and generally in race, sex and gender, so more can enjoy a place in the sun.
Hansard.millbanksystems. Lord’s Debate.30.4.1846.