CHURCH RATE, the name of a tax formerly levied in each parish in England and Ireland for the benefit of the parish church. Out of these rates were defrayed the expenses of carrying on divine service, repairing the fabric of the Church, and paying the salaries of the officials connected with it. The church rates were made by the churchwardens, together with the parishioners duly assembled after proper notice in the vestry or the church. The rates thus made were recoverable in the ecclesiastical court, or, if the arrears did not exceed £10 and no questions were raised as to the legal liability, before two justices of the peace. Any payment not strictly recognized by law made out of the rate destroyed its validity. The church rate was a personal charge imposed on the occupier of land or of a house in the parish, and, though it was compulsory, much difficulty was found in effectually applying the compulsion. This was especially so in the case of Nonconformists, who had conscientious objections to supporting the Established Church; and in Ireland, where the population was preponderatingly Roman Catholic, the grievance was specially felt and resented. The agitation against church rates led in 1868 to the passing of the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act. By this act church rates are no longer compulsory on the person rated, but are merely voluntary, and those who are not willing to pay them are excluded from inquiring into, objecting to, or voting in respect of their expenditure (s. 8).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)