Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Civil Partnerships and Religious Premises

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law which prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain should be repealed, and they write in support of an amendment which would do just that.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.


patently said...

A prime example, surely, of the maxim that if an inch is yielded,...

The discrimination argument is silly. There is no discrimination; a straight man can marry any woman he wishes. A gay man can, likewise, marry any woman he wishes. The fact that he does not wish to take up this right is not an argument that he should be allowed a further right in compensation.

Stuart said...

Excellent post (cross-posting) and excellent comment patently.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Thank you, Stuart.

Mr. P., you are quite right. And, to change the subject completely, you just might be interested in this new site.

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