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Trouble over a crucifix


July 14th, 1905.

THE Richmond Town Council seems to have constituted itself a kind of ecclesiastical court, which bases its judgments on the discredited dicta of the late Lord Penzance. It appears that the vicar and churchwardens of St John's Church lately applied to the Town Council for permission to extend the building, and that the scheme included a large crucifix with supporting figures of Our Lady and St John, which it is intended to place on the east wall. To this the Town Council took exception, and bombarded the Bishop of Southwark with extracts from Lord Penzance's judgment in "Ridsdale v. Clifton", in which that learned authority held that a crucifix was illegal, as being "likely to be abused for purposes of superstition". The Bishop, however, refused to be scared by the bogey of Lord Penzance's Court, and pointed out that the churchwardens were entitled to the free use of their discretion. At the last meeting of the Council, one of the Aldermen made the singular proposal that the Bishop should be requested not to sanction the side-figures, though we are glad to see that several Dissenters were in the minority. A little reflection would have shown the worthy Alderman that the addition of the figures converts the whole work into a group of statuary representing a historic scene, and, if there is any possibility of "superstition", it would certainly be minimised by this treatment. Our respect for the intelligence of the Richmond Town Council is not increased by this particular instance of its sagacity.

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