Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Elder Dr P M Woodley on behalf of Hyde Heath Chapel (MB 39)

MARRIAGE (SINGLE SEX COUPLES) BILL

I represent a small village Chapel holding to reformed evangelical Christian beliefs.

I wish to object to the above bill because I do not believe it has been sufficiently well thought through in terms of its wider impact on society. N or do I believe it contains sufficient and sustainable safeguards for the traditional conservative Christian view of marriage. I believe that there is no real need for this bill since I understand that the provision of Civil Partnerships provides couples with a legal status similar to that of marriage. I can see no advantage in redefining marriage to include the arrangements currently provided by civil partnerships and which will do an immense amount of harm to the c hurch of Christ Jesus our Lord and God, and those who seek to obey God. For example, I have already heard of Churches that feel they will have no alternative but to stop conducting marriage ceremonies because of the fear of being forced to conduct similar services for same sex couples, contrary to their understanding of the Bible, and contrary to their stated beliefs. As a small Chapel we would be in a similar situation; we would not be in a position to face expensive litigation. Whilst the Bill may seek to provide protection at present, legal views are being expressed that the provisions will not be sustainable in the courts, particularly in European Courts. Our view would thus have to be formed on the basis of the likelihood of legal challenge rather than on the basis of what the Bill actually provides. The exclusion of main denominations, such as the Church of England, whilst likely to have repercussions, could also serve to put the attention on smaller independent churches by those determined to pursue their own agendas.

Similarly there is considerable fear being expressed by some, that committed Christians, eg Teachers, Chaplains, will be forced into situations where they are required to support same sex marriage contrary to their religious beliefs, or face disciplinary action, and possibly even dismissal. Thus Christians would unnecessarily face huge moral dilemmas and this could lead to an erosion of membership of Churches holding firmly to the conservative Biblical position. The proposals could thus undermine the freedom of speech, or of conscience. Examples already exist of legal action being taken against Christians who seek to maintain a reasonable Christian witness in society.

I believe, like many others I meet , that we have seen an erosion of respect and protection for Christian views in this country ; and that despite the enormous contribution devout Christians have made to our society over the centuries. There seems to be a general pressure to appease the, sometimes more extreme views, of other religions , and minorities in society, at the expense of the traditional views of Christians. The proposals contained in the above bill will thus further marginalise conservative Christians and isolate them unnecessarily in our society. The traditional view of marriage is based on God's provision for mankind and includes within it a picture of the headship of God over mankind. Whilst I recognise that this view is not universally shared, I am deeply concerned that the proposals will open up situations which will ultimately bring about legal conflict with, or bring about discrimination against those who seek to obey God. If we are to retain religious freedoms for Christians who hold to the traditional conservative views, then the above legislation needs to be substantially re-thought and amended , or withdrawn.

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013