Anglican Perspectives

A View from the Church of England

chris sugden

Source:  International Update

(The following first appeared in the February 19, 2013 edition of the American Anglican Council’s International Update. Sign up for this free email here.)

Freedom is the issue

By Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden

Background

An Anglican lay reader is standing as an Independent Candidate in the forthcoming by-election at Eastleigh. (danny4eastleigh.org.uk). Along with Kevin Milburn, a candidate from The Christian Party, he is standing for real marriage. The election was triggered by the resignation of a Liberal Democrat member of the Coalition Cabinet, Chris Huhne, who eventually pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by having his wife take his penalty points for speeding.

The election is being closely fought by the two parties in the Government coalition, separated by 3800 votes at the last election. The minority coalition party candidate supports the Same-sex Couples bill currently before Parliament, the majority coalition party candidate does not, contrary to the view of the Prime Minister whose Conservative party is reportedly deeply split over the issue. (read more here)

What is at issue here?

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 “privatize” their view, and go about their business incognito, as it were. But that is a surrender of their freedom, not a preservation of it. As Gallagher astutely notes:

Using the power of law and culture to suppress alternative conceptions of marriage and sex (because gay people find these ideas hurtful and insulting to the newly internalized equality norm) is not a bug in the gay marriage system, it’s a feature. It’s part of, if not the main point.”

The arguments advanced for the same-sex couples bill are based on the claim that feelings of being discriminated against for homosexual behaviour must determine societal norms. The law and the power of culture must be used to suppress the alternative and established understanding of marriage that is held by people all over the world because that makes homosexual people feel different and “excluded”.

Science is drawn on to justify this view with the claim that homosexual feelings and behaviour are innate, natural and should be able to be given expression. For discussion of this see “Beyond Critique” on www.anglican-mainstream.net (The science is strictly irrelevant since even it were the case, there are many innate feelings which should not be expressed – feelings that would lead to promiscuity and rape for instance).

The heart of the gay agenda

It is this feeling of being discriminated against, marginalized, victimized, oppressed and excluded that is at the heart of the “gay agenda”. Any view that suggests their sexuality and behaviour are other than the societal norm must be suppressed, including holding contrary opinions on the matter. Any expression of the view that marriage is between a man and a woman is held to stigmatize those who believe that marriage is gender neutral. Such alternative views are claimed to be prejudiced, to stigmatise others, and to be the source of unhappiness and searches for “change”. Such stigmatization has to be banished from society by the state.

Therefore even holding such an opinion is wrong – or rather causes offence and hurt, and must be eliminated. Even if the state admits diversity and plurality, certain pluralities cannot exist.

This position is based on a view of the common good. The common good of equality is defined as equality of outcome (no one must be given any reason for feeling “unequal” to anyone else). This understanding of the common good is determined by majority opinion (which is why opinion polls and “the changing culture” feature so strongly in the argumentation). Such a notion of equality trumps everything. There is no hierarchy of rights that can be sustained in the face of its claims. There is no place for a “bill of rights” or “rights of conscience” or “freedom of belief”. The state is then asked to use the law to enforce the common good. There is a contradiction at its heart, between the call for diversity (of gender relationships) and equality (sameness, uniformity) of outcome.

No reasonable accommodation

This is why the bill gives no reasonable accommodation for any public servants such as registrars who would not wish to conduct same-sex marriages. State employed or regulated doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, marriage counsellors, marriage registrars and youth workers will also be denied “reasonable accommodation”. Teachers will have to explain, though not endorse, same-sex marriage to children. These professions would all be in effect nationalized.

Such reasonable accommodation is currently being provided for churches on grounds of their beliefs. This is a further unsustainable contradiction at the bill’s heart which means that protection will ultimately be removed. 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 hetero-sexual unions.

The last government allowed no “reasonable accommodation” to Roman Catholic adoption agencies who asked to be released from the requirement to place children with same-sex couples. They therefore closed down. Churches will eventually be unable to operate according to their own teachings because they will not know when they might cross the boundary of causing stigmatization. A string of legal challenges will pursue churches, religious institutions and Christian people who do anything else than accept gay behaviour and marriage as a societal norm. Anything else will be very costly indeed and the churches will give in.

The above views lie behind the push for the same-sex couples bill.

Liberty and the state

True “Conservative” thinking understands the common good of equality as equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Truly “Conservative” thinking states that the common good is protected by the state, not enforced by it. True Conservative thinking does not suppress but encourages little republics and civil institutions such as the family, civil society, religious and community associations. Liberty encourages the freedom of those bodies to promote the common good and limits the state’s role of enforcement. This lies at the heart of the “Big Society.” Without these the state takes over all the mediation and regulation between the state and the individual.

The banning of “contrary thinking” means the banning of conscience. Conscience as the right to private judgment on some matters) such as religious choice) is at the heart of freedom of religion, and of democracy (the freedom to choose who governs). Removing religion and conscience removes one of the important foundations for equality (the religious belief that all people are created equal) and freedom (that religious choice is a matter for individual choice).

Without freedom of religion and conscience democracy can become the tyranny of the majority. Article 18 of the UN Declaration enshrines a right not only to believe, but also 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 practice Biblical values and morality without Government interference.

Youth and the state

Today’s youth are very insecure about their future and see the state as providing the safety net for them economically in health and housing, unemployment benefit etc. They know there is no lifelong job security.

This positive view of the state has leaked into the social agenda and these young adults believe the state should also promote a social agenda. The 20% or so of voters in that younger age demographic need a new vision to say we understand your insecurities and we support your concern that the state should take more responsibility for that area. But if the state is allowed to promote a social agenda rather than create conditions for justice and equality it is a slippery slope to state domination.

Conclusion

The Same-sex Couples bill, on the evidence already of the second reading in the House of Commons, would suppress equality of opportunity, the right to express dissent, the liberty and very existence of “mediating” institutions that did not conform to the state’s ideology in the name of the offence caused to those who would feel stigmatized because of the implication of their “difference”. And this is being done by the Conservative Party leadership in the name of “Conservatism.” (See appendix)

Appendix

On October 5 2011 David Cameron, stated in his Party Conference speech that “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative”. Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner is reported to have said: “I wrote David Cameron’s speech for him. That line about ‘I believe in gay marriage because I am a Conservative’ came directly from what I wrote.”

http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2013/02/05/peter-tatchell-claims-to-have-written-prime-ministers-gay-marriage-lines-2/

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