That’s not exactly religious freedom…

Mystifyingly, the UK government is going to make it illegal for the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages.

The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.

Other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.

But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly” stated strong opposition and would not be included.

Labour said the exemption for the established Church was “disappointing”.

I can’t even make sense of that. The government is making it illegal, yet it’s an exemption. What? And the government is making it illegal because the churchs had stated strong opposition?

It gets worse.

Miller said the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly stated” their opposition to offering same-sex ceremonies, so the government would “explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples”.

She also said: “I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that.

“European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional ‘quadruple legal lock’. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so.”

It’s a matter of religious freedom therefore the government is making it illegal for particular churches to do it.

So “religious freedom” here is taken to mean the government passing a law that the Top Bosses in the national church like, which will make it impossible for rebel churches to disobey the church’s Top Bosses.

That’s a funny understanding of religious freedom, if you ask me.

This is a good one –

Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in Parliament, said: “For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it does embody the distinctiveness of men and women.

“So removing from the definition of marriage this complementarity is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.”

Oh noes! Now there will be not one social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged – !! The horror!

But sure there will. Atheism. Gaming. Needlepoint.


  1. Maureen Brian says

    But now the Church of England and the Church in Wales are extremely cross. No-one consulted them, no-one even told them it was going to happen. Various bishops are complaining loudly.

    It seems that the dinosaur tendency among the Tories claimed to speak for the church – which as you know can’t agree on anything – and Maria Miller foolishly took their word for it.

    Oh dear!

  2. Tony Sidaway says

    This will make an interesting case in the courts. I look forwards to a Church of England or Church in Wales couple taking the government right up to the European Court of Human Rights.

  3. says

    Goodness, how batty! It’s not even the Top Bosses! The Tories just said to each other “They don’t want it, so we’ll make it illegal for them to have it; how pleased they will be!” It’s like Alice in goddam Wonderland.

  4. AsqJames says

    The specific exclusion for the CofE and CinW is logically bizarre, but I think I can see how it may have come about…

    When the plans to introduce marriage equality were first announced, they said every religious group would have the option to opt out. So basically, if you’re a priest, vicar, rabbi, imam or whatever and already allowed to officiate at weddings, you or your bosses would have to say “Not us please, we’re homophobic!”

    I suspect the government got told by certain groups that they didn’t want to advertise their bigotry quite so openly. The latest plan reverses the “optionality”, so the Bigots-R-Us brigade don’t have to take any action which can be negatively portrayed by liberal smear-merchants.

    But the state church is an unholy hodge-podge of loosely aligned groups with a wide variety of theologies. Being asked to make any kind of decision exposes the warring factions within the church (see the recent kerfuffle on lady bishops) and makes it harder to keep up the pretense of unity and common purpose. The government probably thought they were doing the church a favour by taking the issue off the table for them. They might be right too.

  5. barrypearson says

    I’m pretty sure this was a last-minute decision by someone without their brain switched on.

    But it means that the Churches of England and Wales are now saying “it is our right to decide that gay people can’t marry in our churches, not the government’s”. Or “we want to be bigots from our choice, not by law”.

    We Christianity-watchers look at their dilemma with interest!

  6. unity says

    This only looks odd if you don’t understand the relationship that exists between the State and the Church of England because the CofE is an established church.and, unlike other churches and religious organisations, has a legal duty to perform marriages.

    It’s because its an established church that the CofE has to have a specific legal exemption over and above the opt-in provisions afforded to other churches, one that Parliament will be obliged to remove if and when the church changes its position on same-sex marriage.

    As for the Church in Wales, which was actually disestablished in 1920, in their own response to the government’s consultation they actually said ‘We’ll have whatever the Church of England is having’, so they’re now complaining that they got what they asked for.

    Neither, I suspect, expected the government to go beyond allowing same-sex civil marriages, which is why both have been caught on the hop.

  7. karellen says

    Out of curiosity, where are those quotes from? It looks like the kind of muddled rubbish you’d typically get from the Daily Mail, which isn’t worth relying on as a source of what’s actually happening about, well, anything.

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I caught the tail-end of this story on the BBC news the other night, and although I was distracted (grandsons aged 14mths & 32mths) I almost certain I heard somebody comment that it will also be written into the law that ALL (sorry, not sure how to italicise here; I’ll have to ask the grandsons) recognised religions in the UK will have immunity from the relevant parts of the Equal Rights Act (can’t be arsed to look up the date of the act, sorry). Certainly makes a mockery of the idea that nobody is above the law, doesn’t it?

    Looking on the bright side for a moment, I can see this having a somewhat positive (on our side, of course) effect on the already dwindling congregation numbers when gay, lesbian, bi- or transsexual members of the ‘gays need not apply’ churches, along with their fellow believers who are straight but non-homophobic (yes, I know, but there must be some….surely!) vote with their feet.

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