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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.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     I think any parent whose child had been raped would fell like murdering the rapist regardless of their gender or that of the child.

    I see a difference between raping a child and consensual sex between two adults. You, apparently, do not – or want to blur the difference in order to tar all homosexuals with the same brush as paedophiles. Even to the point of counting heterosexual men who rape kids as ‘homosexuals’ to promote your hatred.

    Has it occurred to you that by distorting the facts about child abuse you might be endangering children? The belief that only creepy homosexuals abuse children has led many parents to put trust in someone they should not have done.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     I merely distinguish between a person’s attraction to adults and their propensity to rape children. You are the one trying to define as many paedophiles as possible as ‘homosexual’ in order to distort the statistics.

    Here is another statistic for you:

    In the 2004 John Jay Report child abuse allegations were substantiated against 1,872 priests out of 109,694 in active ministry at the time. Thats about 1.7%. Compare that to a rate of about 0.03% of child abusers in the adult population.

    That would suggest that Catholic priests are almost 60 times more likely to rape children than the general populace. Do you accept that conclusion, or do you think such simplistic statistics are useless except as dishonest demagoguery (or to show up dishonest demagogues)?

  • Jorge

     “exclusively homosexual men”

    Why this artificial and meaningless and arbitrary exclusion of bisexuals?
    Any meaningful study would group homosexual/bisexual on one side and heterosexuals on the other side. Grouping exclusive homosexuals on one side and bisexuals and heterosexuals on the other side makes no sense at all.

    By the way, it is hard to deny that homosexuals are dangerous to children when some homosexual NGOs actively campaign for reducing the age of consent. The campaign against the age of consent is nearly exclusively done by the homo/bisexual crowd.

  • Lazarus

    1) You denied that Scotland has a national Church. It has.

    2) I have no idea what your point is about withdrawing funding. The point at issue between us was whether religions were involved in government in Scotland. They are.

    3) On your suggested principle on the relationship between religions and government it is a) vague (what are our human rights?);and b) rules out (without argument) a  positive role for religion within the state. I’d propose a consequentialist test: religions should have that role in the state that maximizes the happiness of the population. Surely much more rational….

    4) It is incumbent on those suggesting any change in the law to demonstrate the change’s contribution to the common good. You haven’t done so. There is on the other hand clear evidence that traditional marriage is the best way of rearing children. And good reason to believe (exemplified by your own confusion on the function of marriage) that SSM will obscure that vital social role of traditional marriage. Not ‘magical’ thinking: simply an acknowledgement of the importance of clarity of thinking about our institutions and the human needs which they serve.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     There is no such exclusion. The Groth and Birnbaum study did find some bisexual offenders, and that figure is explicitly quoted in my post below.

    Why would any “meaningful” study try to lump bisexuals in with either the exclusively homosexual or the exclusively heterosexual?

  • Isabel Wood

    Have any of you actually read the civil marriage equality consultation? If it is passed, it will be illegal for same sex civil marriage ceremonies to take place in a religious building, or with any religious artefacts whatsoever. No hymns, no readings etc. 

  • JessicaHof

    Splemdid. And you are, of course, in a position to give us absolute assurances no court or government will try to change this, which is clearly written in tablets of stone brought down from Mr. Sinai? What’s that? No you’re not?

  • Isabel Wood

    I see no reason why they would change it, I think the government (and I hope successive governments would) recognise that forcing religious institutions to do actively do something against their teachings would be against freedom of religion. 

    The only part where this gets tricky is when religious and legal issues are combined and happen to conflict. As in this case, the government can either exempt the religious institutions from the law, or (as you predict) they can say that if the Church wants to be involved with the legal elements then they must be compelled by it – or else withdraw altogether. The very worst case scenario is that the ability to be legally married in a church is removed for everyone. In which case, religious couples would have to get a civil marriage before/after the religious ceremony – which isn’t really that big an issue if you think about it. 

  • JessicaHof

    I am sure that a couple of decades ago, most would have said they saw no reason why the Government would change the definition of marriage at all. Put not your trust in princes.

  • Gavin Wheeler

    “As you’ve noted on another of your comments, the SSM idea is that ‘marriage’ is all about personal enjoyment.”

     No, that was your (deliberate?) misstatement of what EE said. If you feel the need to distort your opponent’s argument to win the debate, that speaks volumes for your confidence in your position.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     You explicitly contradicted EE’s assertion that priests have the right to refuse to carry out religious wedding rites if it offends their religion, and that the current plans don’t change this.

    But EE is correct. Nothing you posted shows that a priest has been forced to carry out a wedding against his or her will. The current plans actually are to forbid any religious SSM ceremony whatsoever.

    This is not changed by one MP wanting to seperate legal marriage from  religious wedding ceremonies, or one lawyer thinking the currently proposed wording (banning ALL religious SSM ceremonies) might not stand up to legal challenge.

  • Isabel Wood

    I think the reason our society has changed so much over the last 20 years is the increased ease of communication that has occurred for the first time in global history. People who previously thought they were alone learnt that this was not the case, and could find/communicate with one another. Thus, marginalised people are finding a voice that was previously denied to them. 

    Sure, things do change. I suppose you could never truly rule it out. But it wouldn’t happen unless religious views changed (which the Catholic Church at least swears will not happen), or the number of religious people in the UK fell enough that the government didn’t care about their vote any more, also fairly unlikely, particularly considering the growth of Islam which agrees with many Catholic viewpoints. 
    Can you explain why the proposed law change or even the “worst case scenario” one are a bad thing? As we can see, it only has power to change the legal definition of marriage. Nobody in this world has any power to redefine marriage within Catholicism.

  • JessicaHof

    You might be right. On the other hand it might simply be that moral relativism has such a hold on the West that it can’t quite get its head around concepts of absolute truth. If you can’t, then you won’t understand why the proposed change is abhorrent to God’s law.

  • Isabel Wood

    Hmm, I’m not sure how abhorrent this particular change is actually is. I mean, there will always be gay people, having gay relationships, and telling them that the laws of a good Christian life apply to them too can only increase moral living.

    I mean, one of the reasons the gay community is so promiscuous and religion-hating is because to a certain extent they are ostracised from living a “normal”, more wholesome life, and therefore have the mindset of “Oh well, I’m damned anyway, might as well sleep around/take drugs etc because settling down with a spouse and children in the suburbs is never going to be an option for me”. 
    Imagine if that’s what you had been told throughout your life? I’d be miserable too.

    To me, telling people that “no, being monogamous and raising children is something we should all aspire to, it is the best model for a healthy society – you are not excluded from this joy, nor this obligation” can only be a good thing. 

    Allowing marriage between everyone is an incredibly pro-family sentiment.

  • JessicaHof

    I am not out of sympathy with what you write – but neither of us have any support for it from the Bible or Christian tradition, or, in the case of Catholics, the Church.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     The ASA can be .. less than tactful in its initial approach, but having been on the receiving end of an ASA complaint myself (not personally, but a voluntary group I help with) I can point out that:
    1) Cranmer is not being threatened, he is being asked to comment on a complaint made against somebody else (the Campaign 4 Marriage). He just didn’t like their tone and apparently misread the copy of the letter to C4M that was included with the request for comment as applying directly to him
    2) All the ASA can do is tell you not to use certain claims in future ads. And maybe fine you if you carry on using them, I don’t recall.
    3) The ASA hasn’t actually made any judgement. It is just asking for facts from the various parties to help it do so.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     I certainly don’t understand why you might think that your religious views (your beliefs about what “God’s Law” are) should be imposed on those who do not share them.

    Wanting assurances that your faith will not be forced to wed gays is one thing. Trying to prevent those religions who do want to wed gays from being able to do so is quite another.

  • JessicaHof

    I think the ASA has now apologised for not making it clear that Cranny was under no impulsion to respond. The ASA came on rather strong and is now resiling. All very odd.

  • JessicaHof

    I certainly don’t understand why you might think I wish to force my views on others. I simply want what the first sentence of your second paragraph says.

  • Isabel Wood

    I know, I suppose it just upsets/confuses me as to why so many people think this a terrible thing to happen.

  • JessicaHof

    Me too – but I am always open to being told that I am wrong on this one.

  • Isabel Wood

    Uh, actually I’m pretty sure it was only used to talk about, well, sodomy. 
    So I take it you have zero issues with lesbians then?

  • Isabel Wood

    Also… this is a terrible metaphor. The last time I checked, gay sex isn’t going to result in death or serious injury. 
    If that happens you’re doing it wrong.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    One thing is to *express* your disgreement with a group; another is to forbid the entreance of said group.

    Do you have any idea of the media storm that would ensue if the Law Society censored a debate *for* same-sex “marriage”?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Man who practice sodomy are *60 times* more likely to have AIDS.
    Their life expectancy is smaller. They have a host of venereal diseases in addition to AIDS.
    They have fecal incontinence.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Also, he mentions adultery, which brings a goud point.

    All arguments for normalizing homosexulism – such as “what consentind adults do in the bedroom is neither right nor wrong”  would also normalize adultery, polygamy, polyandry, and incest (between consenting adults).

    So why do yout want same-sex pairs to “marry” but not a man to his (adult) daughter? Why is incestophobia socially accepted?

    That, ladies and gentleman, is called logical inconsistence. It proves that the same-sex “marriage” activists are not based not on logic.

  • Isabel Wood

    Women who give birth generally suffer from incontinence, just a heads up.

    And the only reason STI rates are higher in same sex couples is because they are less likely to use contraception - this is the fault of bad sex education, not the act itself.

  • Isabel Wood

    I mean, technically I don’t actually have an issue with any of the things you have mentioned. But of course, now that I’ve said that you have instantly branded me as sick and crazy and are not going to listen to anything I have to say. But I wanted you to know that I do recognise the absence of logic in anyone who states otherwise.

    As I said below, I think a monogamous family unit is the best base for society, and I think that encouraging people to enter into that rather than sleeping around and generally engaging in self destructive behaviour can only be a good thing. That is why I want marriage equality.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    So let it be recorded: you agree that homosexualism and incest are either both wrong or both right.

    Now, why do you think that same-sex “marriage” would encourage monogamy? And many people (not necessarily me) accept the idea of same-sex civil unions, but don’t want them to be called marriage so as not to devaluate marriage. What is wrong with sticking with same-sex civil unions? How would same-sex “marriage” encourage monogamy in a way that same-sex civil unions don’t?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     First, let it be recorded that you agree that accepting homosexualism but not incest is illogical.

    Second, why do you think same-sex “marriage” promotes monogamy?  And many Christians (not necessarily me) accept same-sex civil unions but not same-sex “marriage”. Why don’t you settle for same-sex civil unions?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    That article is completely flawed because it fails to distinguish between different kinds of tolerance.

    There is free speech tolerance and sexual lifestyle tolerance.

    Any serious person agrees that free speech tolerance is far more important than sexual lifestyle tolerance, since intellectual enlightenment is more important than sexual pleasure.

    Therefore, restricting people’s freedom of speech (via “hate speech” legislation) in order to promote tolerance of sexual lifestyle does more harm than good.

  • Isabel Wood

    It’s the importance of marriage in our culture that has to be considered to answer this. Marriage equality tells everybody that gay or straight, they have the option to live the “normal” lifestyle that is generally accepted and promoted as a good and successful way to live.

    Not calling it marriage, to a certain extent is denying that, it’s saying that someone’s relationship is “lesser”, and it’s a frequent reminder of the fact that no matter how much a couple wants to fit in and live acceptably, they are always an other. 

    Obviously it’s not just about monogamy, it’s an equality issue too. There’s just a logical flaw in the fact that so many heterosexual couples who have no intention to stay together forever or raise a family can get married, but the most dedicated homosexual couple cannot. 

    The sensible solution would be to remove “marriage” from the law so everybody has a legal civil partnership, or let the legal union of all couples be called a marriage.

    I think the most telling indication of how our society thinks about marriage and civil partnerships is in the consultation where they state that they would not be opening up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples because there is “no demand”. Nobody would choose a civil partnership over a marriage because a marriage is so much more than the legal protection. 

  • EdinburghEye

     Jessica, I already explained to you, at length, some days ago, that your fears were an assumption without foundation.

    Why are you back scaremongering again?

  • EdinburghEye

    “The institutionalization of this version of marriage obscures the social purpose of true marriage as childrearing.”

    That is a modern re-interpretation of marriage, which appears to have been invented solely for the purpose of banning same-sex couples from getting married.

    The government of the UK has never banned couples from marriage if they cannot or do not have children: there is no reason why they should start now.

  • EdinburghEye

    Lazarus, where are you from?

    1) The Church of Scotland is not (and never was) an Established church.

    2) In Scotland Church & State are wholly separated: the House of Lords has authority in Scotland only over reserved legislation, and that limited.

    3) The idea that govt should legislate on happiness is subtly pernicious. Safer to safe “freedom”. Religious freedom is a basic human right.

    4) Lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is a change with a clear good – couples who wish to marry will be able to do so, couples who do not wish to be forced to divorce will not have to.  That you pretend this “good” does not exist says a great deal about your motivations for supporting the ban.

    No one has been able to show any clear good from keeping a ban on same-sex couples marrying.

  • EdinburghEye

     “By the way, talking of the law society, does anyone know the relative
    proportions of sexual offences committed against children by homosexuals
    and heterosexuals?”

    Yes. The vast majority of child abusers identify as heterosexual.

  • JessicaHof

    You are, are you, able to give the assurance that no Government will do what I fear? If so, do let us in on the lottery numbers for next week.

  • EdinburghEye

    So, you’re basically just being randomly silly in a homophobic way – you’ve got no reason for your fears, but you intend to broadcast them irrationally anyway?

  • EdinburghEye

     Gavin, Jessica and I discussed this at length some days ago. I pointed out to Jessica that her fears were completely sourceless and contradicted by law. Given that discussion, I have to conclude that she wants to make this big noisy fuss over gay marriage, and is pretending to be fearful as an excuse for doing so.

    She knows perfectly well that what she “fears” will never come to pass.

  • JessicaHof

    In the kingdom of the blind they say the one-eyed man is king; that seems to apply to Edinburgh in your case. there was nothing homophobic in anything I wrote, but that has not stopped your knee from jerking all the same.

  • whytheworldisending

    You are on the wrong website. If you think homosexual acts are not sinful and you feel you need to defend people’s right to sodomise and abuse one another’s bodies, then you should try the Guardian. Someone who thinks sodomy is acceptable, is more likely to think that paedophilia is acceptable. The same is true of fornicators generally – its about self-denial. The psychopaths who abuse children are so far down the road of self-indulgence that they have lost the power to empathise with their victims. Homosexuals are further down that road than fornicators because they have deviated further from what is natural and good and what is written in the Gospels. Homosexuals who misrepresent the gospels for their own selfish purposes put children at risk.

  • whytheworldisending

    We have a contradiction here. You say that they are heterosexual, whereas the statistics quoted by Gavin Wheeler (which I think we can go with because Mr Wheeler produced them even though they do not support his position) clearly show that they are homosexual. This I think highlights the need for Government to come in and publish official statistics which tell people the truth – until they do government policy wil continue to be a child abuser’s charter.

  • whytheworldisending

    No “meaningful” study would rely on what the psychopaths tell them as if it were hard evidence. Psychopaths are compulsive liars. The hard evidence are the deeds perpetrated by these deviants. You shall no them by their works. I can understand people who want to help them get better, but why defend their actions? 

  • whytheworldisending

    ..and of course the very clear figures given by Jabbapappa below also show what any thinking person who has not lost their common sense knows. As the gospel says, “Judge for yourselves.” Corrupt politicians who try to usurp God’s commandments by purporting to dictate what is good and what is evil are also going against the will of the people.  

  • whytheworldisending

    Accepting – for arguments sake – your statistics. it shows (again) what we already know, namely that homosexuals (I notice that you left out that the overwhelming proportion of clerical abuse victims are boys) deliberately seek out positions of trust so that they have more opportunities to abuse their victims without being caught. Statistics tell a similar story in relation to nursery workers, childminders, step fathers and teachers, and Head Teachers in particular. Actually the scale of the problem is horrendous because clerical abusers are generally individuals rather than members of networks of abusers. In teaching the abusers are more organised and sophisticated so they don’t get caught so easily, and the statistics under represent the extent of the problem. But the more relevant data for present purposes is that concerning step-fathers. It is known that abuse rates are higher there because abusers deliberately target single mums to get at the children. Why is that relevant? Well in the same way as abusers infiltrate the priest hood and single parent families, to gain access to children, they will also seek to adopt children for the same reason. They have of course to  first get our trust – and that is the terrifying bit. The Government, and the likes of Stonewall and people who proselytise about how wonderful homosexuals are, simply make it a thousand times easier for child abusers to go about their shameful business. Just as the Vatican is acting to make children safer (by barring homosexuals from training for the priest hood) secular society is creating another nightmare for children, which they will have to deal with in the decades to come. Why?

  • EdinburghEye

     Quite. The good Catholic Church is no place for disreputable people like us queer folk.

  • EdinburghEye

     Jessica, I explained to you at length why your fears were without foundation. You did not attempt to dispute this with any examples or evidence. You just ignored everything I wrote – and are still frantically repeating the same line, even though by this time you know that what you’re asserting simply isn’t true.

    So which of us has a “knee jerk” response? I think it’s you.

    If you are genuinely claiming an irrational fear which no kind of factual reassurance will soothe, well, that is quite literally  and directly a phobia. Isn’t it?

  • Gavin Wheeler

     Apologies – my comment was rather clumsily worded. I didn’t mean ‘you’ personally wanted to force your views on others, but in general personal subjective beliefs shouldn’t be imposed on others. So the fact that you believe SS marriage is “abhorrent to God’s law” should only effect you and your co-believers, not legislation (except so far as legislation is needed to protect your freedom of belief)

    You say “I simply want what the first sentence of your second paragraph says” i.e. “assurances that your faith will not be forced to wed gays is one thing”

    Well, you have that. Indeed the current proposal is to maintain the ban on ANY religious SS weddings. Even the Stonewall proposed bill included the clause:

    “For the avoidance of doubt nothing in this or any other Act places an obligation on any religious organisation or clergy to conduct, solemnise or host marriage ceremonies between two people of the same sex if they do not wish to do so.”

  • JessicaHof

    There you go again, projecting what you would clearly like to be the case as though it were; if you could occasionally stop playing the world’s smallest violin and try to understand what others are writing, it would help promote some sort of dialogue.

  • JessicaHof

    No, I did not ignore it; surely not contesting it is not the same as ignoring it? You do seem awfully keen to pigeon-hole other people. 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, and that this will not be seen as the thin end of the wedge. I do not know that that is not true; nor do you. If you would stop projecting your view of what you think I must mean onto me and read what I write, you’d do better in this dialogue.