Church and State—by Mrs. Thatcher
Addressing members of the Finchley Women's Inter-Church Luncheon Club last week, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Member for Finchley, stressed that a childhood spent in a Christian home was the best possible background that could be provided.
Mrs. Thatcher said she had always been grateful to her own parents for this, but she thought that her audience perhaps did not realise that Finchley probably had a larger proportion of such homes than some areas, and so would be unaware of some of the social problems that would be acute in such places.
Speaking primarily on the contacts between Church and the Government, she outlined the direct control that existed between the State and the established Church of England only, but added that, contrary to popular belief, recommendations from the Church Assembly had to be ratified, or rejected, but could not be amended by Parliament.
It would be very difficult to set aside the terms of a Trust Deed administering funds or property provided for specific purposes, even with the agreement of the present parties concerned. The Charity Commissioners had been appointed to deal with such difficult questions arising from money subscribed, for instance, to a disaster fund, but the question of church buildings was a very involved one. It was such matters that could halt the progress of churches wishing to unite.
Mrs. Thatcher also dealt with aspects of education which were of great concern to the churches; such as the minority report attached to the Lady PlowdenPlowden report, dealing with religious instruction in schools. She felt that this was beneficial—being compulsory at present—and it was in this connection that she mentioned the cases where parents with strong beliefs themselves, instructed their children, as many did in Finchley, whereas there were areas in which the children would have no knowledge of any belief at all, if this were not given in school. [end p1]
Although nowadays atheists or agnostics, as well as members of any religious denomination could sit in the House, the business of the day was preceded by prayers, and she felt it was still a good thing to be reminded of the standards towards which they were striving and of the beliefs underlying the standards.
People had come to take for granted the good that sprang from Christianity, but she thought that the Christian ethic without a real belief would not continue indefinitely alone—it would be like a flower without a root.
Mrs. Thatcher said that there were cases where government appeared to hinder the churches, but these would be cases of civil law.
In speaking of religious bodies, Mrs. Thatcher referred to the various Jewish communities.
On the vexed question of secondary education, she pointed to the excellent grammar schools provided by denominational interests. She wondered how these could be brought into a comprehensive plan—they were too valuable to lose—perhaps some could join forces with others to produce “a comprehensive church school” —since they had the same ideal in view.
In her experience the Church school did attract the more dedicated teacher from whom the child could gain more than the best equipped or planned school could give. The State in any case, already benefited from these schools as they provided some of the money and spent it wisely.
(2) Finchley Press, 20 January 1967
Mrs. Thatcher on church unity
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, MP, speaking on the church and the government at the Finchley Women's Inter-Church Luncheon Club meeting at St. Mary's Parish Hall, Church End, reminded her listeners that Parliament had no say in the Roman Catholic or the Free Churches, but only in the established church, the Church of England.
This operated primarily through the Church Assembly. The Protestant doctrine, the appointment of Bishops, any proposed alterations in the Prayer Book, for instance, would come under the jurisdiction of the government.
On church unity, Mrs. Thatcher thought that the emphasis should be on what the churches had in common, rather than their differences.
Difficulties often arose in proposed unity of Free churches, when it was sometimes found that clauses in old trusts connected with individual churches, might be in opposition to unity.
Touching on the subject of comprehensive schools, Mrs. Thatcher said she would like to see in the future a joining together of some of the church day schools whose battle for existence had often been long and hard.
Parliament, she went on, was made up of members of varying creeds and faiths, and the ultimate decision for the good of the people was not necessarily a definite what is right or what is wrong according to individual beliefs of members, but what was best in the present circumstances.
On the general picture, today, she believed that there was a great need for re-thinking, that faith should be revivified.
“The period of taking it for granted is over” , said Mrs. Thatcher, “if we are to confound the doubters who believe that the intellectual approach can solve anything.”
Referring to the Plowden report on primary school education, she was of the opinion that religious instruction should be part of every school's curriculum.