An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider several outdated laws and the need for good laws today.
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and three readers.
Please note that the laws that are quoted in this assembly are taken from www.dumblaws.com, which contains extra information about many outdated laws around the world.
Leader: The word ‘motive’ is defined as ‘the psychological thought that arouses a person to action; the reason for the action’.
The Leader turns to Reader 1 and poses a question.
Leader: Have you heard the saying ‘The law is an ass’?
Reader 1 (looking confused): I think I have. Who was it who said that?
Leader: Actually, it was Charles Dickens. ‘The law is an ass, an idiot,’ is what he actually wrote. Charles Dickens was referring to the law in general, as it stood in England when he wrote the book, Oliver Twist, but his words still resonate with some laws today. Have you ever come across a law or a rule that - when you think about it - seems to have no logic at all?
Reader 1: You mean like . . . the one about riding bikes on school grounds. I can never understand why ‘a certain somebody’ decided banning that was a good idea. [You may substitute this for a rule that is more relevant to your school.]
Leader: Come on, be fair. You could run somebody over - especially the way you ride. It’s just a way of making sure that nobody gets hurt. That was the motive behind that rule. But what about laws that appear to have no logic to them at all? We’ve put together a collection of some of the weirdest laws in the world, which have been taken from www.dumblaws.com.
Reader 2 and Reader 3 step forward to join the Leader and Reader 1.
Reader 2: Lots of these laws come from the USA and some come from closer to home.
Reader 3: As we read out the laws, see if you can work out why somebody in power first thought up these laws. What was their motive?
(The following is a small selection of suitable laws from the website www.dumblaws.com. Please note that the state where each law applies is given in brackets – this is for information only, so you do not need to read them out.)
Leader: In various states in the USA, it is ILLEGAL . . .
- for men and women over the age of 18 to have more than one missing tooth visible when smiling (Arizona)
- to keep alligators in bathtubs (Arkansas)
- to shower naked (Florida)
- for a chicken to cross the road (Georgia)
- for a man with a moustache to kiss a woman in public (Iowa)
- for a woman to buy a hat without her husband’s permission (Kentucky)
- for mourners at a wake to eat more than three sandwiches (Massachusetts)
- to sell donut holes (Nebraska)
Reader 1: And other laws decree that:
- anyone caught stealing soap must wash himself with it until it is all used up (Arizona)
- school teachers who bob their hair will not get a pay rise (Arkansas)
- no vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 miles per hour (California)
- you are not permitted to wear cowboy boots unless you own at least two cows (California)
- cats may not run loose without having been fitted with a taillight (Colorado)
- kisses may last for no more than five minutes (Iowa)
- one-armed piano players must perform for free (Iowa)
- barbers are forbidden from eating onions between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (Nebraska)
Reader 2: Of course, the Americans are not the only people who have invented strange laws and local statutes.
Reader 3: There are many strange and outdated ordinances still on the statute books in England.
Reader 2: For example, did you realize that ‘All English males over the age of 14 are required to carry out two hours of longbow practice every week and said practice should be supervised by the local clergy’?
Leader: If you didn’t practise your archery last week, you have broken the law and should be punished!
Reader 3: Did you know that:
- it is illegal to be drunk on licensed premises (in a pub or bar)
- it is illegal for a lady to eat chocolates on a public conveyance
- in Chester, you can only shoot a Welsh person with a bow and arrow inside the city walls and after midnight
- in Hereford, you may shoot a Welsh person all day on a Sunday with a longbow in the Cathedral Close
- in York, excluding Sundays, it is perfectly legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow
Reader 2: And Scotland has its fair share of outdated laws that are still firmly in place:
- it is illegal to be drunk in possession of a cow
- trespassing on someone else’s land is legal
- you are presumed guilty until proven innocent for some crimes
- if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your commode, you must let them enter
Leader: So there are some pretty weird laws that governments have never got round to repealing.
Time for reflection
Although some laws may seem strange and outdated, there will probably have been a good reason for implementing them at the time.
Some interesting questions to consider are:
- what qualities should a good law have?
- how can we know when a law is just and fair?
- is a law that is not enforceable worth the paper it is written on?
Most of the world’s religions have laws. Most of those laws were put in place many hundreds of years ago.
Do you know of any religious laws that now seem outdated or useless?
Does it affect how valuable a religion is if these laws make little sense these days?
Have you ever asked a religious person to explain why these laws are still worth keeping?
Christians believe that, many years ago, God gave ten special laws to a man called Moses. These laws are called the ten commandments. Although it is thousands of years since these laws were first introduced, they form the basis of many of the laws in this country. When Jesus was on Earth, he gave his followers two very important commandments. First, he said that they should love God with all their hearts, souls and minds, and second, he said that they should love their neighbours as they loved themselves.