Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Letter of the Day | RGD might force me to 'break up' too

Published:Tuesday | August 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

In reference to The Sunday Gleaner article of August 5, 2018, headlined 'BREAK-UP', I too am likely to soon join my colleague in the line of those who could be denied the opportunity of performing marriages. However, I sympathise with the Registrar General's Department (RGD) for I assume that like other government agencies they must cut cost and find ways of earning income.

The truth is that while some clergy may not charge fees for performing weddings, especially those who see marriage as a sacrament, there are those who appear to have contracts with the hotels or wedding planners to do weddings in the tourism sector. These persons, as well as others in the church, earn big money and doing weddings is a business. Such persons it seems to me should be making their annual returns stating their earnings from weddings and pay their taxes.

I have never charged a fee for preparing persons for marriage or for the wedding ceremony; even when I have had to travel great distances at inconvenience to me. In my parish ministry I used to invite couples to contribute to the church, but this proved hopeless in most cases, and with rising maintenance costs we had to charge a small fee for the use of the church building. The fee was waived in cases of couples unable to pay and who kept their weddings at the bare minimum. Marriage for me is a sacrament and therefore I do not charge.

There is, I think, a simple equitable solution if the RGD needs to earn funds. The marriage certificates returned to the RGD note the place and date of weddings. I remember some time ago visiting an office of the RGD to hand in a single marriage certificate of a wedding I performed over the weekend. While there one person handed in a bundle of marriage certificates of weddings performed over the weekend. This may have been a case of someone doing weddings as a business and therefore who should be paying tax.

The present monetary amount charged by the RGD is a small amount if you are doing weddings as a major or extra income earner. The cost could be borne by some congregations for their clergy. In some poor rural communities, a charge for weddings could discourage persons from getting married, at least until they can afford it. We may be returning to a time when the State performed weddings or provided a certificate of marriage and those who required the church's blessing, arranged with the clergy for a separate ceremony.

The Rt Rev Leon P. Golding

Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay