Author(s): Pauline Ridge
The article considers the legal regulation of religious giving in nineteenth century England. Three leading cases, decided between 1871 and 1887, are discussed. Each case involves a woman of Roman Catholic, or Roman Catholic-like persuasion, making a substantial testamentary or inter vivos gift to the religious body with which she is associated. It is argued that whether the gift was construed as an outright gift or a trust for purposes was crucial to its enforceability. Two key themes are considered: autonomy concerns in relation to religious giving (including reasons why these concerns were more pressing with respect to inter vivos gifts) and the different levels of legal recognition of religious giving. The law during this period took an active role both in managing the relationship of religious groups with the state and in controlling the activities of religious groups; conversely, suppressed religious groups managed to operate around, and outside, the law.