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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
London
SW1A 2AA

21st August 2011

RE: SAME-SEX UNIONS IN THE UK

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,

MIKE WEATHERLEY MP

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.

  • David Lindsay

    Now that the debate is open, let us make the most of it. Any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation enabled to specify that any marriage which it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

    Statute should specify that the Church of England be such a body unless the General Synod specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses, with something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

    That would be a start, anyway. The marital union of one man and one woman is a public good uniquely and in itself, and the taxation system, among so very many other instruments of public policy, should recognise that fact. It should recognise marriage as a unique public good, to which civil partnerships are not comparable. And it should recognise marriage as a public good in itself, whether or not there are children, a related but different public good of which other forms of recognition rightly exist.

    But will any Party Leader say this, as once they would all have done? What do you think? David Cameron, having proved himself the heir to Margaret Thatcher’s legislation for abortion up to birth, which was opposed by John Smith, is doubtless also the heir of John Major’s legislation to make divorce legally easier than release from a car hire contract, to abolish the fiscal recognition of marriage simply as such (in a Finance Bill against which every Labour MP voted at the time), and to end the situation whereby, by recognising adultery and desertion as faults in divorce cases, society declared in law its disapproval of them even though they were not in themselves criminal offences. But Ed Miliband? Over to him.

  • James P

    New policy with this Oddie person: if he can be bothered to craft a decent first par, I’ll give the rest a go. Epic fail on this one. Sure it was the usual drivel, but I’ll never know.

  • W Oddie

    What on earth do you MEAN? Your entire post is simply incomprehensible (as well as grossly ill-mannered: I really hope you’re not a Catholic). Just take a breath and explain yourself. In what sense is this “new policy” on my part?  And what’s actually wrong with my first paragraph? Explain what you mean, then we might be able to work out what your point is. At the moment, it’s just incoherent.

  • Anonymous

    I read this MPs bizarre demands last week, but decided not to write about it on my blog as the man is obviously mad or stupid.

    No one has the “right” to get married in a Catholic Church, just as no one has the “right” to get ordained a Catholic priest in or receive Holy Communion. Those who are not Catholic cannot receive any of the Church’s sacraments, bar Baptism (of course) and Reconciliation and Communion (in extremis). Even some heterosexual Catholics are barred from the sacrament of Marriage – such as divorcees without having obtained an annulment – is this MP going to force the Church to marry them, too? The Catholic Church could easily also deny marriage to anyone who might be deemed psychologically unable to make the appropriate vows.

    Marriage is a Sacrament within the Catholic Church – not some “romantic ideal” for those who want to have a party after many years of living together. We have registry offices for that! Her Sacraments are also only intended for the use of Christians – and two men who are engaged in sexual activity with each other are not Christian by virtue of the fact that they are living a lifestyle opposed to the Gospel. 

    maybe this idiot MP was referring to the Church of England in his letter. Libertarians like him are so religiously and morally illiterate that he probably doesn’t know the differences that exist between the various denominations! 

  • Anonymous

    Here’s something to ponder. Which do you put first in case of conflict: religious liberty or gay rights?

    Are (a) religious liberty and (b) the non-criminalisation of homosexual acts in private between consenting adults mutually exclusive? In other words, will nothing short of the criminalisation of homosexual acts suffice if religious liberty is to be maintained?

  • Anonymous

    Before you have your usual weekly dose of apoplexy  Dr Oddie it is worth remembering that other countries eg France have already “untangled” civil and  religious marriages. 

  • Anonymous

    Before you have your usual weekly dose of apoplexy  Dr Oddie it is worth remembering that other countries eg France have already “untangled” civil and  religious marriages. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see a conflict between the two situations you posit. I don’t religious liberty, i.e. my right to believe and to say in public that two adults of the same sex cohabiting in a sexual relationship is not a good thing is incompatible with those people doing it. What is incompatible is trying to force me to say that I publicly recognise their relationship and think that it is equal in importance to marriage, when to do so in my opinion undermines marriage as an institution.

    What I find most bizarre though is the idea that different groups of people across society who wish to do different things should somehow be awarded “rights” to do so.

    A gay person in this country has just as much right to marry a person of the opposite sex as a straight person. The fact that they do not want to does not mean that somehow that person’s rights are being infringed. What is being requested by “gay rights” campaigners is entirely new concept of marriage which permits two people of the same sex to marry. Now I presume that this right to such a marriage would be open to all. Should we talk of “sister’s rights” campaign for spinster sisters who live together and who wish to have a civil partnership (not currently permitted) so that they can pass on a property and other assets free of inheritance tax?

    I would personally just argue in favour of a universal set of human rights rather than divisive rights according to what one particular group of people wishes to do. The more we seek to legislate for particular groups, the more we diminish our common humanity. Discrimination legislation in this country has become a joke.

  • Recusant

    Epic fail. Rude, meaningless, spiteful.

  • Anonymous

    a) The Catholic Church being international it cannot be forced by the opinions of one insignificant European country to adapt its teaching on any matter, as Anglicanism, as the department of state responsible for sanctifying whatever the government tells it to, effectively can be. If Cameron’s government wishes to try to force gay marriage on the Catholic Church he will face a fight which dwarfs that over the adoption agencies.

    b) Notwithstanding the position of Anglicanism vis a vis the state, at present it will not allow civil partnerships on its premises. Does this man seriously propose stripping even the state church of its ability to marry people?

  • Anonymous

    Furthermore, Catholics have the right to marry as Catholics if they so choose, and no “law” purporting to remove the Church’s right to conduct marriages will affect that. Equally, the Church cannot be forced to marry people – and this includes heterosexuals such as divorcees, as well as gays – who cannot validly marry in the eyes of the Church, whatever secular laws are passed.

  • Anonymous

    @mollysdad

    No, of course not. I don’t see why they can’t get on with it and leave the Church alone. For example, very few gays would ever have gone to a Catholic adoption agency, so why not leave them to continue and let the gays go to agencies which will help them? Same with marriage/civil partnerships. I mean, why this insistence on one-size-fits-all?

  • Anonymous

    Of course not.

    Ponder this: Catholics believe that adultery is immoral, but they do not believe that it should be illegal.

    Catholic adoption agencies went wrong years ago when they allowed unmarried couples to adopt children. Once they accepted people “living in sin” they did not have a leg to stand on in refusing to give children to same sex couples.

  • Anonymous

    Quite right. If the worst comes to the worst, (and the way things are going it probably will) then the Church will cease to be able to register marriages and a separate civil ceremony will be necessary after a Catholic wedding where the couple have to go to the register office to be given their marriage licence and become legally married. This is the situation that applies in many other countries.

  • Anonymous

    Catholics don’t generally believe that adultery ought to be a crime, but only that it ought to be amenable to civil action as a ground of permanent separation and dismissal of the adulterous spouse, and that judicial restraint of interlopers ought to be available.
     
    Concerning homosexuaity, my questions are these, and I don’t say I have any answers.
     
    Is it possible for religious liberty to survive indefinitely once homosexuals are set at liberty: (a) to engage in homosexual acts in private; (b) to celebrate their lifestyle in public; (c) to marry someone of same sex or to enter civil partnership?
     
     

  • Anonymous

    > I don’t see why they can’t get on with it and leave the Church alone.
    Could it possibly be because for the last 2,000 years the Church hasn’t left *them* alone, but has persecuted and imprisoned them and put them to death, and as a result 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?

  • ms catholic state

    Recently some American blogger suggested (I think it was on Catholic Must-Reads)…..that the Church should require couples to sign a declaration stating they support the Catholic teachings on marriage if they wish to marry in the Church.

    This would go a long way towards the Church protecing herself from malicious secular interference.     

  • Anonymous

    You are the idiot. The issue is what legal/civil status is to be given to the religious marriage. In many countries a church marriage has no legal standing. 

  • GabrielAustin

    To an American, it is confusing that someone objects to the Government having a say in such matters. Was not the principle accepted when the then government forced the C of E to accept as a bishop, a man who denied the Real Presence. The C of E is a government agency. Wherein lies the problem?
    I allow as how it is confusing to note the power of Parliament over the C of E. Are there not many MPs of different faiths, or no faith at all? 

  • Bob Hayes

    Separation of the religious and legal would not be a solution to this issue. Gay rights activists would still shout ‘discrimination’ when a Catholic church refused to allow civil partnership ceremonies, just as they would object if a town hall or hotel refused use of its facilities. 

  • Bob Hayes

    Those, such as Mike Weatherley, who claim this is a matter of ‘equal rights’ are either deluded or trying to delude others. This is not about ‘equality’, it is a struggle between religious freedom and consumerism: on the one hand is the teaching of the Catholic Church rooted in Scripture, on the other is the perception that places of worship are just like shops – and to refuse prospective same-sex partners a ‘service’ is contrary to the Equality Act 2010. This is just absurd. 

    Would Mike Weatherley support ‘equal rights’ claims by socialists demanding access to cheap beer and use of the snooker table at any Conservative Club in the land, even though they actively oppose Tory philosophy? Of course he wouldn’t. So why is he supporting those who reject the Scriptural teachings on marriage, but who bizarrely wish to impose themselves on the Church? Politicians and wider society would do well to remember that ‘equal rights’ do not necessarily equate to justice, and I would propose that  justice must take precedence over Weatherley’s demands for ‘consumer equality’. 

  • Anonymous

    They can’t force the Church’s approval. They can pass all the laws they like.

  • Anonymous

    We’re not talking about the C of E (although no doubt this MP is, in part at least). We are talking about the Church, over which parliament has no power whatsoever.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a translator or a doctor in the house depending on the condition?

  • Anonymous

    Is there a translator or a doctor in the house depending on the condition?

  • Parasum

    To those questions – why not ?

    Decriminalisation of (a) took place in 1954. As to (b) – Gay Pride marches have been happening for around 40 (?) years in Britain. “Religious liberty” – whatever that means – seems to have survived.

    As to (c), perhaps the solution is that gay people have to respect the rights of  others, just as they wish them to respect their rights. It’s inconsistent to require  that others should have to lolse their rights, so that one can enjoy one’s own rights. Rights are indivisible, and to suppress those of others is to undermine one’s own. With rights, go duties – they can’t be separated. Mr. Weatherley’s position is incoherent, and incoherent ideas make for bad and incoherent law.

    Those of us who are Christians will recall that “Love seeks not its own” (1 Corinthians 13). Rights, duties, and liberties are needed in society, human nature being what it is, but they are not the deepest or best thing.   

  • Bridie O’Shea

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

  • JMJ

    God will not be mocked!!  To misuse the term “gay” as these pathetic people are doing is a sin (because it is a lie) that needs to be corrected as it is an insult to those that have gay in their names. These people need prayers to be released from their ungodly bondage of lust and misuse of their bodies.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!!  +JMJ+

  • Anonymous

    @ Bob Hayes

    See comments by Ben Summerskill:

    Ben Summerskill, head of Stonewall, said at the time: “Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in ten or 20 years, that may change.”

    http://www.christian.org.uk/news/govt-to-consider-allowing-gay-partnerships-in-church/

  • Anonymous

    @ Bridie O’Shea

    You can bet it wouldn’t be enforced in mosques.

  • Anonymous

    @ Parasum

    1954? really? I thought it was in the 1960s – 1967?  – in England, and in Scotland it was 1980 and in Northern Ireland probably even later.

  • Anonymous

    ““David Cameron has decided to put gay rights ahead of religious freedom.”

    Well good for him – religious freedom does not include the freedom to persecute, abuse or deprive others of their individual, law-abiding freedom.

    As a Right-Wing Libertarian myself, I think it is extremely positive that the Conservatives are evolving and finally ditching the Daily Mail bigade, the unreformed swivel eyed bigots and the credulous cretins who actually think that the baseless, evidence-free, fact-denying infanitle myths of supertiious, illiterate goat-herders living in isolated regions of the middle-east during the Late Bronze Age could possibly be true.

    Long may it continue.

  • Anonymous

    Chaotopia – what aspect of religious freedom as envisaged by Catholics does “include the freedom to persecute, abuse or deprive others of their individual, law-abiding freedom.”?

  • Anonymous

    @Chaotopia – I always find it sensible to check my spelling before I level the accusation at others of being illiterate; cf bigade [sic], infanitle [sic] and supertiious [sic]. I could also point out the failure to capitalise Middle East as proper noun and the incorrect addition of a hyphen which properly belonged between “swivel” and “eyed”

    I make no great claims of literacy for myself; I just don’t accuse others of being illiterate and then litter my rant with spelling errors. Still what would eye no [sic] I’m just a swivel-eyed bigot

  • Anonymous

    @CampionsBrag “Chaotopia – what aspect of religious freedom as envisaged by Catholics does “include the freedom to persecute, abuse or deprive others of their individual, law-abiding freedom.”?

    Well, at the moment the Catholic Church is fighting to keep homosexual acts between consenting adults in private illegal in Belize, with a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment. Consenting adults in Britain (of whom, BTW, I am not one) might fear that the Catholic Church would support the reimposition of similar penalties here if she were in a position to do so.

  • Anonymous

    @CampionsBrag “Chaotopia – what aspect of religious freedom as envisaged by Catholics does “include the freedom to persecute, abuse or deprive others of their individual, law-abiding freedom.”?

    Well, at the moment the Catholic Church is fighting to keep homosexual acts between consenting adults in private illegal in Belize, with a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment. Consenting adults in Britain (of whom, BTW, I am not one) might fear that the Catholic Church would support the reimposition of similar penalties here if she were in a position to do so.

  • Anonymous

    “To misuse the term “gay” as these pathetic people are doing is a sin
    (because it is a lie) that needs to be corrected as it is an insult to
    those that have gay in their names.”

    According to the Secret Gospel of Mark as contained in the Mar Saba letter, Jesus performed Homsexual rituals and was as gay a window:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark

    “In addition, there has also been speculation that (if the letter is
    authentic) Clement may have been mistaken in his view that “Secret Mark”
    was a longer version of the Gospel of Mark written specifically for the
    spiritually elite. Instead, it may be the case that “Secret Mark” was
    actually the original version of the Gospel of Mark. If this scenario is
    the case, the excerpts Clement claims are additions to the Gospel were
    actually part of the original, but were edited out by scribes (possibly
    because of the perception of homoeroticism).”

    If there really was a Historical Jesus then him being Homosexual would be entirely consistent with what has been reported about him: after all, he refused to have sex (or any sexual interest) in women clearly preferring the company of men by encouraging them to abandon thier wives and children to follow him around everywhere – even instructing them to “love other men as they love themselves” ;o)

    And wasn’t Jesus arrested after kissing another man in a public park? How much more gay can he possibly be?

    “These people need prayers to be released from their ungodly bondage of
    lust and misuse of their bodies.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!! ”

    I’m sure that is just what Jesus said when he allowed himself the “ungodly” bondage of lust and “misuse” of his body.

  • Maggihead

    Veuster, pls be more specific. Who has the Church persecuted, imprisoned and put ‘them’ to death for the past 2000 years? It is the Church who supported great gay artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo. They were not put to death. Pls read history out of Cristopher Hitchens pages and make sweeping generalisations.

  • Maggihead

    Veuster, pls be more specific. Who has the Church persecuted, imprisoned and put ‘them’ to death for the past 2000 years? It is the Church who supported great gay artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo. They were not put to death. Pls read history out of Cristopher Hitchens pages and make sweeping generalisations.

  • Maggihead

    Veuster, pls be more specific. Who has the Church persecuted, imprisoned and put ‘them’ to death for the past 2000 years? It is the Church who supported great gay artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo. They were not put to death. Pls try not to read history out of Cristopher Hitchens pages and make sweeping generalisations.     

  • Maggihead

    Veuster, pls be more specific. Who has the Church persecuted, imprisoned and put ‘them’ to death for the past 2000 years? It is the Church who supported great gay artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo. They were not put to death. Pls try not to read history out of Cristopher Hitchens pages and make sweeping generalisations.     

  • Maggihead

    And Jesus according to Secret Mark was a baby eating Zionist paid by the CIA! Get real, man!

  • Maggihead

    And Jesus according to Secret Mark was a baby eating Zionist paid by the CIA! Get real, man!

  • Maggihead

    And Jesus according to Secret Mark was a baby eating Zionist paid by the CIA! Get real, man!

  • Anonymous

    @Maggihead – See my subsequent post about Belize.

  • Anonymous

    @Maggihead – See my subsequent post about Belize.

  • Anonymous

    Tell Cameron, WE areCatholics, and HE can get lost

  • Anonymous

    “There’s absolutely nothing to stop him doing it again.”

    I guess David Cameron is sensitive to public opinion. So there is one way of influencing him: writing to him.

  • Anonymous

    “And Jesus according to Secret Mark was a baby eating Zionist paid by the CIA!”

    It doesn’t say that but it does suggest that Jesus performed Homosexual Rituals.

    Do you deny Jesus’s homosexuality?

    Let’s not forget that he was arrested after kissing another man in a public park so Jesus was clearly gay.
     
    This is something that needs to be systematically pointed out over and over again any time any Christian dares to claim that, somehow, Homosexuality is a “Sin” or even dream of exercising their Late Bronze Age bigotry to discriminate against gay people.

  • Anonymous

    This is so typical of religious people:  vain, malicious and wilfully ignorant.  Still, better than the old days; modern secular governments do not permit their traditional response to difference:  torture and mass murder.