Civil Partnerships and Religious Premises

How is this for sober balance on an issue that most seem to be getting drunk on:-

Marmalde Sandwich

In a letter to the Times this morning, a group of gentlemen have argued that the current law which prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain should be repealed, and they write in support of an amendment which would do just that. They argue on two grounds – the spiritual independence of churches, and the principle of non-discrimination. Indeed the way they end their letter (“We urge every peer who believes in spiritual independence, or in non-discrimination, to support it.”) indicates that they are aware that there are people who may support one of their arguments but not the other.

I personally am not convinced by their argument concerning non-discrimination, and agree with the Bishop of Winchester that “churches of all sorts really should not reduce or fudge, let alone deny, the distinction” between marriage and civil partnership.

(On the other hand, I am not convinced by the argument of the Bishops of Winchester and Chichester that changing the law would put unacceptable pressure on the Church of England. As long as the law does not compel the Church of England, then the Church has the ability to decide what it believes is correct, and the duty to withstand pressures from society.)

I do, however, believe that the argument concerning spiritual independence is valid – and that the law as it stands is very strange. If the Quakers and the Unitarians want to register civil partnerships in their places of worship, then that is a matter for them, and not for the state. Traditional Christians will be horrified at such things happening, but their horror should be directed not at the state for permitting these things, but at the Quakers and Unitarians for wishing to do them. If traditional Christians want freedom to proclaim that homosexual activity is wrong, and to exclude practising homosexuals from their membership, then they should be willing to allow freedom to religious bodies which think otherwise.

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