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Is it now illegal to question same-sex marriage?

A conference on marriage was banned for being ‘contrary to diversity policy’

By on Monday, 14 May 2012

Anglican Mainstream has emailed me an inspiring sermon on marriage, written by the late Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1943. Bonhoeffer, for those readers who have not heard of him, was a German Lutheran theologian and member of the Confessing Church in Germany (to be distinguished from the “official” Lutheran Church) during the twelve years of Nazi rule. Implicated in the July Plot against Hitler, Bonhoeffer was hanged (naked and with thin wire) at Flossenburg prison in April 1945, just over two weeks before Germany surrendered.

The sermon was written from his prison cell for his niece. He writes, “God is guiding your marriage. Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations… Marriage is more than something personal; it is a status, an office.” He goes on to state that God gives the married couple “the promise of children” and that “God allows man to share in His continual work of creation; but it is always God Himself who blesses marriage with children. Children are a heritage of the Lord and they should be acknowledged as such. It is from God that parents receive their children and it is to God that they should lead them.”

I quote these extracts from this well-known Christian pastor’s sermon simply because he takes it for granted that marriage is always between a man and a woman and that children are a blessing that come from it. We who, whether Christian or not, want to to retain this traditional understanding of marriage in the face of current plans to redefine it, need to show where we stand by signing up to the Coalition for Marriage and replying to the Government’s own on-line consultation document.

As I write, news has come in that the Law Society has cancelled a forthcoming colloquium organised by Christian Concern, part of the World Congress of Families, on the subject, “One Man, One Woman. Making the case for marriage for the good of society” and due to take place at the Law Society’s headquarters in Chancery Lane later this month.

Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court judge in the Family Division, who has recently co-founded a new “Marriage Foundation” to champion the institution of marriage, was to have been one of the contributors to the conference. Other speakers lined up were Peter Duckworth, barrister, divorce specialist and member of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship; Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of The Bow Group, the Conservative think-tank; Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica; and Cristina Odone, Telegraph and Herald journalist.

Why the sudden cancellation of the booking? The reason the Law Society gives – wait for it – is that the conference is “contrary to diversity policy, espousing as it does an ethos which is opposed to same-sex marriage.” Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, stated, “We are proud of our role in promoting diversity in the solicitors’ profession and felt that the content of this conference sat uncomfortably with our stance.” Ah: so it’s our old friend “diversity policy” again.

I should point out here that we are not talking about stopping a member of the BNP from standing up at Speaker’s Corner and making a racist speech; this is about banning distinguished members of the legal and political establishment from having a civilised debate on Law Society premises on a critical matter – which is not (yet) law.

According to Hudson, the Law Society has “assisted the organisers in identifying an alternative non-Law Society venue.” However, Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, contradicted him. She said, “We’re not looking at another venue. I’ve not spoken to them about another venue. We’re asking the Law Society to honour its contract with us. I was called to the Bar in 1988 and am proud of our country’s long and great legal history, leading the world in promoting and protecting freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. I will not be hounded out of a legal institution for holding a debate on marriage.”

She added, “Since when can debate be against diversity? …This action by the professional body…demonstrates how discussion on traditional views on marriage is being shut down before any change in the law to redefine marriage has come into force.” She pointed out that the Law Society had adopted a pro-same-sex marriage policy ahead of the outcome of the Government’s Consultation and without consulting its members. Bow Group Chairman, Ben Harris-Quinney, agreed that in the light of the Government Consultation it was essential “for parties to come together to debate the issue in forum.” He called the Law Society’s decision “exceptionable”.

Those who would like to support Andrea Williams and Christian Concern over this extraordinary decision can contact her on 020 7935 1488 or write to: The Christian Legal Centre, 70, Wimpole St, London WIG 8AX.

  • JessicaHof

    Apology accepted Gavin; so easy in these abbreviated discussions for us all to misunderstand each other.
    I am under no doubt that at the moment, and in present conditions, what you say is so. What I doubt is that twenty years down the line what I fear may not come true. Wedges have thin edges for a purpose, even if it is not the one imagined by those who devised the wedge.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     You mean these statistics:
    e.g. the Groth and Birnbaum study found 70 heterosexual abusers, 22
    bisexual abusers and no exclusively homosexual ones. Again, classifying
    ‘sexuality’ by attraction to adults. There were also 83 ‘fixated’
    paedophiles – no normal attraction to adults at all.

    Trying to lump all paedophiles who target boys in with the gay men you clearly dislike so much is utterly unjustified. Certainly given the context of this debate – paedophiles who either have no attraction to adults or who are attracted to opposite sex adults are not going to be the ones wanting same sex marriage, are they?

  • Gavin Wheeler

     You don’t learn by hanging out with people who agree with you. If you don’t like your preconceptions challenged, well I’m sorry for you.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     Who is defending their actions?

  • Gavin Wheeler

     a) I am horrified that you accept those statistics, even if you then try to twist the conclusion to apply to the gay community rather than the catholic one. It was chosen to illustrate how bigoted and idiotic such arguments are.

    On the other hand it implies that your biased statistics are the result of genuine ignorance rather than bigotry, which is kind of positive.

    b) You claim that “the overwhelming proportion of clerical abuse victims are boys”.

    Despite JabbaPapa’s claim above, in the general populace girls are far more likely to be raped than boys. prevent-abuse-now.com gives:
    Rate of sexual abuse by gender:

    -  1.7 victims per 1,000 female children

    -  0.4 victims per 1,000 male children.

    So can you substantiate your claim, or would that be too much of a home goal for you?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     I flagged this up as offensive when I saw it, but the Catholic Herald moderators ignored it. I’m happy to say that when I called Scary Goat on this comment in another thread, she apologised and said that in future she would try to think first before making comments like this.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    You do seem awfully keen to pigeon-hole other people.

    Not at all. I assumed that you were genuinely worried about the possibility of priests being forced to wed gay couples, due to an extreme lack of information, so I provided you with the information to reassure you.

    You claim you “didn’t ignore” the information I gave you. So you went on repeating your claim to be genuinely worried about a possibility that you knew, from the information I had provided you, could not happen.

    I thought in all honesty you might have missed what I told you – long thread. But apparently not: you just chose to keep repeating a “fear” that by now you knew was not true. But FWIW, I identified you as homophobic when you argued that neither Christianity nor the Catholic Church has no place in it for loving families and faithful couples when they’re same-sex.

    . I am simply stating what you cannot refute, which is that there is no
    guarantee that a future Government will not do what I fear,

    Oh, in that sense that we live in an infinite universe of possibilities and ANYTHING could happen?

    There’s also no guarantee that a future Government will not remove all human rights from LGBT people and lock us up in camps to die. Unlike your “fear” that priests might be forced to marry same-sex couples, this has actually happened. So, should I insist that every time you write something about how inferior LGBT people are, you should clarify that you’re against concentration camps for gay people?

    Stick to worrying about what’s probable. Your fears are wildly improbable – not based on anything that’s happened, ever.

    . If you would stop projecting your view of what you think I must mean onto me and read what I write

    I read what you write, and my opinion of you is based on that. You may wish I thought better of you, but for that, you’d have to present yourself as a better and more sensible person.

  • JessicaHof

    Oddly enough, I am entirely unworried about your opinion of me; indeed, I am amazed your solipsism embraces the possibility that I might be. The examples I provided from BC showed how this sort of thing develops, which is closer to my fears than to your fantasies.