Saturday, 14 January 2012

Faith leaders say marriage and religious freedom are intricately linked

The Archbishop of York and a prominent high court judge have recently spoken out very strongly in support of marriage – as the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life.

In an open letter released this week, religious leaders in the United States have also affirmed the importance of marriage for society;

The letter, titled ‘Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together’ and signed by thirty nine prominent leaders of church networks throughout the country, begins as follows:

The promotion and protection of marriage - the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife - is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

The leaders then go on to warn of the dangers of attempts to redefine marriage:

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of ‘marriage’—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Finally they give specific examples of religious freedoms that will be threatened if same sex marriage is legalised:

•Religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married’.
•Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships.
•Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses’.
•Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex.

Britain is coming under increasing pressure to legalise same-sex marriage. A consultation on same-sex marriage closed in Scotland in December 2011 and a new consultation is being launched in February in Westminster to consider legalisation in England and Wales.

The legalisation of same sex marriage has the backing of leaders of all three main parties – David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

I have recently highlighted how this is all part of a carefully orchestrated international campaign to change the legal definition of marriage which is being heavily funded by US and European governments.

One prominent commentator has said that this new funding priority by the Obama administration puts US foreign policy on a collision course with religious freedom’.

Some people may choose to live in civil partnerships, and under present law this is now legal (although not moral). But no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.

Let's do everything possible to make sure they don’t.

Marriage is special and unique. Marriage is marriage – one man, one woman, for life. It is not for governments to define - but simply to recognize and protect.

This protection is intricately linked to religious freedom.

Let’s pray that faith leaders speak out as boldly in the UK about these important issues as their counterparts have in the US.


  1. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, many gay people want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want -- a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

    Only now you are saying to them -- no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, "no, you can't marry". What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

    The Church's obsession with this issue and with the single definition of a single word is laughable.

    Laughable, but also pitiable, as it condemns you in ways words struggle to explain.

    To deny a whole swathe of the community their happiness, their willingness to have what others have at no expense to anyone, their simple and thoroughly understandable urge not to cause trouble, but simply to be equal...

    It's not principled.
    It's not holy.
    It's not respectable.

    It's callous.
    It's hypocritical.
    It's wrong.

    Shame on you.

  2. The legal definition of marriage in British law is '… the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.'

    Most of the world's 200-odd countries employ a similar definition.

    A same-sex partnership (whether permanent or not) is not a marriage and should not be called one. Same-sex couples can form civil partnerships under British law - heterosexual couples are however not permitted to have these.

    In my view it is right that the two arrangements are kept separate as they are different types of relationship.

    But could you please tell me what specific 'rights' are available to married couples that are not already available to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and why you feel that same-sex couples should have access to both models?

    The real challenge will be to see if you can marshall a reasoned argument in support of this without resorting to labels, accusations and ad hominem attacks. I wonder if you can.


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