Those who would govern us seem to have some very odd ideas about the proper remit of government.
Lady Warsi, the shadow minister for community cohesion, said there had been a “failure” to take polygamy seriously. She urged the government to consider the mandatory registration of all religious marriages to stop men in Britain from marrying more than one woman.
Whether someone enters into a “religious marriage” is nothing to do with the State at all. Whether someone wishes to enter into a polygamous (polygynic, polyandrous, polyamorous, no matter) religious arrangement is similarly no matter for governance.
It is true that we have something called “marriage”, which the State treats as a contract, a contract the terms of which the State itself decides. It is also true that this contract is considered so important that it is held in our courts to over ride all previous contracts (one reason why pre nuptial contracts do not work in England and Wales). But that contract is something very different indeed from a religious marriage, just as all such matters religious are outside the proper remit of the State.
Just as an example of quite how ill thought out this is, in the church I was raised in it is a commonplace that nuns do, by their vows, marry Christ himself. A strict interpretation of Lady Warsi’s suggestion would thus mean that we could only have one Catholic nun in the country at any one time.
Fortunately I don’t think the Baroness was being serious in her suggestion, merely straining for a soundbite.