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It isn’t just that Cameron is wrong when he claims we won’t be forced to conduct ‘gay marriages’ in church: that’s just what he’s telling his constituents

The ECHR has made the law quite clear: unless we repudiate the court, that’s what will happen

By on Monday, 18 June 2012

David Cameron is apparently telling constituents that the same-sex marriage law will affect religious marriage too (PA photo)

David Cameron is apparently telling constituents that the same-sex marriage law will affect religious marriage too (PA photo)

How far can we trust the government of David Cameron when it claims that its proposed legislation purporting to establish “gay marriage” will not apply to marriages in church — as though that was our main concern? It isn’t, of course: marriage is marriage: what we are objecting to among much else is the sheer impertinence of a local legislature, at one particular point in history, claiming to have the authority to change what through the ages has been universally accepted: that marriage (civil or religious) is between one man and one woman. What Cameron now intends to do is to make a distinction between religious and civil marriage of a kind that nobody has previously accepted: marriage is marriage. A civil marriage is accepted by the Church as being as valid as a religious one. Now that will change.

Cameron has so far claimed that his legislation will establish clearly that gay marriage in church will not be permitted: the fact that that is supposed to mollify us is one demonstration among many that he is blundering around in an area of the national life he really doesn’t begin to understand. But at least we have been able to suppose that he actually does believe what he says, that at least he isn’t just being a hypocrite. But even that may not, it seems, be the case. According to the traditionalist Anglican blogger Cranmer

it is highly likely that ministers of the established Church of England will eventually be obliged by statute to officiate at homosexual unions, and where they demur, the local bishop will be obliged to provide a replacement. His Grace has heard from more than one source that the Prime Minister is telling his constituents in Witney that “religious marriage” will inevitably be affected by his proposed legislation. It is interesting, is it not, that by enforcing gender blindness at the altar with the objective of making minorities equal, the Prime Minister is content to cause division in the Church and strife for the majority. It is appalling politics.

Cranmer is basing his view that the Established church only will be forced to conduct such marriages on the precedent of the established Lutheran church in Denmark, the Danish parliament having voted to compel the Evangelical Lutheran Church, to which about 80 per cent of Danes profess to belong (rather as many English people claim to belong to the C of E). “Other churches,” adds Cranmer, “may also offer same-sex marriage services, but only in accordance with their own rules: none is being forced to conduct anything which is contrary to their historical traditions and theological orthodoxy.”

But it’s not the Danes the Prime Minister is thinking of when he tells Witney constituents that his legislation is bound to affect “religious marriage”: it’s our old friend the European Court of Human Rights. I have written about this before, but I see I didn’t actually refer to the most suggestive precedent, the March 2012 ruling from the ECHR, in a suit by a French lesbian couple, Valérie Gas and Nathalie Dubois, that although there is no human rights obligation for any country to legislate for gay marriage, once a state has passed a gay marriage law it must be applied to all citizens equally including those seeking religious marriage.

In the words of the judges in Strasbourg, “The European Convention on Human Rights does not require member states’ governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage.” However, “where national legislation recognises registered partnerships between same sex, member states should aim to ensure that their legal status and their rights and obligations are equivalent to those of heterosexual couples in a similar situation.” According to Neil Addison, a specialist in discrimination law, that means that “Once same-sex marriage has been legalised then the partners to such a marriage are entitled to exactly the same rights as partners in a heterosexual marriage… if same-sex marriage is legalised in the UK it will be illegal for the Government to prevent such marriages happening in religious premises.”

And that doesn’t just mean that the C of E, being the state church, will have to do it: they’re going to attempt to coerce us too. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We won’t do it, of course, and we will have to take the consequences. But that gives us the opportunity to get ourselves into condition for all the other great battles ahead. What with one thing and another, what the Pope has called the tyranny of relativism — one might call it the enforced toleration of the intolerable — can only encourage us to see more clearly what we often attempt to avoid: that in the oft-repeated words of the late Holy Father, John Paul II, we are called on to be signs of contradiction: for, once we start settling down comfortably in a culture which is so manifestly built on everything we reject, our message is lost, and so are we.

  • Acleron

    As we are running out of column width, I’ve started this again.

  • Acleron


    This is Jabba’ phrase which I criticised.’An interpretation that nobody agrees with is an interpretation that’s WRONG.’It is clearly a statement that means that because a majority has made a decision then that decision must be correct, the Argumentum ad Populum fallacy.He then retreated into using the word ‘hermeneutics’. ‘I was in fact making a standard point about hermeneutics.’It is certainly nothing to do with hermeneutics in general it is just an ad Populum argument. It is not a study or analysis of anything, just an incorrect statement.He probably thought that because the discussion originated with the bible he could slip in biblical or theological hermeneutics, but it is nether of those.

  • Lazarus

    Oh for Dawkins’ sake, Acleron! What is it with you New Atheists and admitting you’re wrong?  I had karlf and you earlier trying to explain how Islam was relevant to Catholicism when he’d clearly just trotted off on an irrelevant hobby horse. And now you’re going on and on rather than admit you’ve made a relatively small mistake…

    Anyway. Let’s try again for the final time. Jabbapapa was using ‘hermeneutics’ in the sense of the first order practice of interpretation rather than (as you claimed) the second order practice of studying the practice of interpretation. So one can replace ‘hermeneutics’ in his remark with ‘the practice of interpretation’. Let’s do that.

    ‘I was in fact making a standard point about the practice of interpretation.’ 

    And lo, we have a perfectly comprehensible sentence making a perfectly comprehensible point. Maybe one that you disagree with in substance, but certainly not one where the good Jabbapapa has displayed any misuse of the English language in general, nor of the word ‘hermeneutics’ in particular.

    Enough, already.

  • JabbaPapa


    Not just that of course, but he’s also attempting to describe Argumentum ad populum as a logical fallacy (which it isn’t — it’s a figure of speech for the purpose of persuasion by reference to generally held views — which only becomes a fallacy when one attempts to apply it to the exact sciences) — quite apart from which, I did NOT use Argumentum ad populum in the first place !!!

    Because I was NOT referring to any majority views for the view of persuading, I was pointing out that a proposition that NOBODY can reasonably agree with is by definition false, except where we were discussing some kind of phenomenon in material reality of course, if it happened to exist contrary to everyone’s beliefs.

    To point out that NOBODY believes that England won the Football World Cup in 2010, so that this proposal must be held as being completely false, is NOT an Argumentum ad populum.

    It’s the same point about hermeneutics (and literary interpretation) that I was making, that indefensible proposals should be considered as FALSE ones unless and until some solid evidence to the contrary should appear ; not necessarily even conclusive evidence, just something, anything.

    NOBODY AT ALL has described Lot as a “moral” person — and Acleron is just ridiculous in his inane attempts to defend his indefensible suggestion that “the Bible teaches otherwise” otherwise, and his laughably amateurish attempts at semantic deconstruction, particularly given the fact that he self-evidently doesn’t even believe Lot to be a “moral” person himself !!!

    And : 2) Argumentumad Populum is definitely a logicalfallacy,it implies that the majority is alsways correct

    WRONG. It’s a figure of speech of the persuasive variety, seeking to convince others on the basis that most people agree with what one is proposing. ie “most people liked the film Titanic, you should definitely watch it yourself one of these days”.

  • Acleron

    I was pointing out that a proposition that NOBODY can reasonably agree with is by definition false,’

    And there you go again. The agreement or non-agreement of anybody does not alter the correctness of a proposition. It is simply an appeal to popularity and is a logical fail.

  • Acleron

    Not only have I not discussed Lot but I pointed this out to you. Perhaps you have some hermeneutical explanation of why the verb ‘to discuss’ has changed its meaning?

  • Acleron

    1) I pointed out that moslems have beliefs just as strongly held as yourself and you both think they are ‘true’ even though those beliefs are different I wouldn’t discuss what is relevant to the catholics for obvious reasons.

    2) Jabba wasn’t using hermeneutics in any sense at all. His challenged   statement was logically incorrect. He may have used a statement from some post-modernistic idiot, that wouldn’t surprise me at all, but making false to fact statements is not hermeneutics except of course by those self same post-modernistic wallies.

  • Lazarus

    1) Context, dear boy, context. If you can be bothered, go back, look at the thread. karlf’s original comment was only relevant if it was taken about Catholics, but for some reason he claimed he was referring to Allah, not the God of Catholicism. Anyway, this issue has surely died the death…

    2) If I interpret something, I may be interpreting it badly or well: I am still engaged in the practice of interpretation. You tried (for reasons best known to yourself) to claim that Jabbapapa didn’t understand what ‘hermeneutics’ meant. He clearly does. You simply disagree with the interpretation he’d come up with.

    This really is getting silly….

  • JabbaPapa

    You literally do not understand what you’re talking about.

  • JabbaPapa

    Arg yes, you joined the conversation later — sorry, your “discussion” tactics are rather similar to those of the member who did mention Lot, OK — but your showing up in the discussion does not change the topic of the conversation, and especially not the reasons for the various points that were made.

  • karlf

    Thanks very much for that reply Lazarus, but your reasoning still seems very odd to me for the following reasons:
    Because of what you found as a lack explanation for aspects of human nature – instead of trying to figure this out with intellectual inquiry – you come to the primitive, solve all conclusion that there must be a God. So, knowing as we do that at least all but one religion that ever existed must be bogus, you chose the religion with the best credentials as the truth.

  • Lazarus

    I think the difference between us here is that whilst you’d regard reference to God as a ‘primitive, solve all’ conclusion and a rejection of intellectual enquiry, I’d regard it as the identification of the arena within which intellectual enquiry is best pursued.

    Analogously, you have made assumptions (and I can only guess what these are precisely, but they’ll be both epistemological (on the nature and role of evidence) and metaphysical (what’s the basic structure of the world) which will be (and then we’d have to get into extremely long discussions to prove this) I’d argue, rather more primitive and arbitrary than the ‘theistic project’.

    As I said, the argument to show that one or other of our positions was intellectually inferior to the other is not a quick or easy one. But there are a couple of quick points I could make that might be helpful:

    a) Whatever individual Catholics may say on specific occasions (ie individuals may not have answers even if the Church does), there are very few places in the religion where intellectual enquiry is shut down immediately and we have to take things on trust ‘because God said so’. Even something like transubstantiation -which is pretty close to the ‘we believe this simply because Christ says so’ line- is located within an on overall understanding of the world: roughly, the general understanding is intellectually supported; this bit (transubstantiation) is an important
    part of that general understanding; so that’s why we believe in
    transubstantiation. In any case, Catholicism does not shut down
    intellectual enquiry with ‘God did it’.

    b) Atheism really strikes me as a form of radical scepticism. It’s quite
    difficult in general to justify certain foundational beliefs (the existence
    of the external world, the continuity of personal identity etc). So it
    rather depends on where you focus your scepticism: atheists in general
    appear to me inconsistent in demanding higher standards of certainty from
    theistic premisses than they do from their own metaphysics and epistemology.

    If I was going to be punchier than I feel like being at the moment, I’d
    neatly contrast my claim about Catholicism not shutting down intellectual
    enquiry with another claim that this is precisely what atheism tends to do:
    scepticism as a general philosophical position is not a friend to reason,
    even scientific reason (as David Hume shows).

    I’m not pretending any of the above is more than an impressionistic sketch
    of where the argument would go. But it might give you a sense of what
    Catholics would reply in detail.

  • Margaret Barker

    Instead of Cardinal O’Brien asking parishes for money to advertise no to same sex marriages, why doesnt he raise the money instead to root out all the past, and current priests who are abusers of both children and woman, some want their cake and eat it!!!! I know a gay couple who are far more christian to each other as well as others than some of them. At the end of the day we will all answer to god, you as well Cardianal O’Brien. I am ashamed to be catholic and will be until its views are more christian and less persecuting, but  christian in what christ wanted not what you want or force on the catholic people no wonder there is a shortage of priests and dwindling congregations. If you insist on raising the money why dont you take it out of the churches coffers you have been robbing us blind for generations. Christ would be turning in his grave. 

  • Margaret Barker

    You dont see that you are the one that is resorting to insults. Why is it that you presume its all about sex. Its love that maintains a relationship.

  • Diane1522

    I absolutely agree. Sodomy is perversion and its a sin just the same as beastiality is a sin it completely morally corrupts the soul. Gays are simply bitching and trying to infiltrate what is not theirs that being ‘marriage’ it’s for one man and one woman end of!! Then they and their followers in this diabolical debate jump on the homophobic band wagon throwing their eggs at all who disagree with them and their belief to Change what is for one man and woman so they can become one and have babies. With each other may I add!! Not like Elton John and is money talks sharade oh let’s buy two babies my darling and we can both be daddies to these little boys lets hope they grow up to be just like us my darling chum….it angers me so much this while nonsense within our self imploding society!!