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A Conservative MP wants to ‘untangle unions and religion’ by making it illegal to refuse gay unions in church. Impossible? Maybe not

Mr Cameron has already sold the pass over religious liberty

By on Thursday, 8 September 2011

David Cameron has been urged to separate marriage and religion (PA photo)

David Cameron has been urged to separate marriage and religion (PA photo)

Here, to begin with, is an Evening Standard story, filed by Craig Woodhouse, its political reporter, on Wednesday:

Abortion vote MP Nadine denies being a fundamentalist

A Tory MP pushing for changes to abortion counselling services today denied she was a “religious fundamentalist”.

Nadine Dorries told MPs she had received death threats for seeking to stop abortion providers such as Marie Stopes offering advice. She wants independent counselling.

She denied that her amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill is evidence of a growing Christian influence in the Tory party.

“Like 73 per cent of the country I am Church of England, I do have Christian beliefs, but I am not sure when that became a crime,” Ms Dorries said. “I am pro-choice.”

Well, Mrs Dorries’s (and Frank Field’s) amendment – as we now know – was roundly defeated: but only a week ago it looked as though it was going to be voted through with general support. According to some polls, 92 per cent of MPs said they supported it. The Government at first supported it too: then suddenly, mysteriously, not only did it withdraw support but even brought pressure on its own MPs to vote against it, even though this was supposed be a free vote.

Well, at least that answers one question: the suggestion that there is “a growing Christian influence in the Tory party” has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, except (a very important exception, admittedly) in the policy area which comes under the benign influence of Iain Duncan Smith, whose deep and sincere concern for social justice, undoubtedly fired by his Catholic beliefs, is generally accepted on all sides of the House of Commons. But there are certainly dark places within the Tory party in which influences that are positively anti-Christian come into play (we can’t, I think, entirely explain the Government’s volte face on the Dorries amendment by the usual excuse, that this was yet another Lib-Dem inspired last minute U-turn).

“I do have Christian beliefs,” said Mrs Dorries during the debate, “but I am not sure when that became a crime.” Well, I have news for her: there is at least one of her Tory colleagues whose mind is moving in that general direction, certainly over one question: whether or not churches should have the right to refuse to participate in or to allow on their premises the performance of civil partnerships between homosexual persons: I speak of the MP for Hove, one Mike Weatherley, who, according to Pink News, under the headline “Tory MP calls for churches to be banned from holding marriages if they refuse gay couples”, has written to the Prime Minister to demand that the Government go a lot further even than that headline suggests. Here is his letter:

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP – Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

21st August 2011


I write as Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade; a constituency which falls entirely within Brighton & Hove, the city with the most same-sex households in the UK. Like many of my constituents, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the inequality which exists between the unions of same-sex couples and those of opposite-sex couples in this country.

As you are acutely aware, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 resulted in the introduction of Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples in December 2005 … Looking back, I am sure that you would agree that it was nothing less than bizarre that same-sex couples were barred from holding their Civil Partnership ceremonies in religious venues…

Several campaigns are currently calling for, variously, the creation of a right to a Marriage for same-sex couples and the creation of a right to a Civil Partnership for opposite-sex couples… [But] as long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality. Such behaviour is not tolerated in other areas, such as adoption, after all.

I suggest that it makes little difference if unions are called Marriages, Civil Partnerships or some other term (such as simply “Unions”). Until we untangle unions and religion in this country, we will struggle to find a fair arrangement.

I thank you in advance for your views on the specific points within this letter.

Yours sincerely,


You will note that this outrageous demand for the curtailment of religious liberty appeals to an existing precedent, one which at the time attracted Tory support: the effective suppression of Catholic adoption agencies when they declined to facilitate adoption by homosexual couples. Mr Cameron, that is to say, has already decided that “gay rights” trump religious freedom in this country. As the Tory blog ConservativeHome pointed out at the time (January 29 this year), “David Cameron has decided to put gay rights ahead of religious freedom. This is a deeply disappointing retreat from religious liberty and a hammer blow to his appeal to the churches to accept Government money in return for delivering more social action. Cameron’s message is basically: ‘Come and accept taxpayers’ money for your community work but be warned that we’ll be asking for a few changes to your biblical beliefs.’ ”

ConservativeHome pointed out that “by 57 per cent to 30 per cent [Tory voters] favour an exemption for Catholic charities”: but that cut no ice with David Cameron.

So, watch this space. You may think that the Prime Minister will have nothing to do with the outrageous demands of Mike Weatherly MP, who believes that “it makes little difference if unions are called Marriages, Civil Partnerships or some other term” and that “Until we untangle unions and religion in this country, we will struggle to find a fair arrangement”, and who wants the Prime Minister to insist that churches be obliged by law to accept that gay ceremonies be performed in church buildings. As Weatherly cleverly points out, Mr Cameron has already sold the pass, at gay insistence, over religious freedom. There’s absolutely nothing to stop him doing it again.

  • Honeybadger

    You. Need.Serious. Help.

  • Honeybadger

    It looks very much like it, nytor, and yes! This government will face a fight that will make all the wars put together look like a teddy bear’s picnic.

    The Roman Catholic Church is built on a rock.

    People forget that, including people who purport to have a good education.

  • Honeybadger

    Do you deny that you are a dangerous fruitcake with an agenda?

  • Honeybadger

    You show your pure ignorance. Arabs and other cultures have kisses of greetings between men…are they gay, for heaven’s sake? NO!

    Your gaydar is seriously in need of a service…

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t work. On the one occasion on which I have written to him , over the SORs, I had a reply from his researcher (one Alice Sheffield, his sister-in-law) reaffirming his commitment to equality, etc etc

  • rodinka

    Really, the remarks in this combox are inappropriate… So we have returned to the Tudor times.. Are we going to hang draw and quarter the clergy for standing up for the Sanctity of the Church? Our future He’d of State just had a ceremony which underscored the theology of Marriage and the theology of the the Kingdom of God. Catholic places of worship are not just “religious venues”, they are the House of God and “How terrible is this Place” ! Guess the prophecies of the OT will have more meaning than ever now. “Under every green tree, you practice your harlotry!” I didn’t say, God did… d’you think maybe He’s listening now?

  • Bob Hayes

    Your dissatisfaction with the evolution of the English language seems to have distorted your Christian perspective. ‘Same sex attraction’ is the Church terminology, ”homosexuality’ is quasi-medical and ‘gay’ tends to be used by activists promoting ‘rights’ for those with same sex attraction. To declare the use of the term ‘gay’ is a sin is to horribly blur the huge distinction between those people with same sex attraction who resist temptation and lead chaste lives according to God’s teaching and those who lead very different lives indulging in sexual acts and actively promoting sin.

  • Bob Hayes

    Your dissatisfaction with the evolution of the English language seems to have distorted your Christian perspective. ‘Same sex attraction’ is the Church terminology, ”homosexuality’ is quasi-medical and ‘gay’ tends to be used by activists promoting ‘rights’ for those with same sex attraction. To declare the use of the term ‘gay’ is a sin is to horribly blur the huge distinction between those people with same sex attraction who resist temptation and lead chaste lives according to God’s teaching and those who lead very different lives indulging in sexual acts and actively promoting sin.

  • Anonymous

    “This is the situation that applies in many other countries.”

    Er, just one point.  Britain is not included “in many other countries”.  We do things our way.

  • Anonymous

    “…they don’t trust the Church not to try to turn back the clock and
    persecute them again, as still happens in many overseas countries with
    the Church’s approval and sometimes active encouragement?”

    A wicked allegation without a single word of proof to support it.

  • Anonymous

    That depends, of course, on what part of the anatomy is kissed, wouldn’t you say?

  • Anonymous

    “In many countries a church marriage has no legal standing.”

    It does, however, have legal standing in Britain, and that is what counts.  Other countries can look after their affairs as they please, we are under no obligation to copy them.

  • Anonymous

    “So there is one way of influencing him: writing to him.”

    No need to bother.  The double-dip recession predicted for next year will polish him off.

  • Anonymous

    “Just out if interest, will mosques have to comply in the Brave New world?”

    Please, Bridie, don’t ask such an embarrassing question.  You know Mr Cameron doesn’t like it.

  • Bob Hayes

    ‘… modern secular governments do not permit their traditional response to difference:  torture and mass murder’. Pardon? Plenty of modern secular governments have been adept at torture and/or mass murder. 

  • Anonymous

    If couples wish to marry in a Catholic Church they have to attend at least 6 lessons in the 6 months before their marriage to learn and understand what the Church teaches about the SACRAMENT of Marriage and to agree to it. A gay couple could not fulfil that requirement in all honesty ever.

  • Anonymous

    My comment seems to have disappeared! It was to point out that couples wanting their wedding in a Catholic Church already have to agree to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the SACRAMENT of Marriage. Indeed, all couples wishing to get married in a Catholic Church have to attend at least 6 lessons during the 6 months before their marriage to make sure they understand this Sacrament and I think they do have to sign something agreeing with the teaching on this Sacrament. But no homosexual would be able to sign or to agree in all honesty.

  • LocutusOP

    Correction: “opinions of one insignificant European country…”

    Should read: “opinions of one increasingly insignificant European country…”

  • LocutusOP

    Unfortunately, even the “quasi-medical” (as you quite rightly put it) term homosexuality has made its way into the Catholic church’s own catechism.

    I agree very much that a distinction needs to be made between those who have a weakness for a particular kind of sin (whatever that sin may be) and those who actively promote the sin….I also regret in equal measure that the catechism does not make this distinction particularly clear in its discussion on sexual morals.

  • LocutusOP

    The Catholic church is in the business of saving souls, not promoting equality in lifestyles choice.

    To the extent that a law may keep people from losing their souls, the Catholic church has an interest – if not even an obligation in some cases – in keeping these laws in place.

    Whether private sexual relations between adults ought to fall within jurisdiction of the state, however, is an entirely different matter.

  • LocutusOP

    Then perhaps you will be aware that the reason a church marriage has legal standing in Britain is because the state moved into the marriage business rather than the other way around, and because the laws that built Britain were not made in the spirit of antagonism to God, but (at least in theory) in a spirit of submission to God’s laws.

    For that reason it seems to me that if anyone is to get out of the marriage (an institution which far outdates Britain) business it should be the state, and not the church. Since the state sees no value in marriage, I’m not sure the state could even begin to make a logical case as to why if feels it has a stake in marriage.

  • LocutusOP

    (Virtually) All of them by my reckoning.

  • LocutusOP

    Whether adultery should be illegal or not depends on the Catholic in question and – more importantly – on the role of government, and whether marriage should have a protected and elevated status.

    If marriage is to have a protected status  – which, at least in theory, it has in all countries which recognise civil marriage contracts – then adultery ought to be punishable – if not in statute then at least in its practical implications. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves (as we already do) in the curious situation whereby a marriage is the only contract which can be terminated without any legal ramifications for the party which breached the contract.

  • Anonymous

    Forcing religious institutions to marry gay couples is obviously foolish, and this MP should have more sense.

    I DO think though that (as in France), if the state handles the legal documents of marriage, and if Churches handle the spiritual side then issues such as gay unions and gay marriage can be much more easily resolved.

    Marriage as a legal and social entity, and marriage as a sacrament from God are two entirely separate things. I don’t want to deny gay couples’ the legal side of marriage, only the sacramental side.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    My impression is not that not many same-sex couples are wildly eager to marry
    in religious ceremonies in churches not presently willing to solemnize these;
    rather, it is that so-called gay rights advocates are hell bent on ensuring that
    there shall be neither power nor principality, nor height, nor depth, nor past,
    present, or future, nor any other living thing that anyone may encounter that
    shall communicate to him or to her anything but absolute affirmation, indeed,
    celebration, of specifically those acting out on SSA.



    And “religious freedom” – be damned! – that anyone who doesn’t fall in line
    may expect to be brought to heel with whatever severity is needed to elicit

  • Bob Hayes

    Why not separate what is God’s and what is Caesar’s in line with what appear to be the realities of modern secular states such as Britain? Marriages conducted for faithful, practising believers conducted by the Church (or other faiths) in accordance with its (their) teaching, including a straightforward process for registering the event with state authorities. Civil partnership, with its exclusive concern for legal implications, to be the option for those wanting no religious involvement. 

  • Anonymous

    It’s a simple statement of fact. There are quite a number of homosexual people who don’t trust the Church not to turn back the clock and persecute them again. Note my post above, about how the Church is battling to keep homosexual acts between consenting adults in private illegal in Belize, with a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment.

  • Vaughan Jones

    The RCC belief system, however, is built on sand.

  • Vaughan Jones

    Sin; the guilt trip that bonds the blood cult of Christian dogma. It’s not a sin to be a homosexual. As soon as your ears are cleaned out you’ll understand why.

  • Vaughan Jones

    Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza as a most recent case perhaps? 
    Where else is the desire to do harm against homosexuals than what is found in the holy texts of ancient goat herders? 

  • Anonymous

    I would want to allow the term marriage also for those who are gay. As regarding secular gay marriage I have no problem, and neither should the Church – as secular marriage should be non of its concern.

    It should only seek to influence the rules around the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

  • Randy McDonald

    Indeed, in 1992 the current Pope addressed a letter to the bishops of the church ( arguing in defense of discrimination “where justified” (in employment, in areas such a teaching and the military) and against anti-discrimination laws which protected gays on the grounds that such might encourage them.

  • geoffreysmith1

    Discrimination is not persecution, as we understand that term.
    It is morally lawful to discourage evil by civil action, as the then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained. 

  • Tega Obi

    whatever!!! Being gay is sick and depraved! yuck!

  • Cyclophile

    It seems that the christian religion is being unfairly compelled to marry gay couples. Is it suggested that muslim, sikh, hindu and other religions will be subject to similar compulsion. If not the government is being racist. If so a Mr Cameron  should expect a lot of trouble in the days after announcing such a policy. As and agnostic I am not involved.

  • whytheworldisending

    The word “Union” does not apply to homosexual acts. This is because it refers to the occasion when 2 people, to use the gospel’s terminology, “become one flesh.” Heterosexual unions are rightly so described, because they are open to new life. When a male sperm is united to a female egg, the 2 really do become one flesh – in the form of a new human being. The child is the flesh and blood of both the mother and the father. This is something that can never happen to homosexuals. They cannot be part of a union. Far from untangling unions and religion, we should be uniting them. Britain needs a faith union to help represent the collective views and rights of the majority against blatant attempts at illegitimate minority rule. Not that we are helpless against political upstarts. It was a delight to behold Her Majesty’s gracing of the cabinet meeting yesterday with those subversives squirming in their seats, and well they might, for this is what Her Majesty said in 2,000 A.D., “To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” Her Majesty is of course, “Defender of the Faith.”