Monday, 1 October 2007

Conventicle Act 1664

The Conventicle Act of 1664 was an Act of parliament under Charles II that forbade religious assemblies of more than five people outside the auspices of the Church of England. This law was part of the programme of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, to discourage nonconformity and to strengthen the position of the Established Church. These prohibitions led many, such as the Covenanters, to vacate their parishes rather than submit to the new Episcopal authorities. Just as the ministers left so too did the congregations, following their old pastors to sermons on the hillside. From small beginnings these field assemblies - or conventicles - were to grow into major problems of public order for the government.
Other statutes that were part of Clarendon's programme include:
the Quaker Act of 1662, which required people to swear an oath of allegiance to the king.
A second conventicle act was passed in 1670.
The operation of these laws at least as far as Protestants were concerned was mitigated somewhat by Charles II's Royal Declaration of indulgence in 1672, which suspended the execution of penal laws and allowed a certain number of non-conformist chapels to be staffed and constructed, with the pastors subject to royal approval.
The Conventicle Act and Five Mile Acts were repealed in 1689.

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