A ban on any mention of religion in civil wedding ceremonies is set to be relaxed after over-zealous officials prevented the playing of Robbie Williams's song Angels.
A ruling from the Registrar-General in 1995 prohibits any reference to 'a god or deity, prayer or worship, or church or temple' at a civil ceremony.
Banned works include poetry by Shakespeare, readings from EM Forster's Howard's End and Aretha Franklin's song I Say A Little Prayer.
A review by current Registrar-General Len Cook today recommends a relaxation to allow 'readings, songs or music that contain an incidental reference to a god or deity in an essentially non-religious context'. The Government is supporting the proposal, with the public and churches being invited to express their views.
The 1949 Marriage Act, still in force, says that civil wedding ceremonies should not include any "religious service". But the ban was strengthened in 1995 to include pop songs and literary readings with only incidental references to religion.
In a test case last year, a couple were refused permission to have a reading of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet which begins, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." because it includes the words God and grace.
Some Bible readings will also be permitted under the new rules if they are not particularly religious in content.
Ministers intend to introduce changes to the guidelines later this year.
One issue under consideration is whether to permit the singing of hymns, or whether they should only be played in instrumental versions. At present they are banned.
Couples arranging civil ceremonies in recent years have been refused permission to play instrumental versions of Ave Maria, Pie Jesu and Zadok the Priest.
Once again, the government's doodling with religion in public life is beyond parody. I would say that the proposition that "some Bible readings will also be permitted under the new rules if they are not particularly religious in content", represents the current high- water mark of the ridiculous genre.
Registrar-General is particularly sinister sounding post don't you think?