Anglican update: Freedom is the issue

Michael Nazir AliMaria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides for overseas marriages in consulates or on armed forces bases. One can imagine expatriates coming to ‘marry’ nationals in consulates in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, against their laws and on their turf with significant consequences for their churches and governments.

This Bill, with such international implications, is put forward to expand equality, diversity and freedom. But Matthew Franck writes: ‘A future in which same-sex marriage is enshrined in the law is a future without meaningful religious liberty, freedom of speech, or economic freedom for millions. Yes, they can “privatise” their view, and go about their business incognito, as it were. But that is a surrender of their freedom, not a preservation of it’.*

Emotions and law

The claim is that feelings of being discriminated against for homosexual behaviour must determine societal norms. The law and the power of culture must suppress the established understanding of marriage which makes homosexual people feel ‘excluded’. Any alternative views are prejudiced, stigmatise others, and are the source of unhappiness and searches for ‘change’. Such stigmatisation has to be banished from society by the state. Even holding such an opinion causes offence and must be eliminated.

Equality of outcome

This position is based on a view of the common good of equality defined as equality of outcome (no one must be given any reason for feeling ‘unequal’ to anyone else). The common good is determined here by majority opinion (which is why opinion polls and ‘the changing culture’ feature so strongly). Such a notion of equality trumps everything. There is no place for a ‘bill of rights’, ‘rights of conscience’ or ‘freedom of belief ’. The state then uses the law to enforce the common good.
Peter Tatchell in a Commons Committee Room on January 30 argued that same-sex attraction is innate as a matter of science. Religion, morals and conscience have no place. Unwanted same-sex attraction is due to the stigma and prejudice in society. Any attempt to provide counselling to be free from it is unacceptable. Education is needed for homosexuality to be as acceptable as heterosexuality.

No accommodation
State employed or regulated doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, marriage counsellors, marriage registrars and youth workers will be denied ‘reasonable accommodation’ to opt out. Teachers will have to explain, though not endorse, same-sex marriage to children. The last government allowed no ‘reasonable accommodation’ to Roman Catholic adoption agencies. They therefore closed down. Any protections for ‘dissenting’ religious institutions, including schools, and caring institutions, not just to preach but also to have charitable status and accreditation from the government would imply that acceptance of same-sex unions is not as obligatory as heterosexual unions.

Where persecution begins

Speaking on the Freedom of Belief and the Persecution of Christians in the Houses of Parliament on February 5, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said: ‘Persecution begins with exclusion and marginalisation from community and public life. It begins with loss of employment’.
The alternative view is that equality is equality of opportunity. Liberty encourages the ‘little republics’ of the family, community organisations, civic organisations and civil society, among which are the churches to promote the common good. It limits the state’s role of enforcement.
Dr. Nazir-Ali noted that, in the ‘Arab Spring’, democracy was being shown not to be enough. Without a bill of rights, it can become the tyranny of the majority. Article 18 of the UN Declaration enshrines a right to believe, and to manifest that belief in behaviour and action. Behind that lies the statement of Magna Carta that the English church shall be free — that is to teach, promote and practise biblical values and morality without government interference.

Chris Sugden,

Anglican Mainstream


This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057