What follows is a fuller reply to my libertarian friend in the smokers’ community, Dick Puddlecote.

His post of February 13, 2011, ‘The State Bigger than God?’ addressed the issue of same-sex ‘marriages’ (emphases in bold mine throughout):

You can just imagine the self-satisfaction within the coalition for announcing this on a Sunday, can’t you? Just to remind you all that the state is the most important entity in life even on the sabbath.

Ministers are expected to publish plans to enable same-sex couples to “marry” in church, the BBC has learned.

Although not having a strong view one way or the other, I reckon the inverted commas surrounding the word ‘marry’ are very well placed here. The reason being – and I would love to know the thoughts of this blog’s official theologian on the matter – that it is surely theoretically impossible for gay couples to be married under the auspices of the church.

If the church is run along the rules laid down by the Bible and scriptures, and a truly religious ceremony is banned under those rules, then it really shouldn’t matter what law is proposed by the state.

Sure, they can say that same sex couples can be allowed to use spiritual venues, but unless the faith concerned is theologically aligned with the principle, the union wouldn’t be blessed by whichever God is worshipped there. On that basis, If I were gay I’d struggle to see the point in choosing a church for my ceremony.

As would I.  However, according to one of the hundreds of comments on the Telegraph‘s ‘Gay “marriages” to be allowed in church’, it is partly about being ‘married’ in a beautiful atmosphere.  Let’s face it, such a ceremony in an Anglican church requires little outlay on the couple’s part, whereas one at a stately home or luxury hotel can cost quite a lot.  Therefore, I infer that part of this is about cost — value for money.  The other part is ‘equality’: ‘If breeders (as heterosexuals are known) can get married in a church, so can we’.

New Testament verses against

Some vicars will be willing to perform these ceremonies.  If so, let it be on their shoulders and souls.  They will have to answer to God for them, as the New Testament — including Jesus — states that such relationships are an abomination.  Here is an additional verse from another of St Paul’s epistles (1 Timothy 1:8-11):

8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;

9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

11According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

Common misconceptions

Now, before proceeding, allow me to please clear up a few misunderstandings about Christianity which appeared in the discussion on the Telegraph article:

Christ’s death and resurrection freed us from the 613 Mosaic Laws of the Old Testament.  Yes, some Christians still follow these, but they are in error.  We follow Christ’s commandment to love God and neighbour as specified in the 10 Commandments.  This is moral law, not ceremonial or ritual law.

The Gospels are in the New Testament.  They record Jesus’s life, teachings, death and resurrection.  The four Gospels are the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there a call for people to put to death those guilty of what Scripture records as serious sin.  God will judge all of us — as sinners.  He will mete out punishment to those guilty of the most serious sins (e.g. theft, murder, fornication, adultery, homosexuality). If unrepentant, these sinners may spend an eternity in Hell — the death referred to in Revelation 21:8.  Although it is up to Him — not us — to condemn, Christians are obliged to warn!  Many people are unaware of the gravity of these offences.

Traditional Christians believe that Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant; in other words, it contains the true word of God.

It is no wonder, then, that many Christians are concerned about this latest development.

Reactions are divided

In another Telegraph article, ‘Sentamu: don’t force churches to conduct gay weddings’, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York

told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show: “I live in a liberal democracy and I want equality for everybody. I cannot say the Quakers shouldn’t do it.

“Nor do I want somebody to tell me the Church of England must do it or the Roman Catholic Church must do it because actually that is not what equality is about.”

Meanwhile:

Quakers welcomed the plans. Michael Hutchinson, Acting Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, said: “This is about including all of our religious community in being able to publicly express their deep commitment. We wish to move further to allow legal marriage for same sex-couples but this is a welcome step along the way to full equality.”

And:

Peter Tatchell, from the homosexual human rights campaign group, OutRage!, said allowing civil partnerships to take place in religious settings was “long overdue”.

“When the legal change comes into effect, no religious institution will be forced to perform civil partnerships. It will be up to them to decide,” he said.

“The next logical step is to end the ban on gay civil marriages. I urge the government to bring forward legislation to ensure marriage equality. Gay civil partnerships are not good enough. They are not equality. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. All couples – gay and heterosexual – should be able to get married in a civil ceremony in a register office.”

In the BBC’s article, ‘Gay church “marriages” set to get the go-ahead’

A Church of England spokesman said: “Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships.”

He added the worry was that any changes could “lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths“.

“Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured,” he said.

Concerned about possible consequences of refusing to perform such a ceremony

Stephen Parkinson, director of Forward in Faith, a traditionalist Anglican movement, said: “It is a matter for the Christian churches to order their own affairs. Her Majesty’s Government has no place interfering.”

He said he was concerned that individual churches could suffer the same fate as the Christian B&B owners who were recently sued for refusing to allow a gay couple to stay in a double room.

Some lobby group could set about trying to provoke litigation,” he said. “The question would be whether it is litigation against the Church as an institution or more likely against poor, innocent ‘Rev Bloggs.’

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church

has long held that homosexuality is a “deviation” and is not expected to agree to same-sex ceremonies.

However, along with the Quakers, the Unitarians and liberal (‘reform’ for my American readers) Jews are open to performing them.

As for more conservative Judaism

Rabbi Yitzhak Schochet, from Mill Hill Synagogue in north London and a columnist for the Jewish News, told the BBC: “Same sex marriages have no place in any house of religious worship.

“To suggest that advocating such a position is homophobic is unconscionable. The Bible is not homophobic anymore than it is incest-phobic, adultery-phobic or necrophilia-phobic.

There is a divine value system which religious people subscribe to and which is very much their entitlement.

That it doesn’t conform to liberal idealism doesn’t mean that its proponents should be written off as narrow-minded or worse, bigoted.”

Double standard and scope creep

The issue is that up until now, the Government has forbidden houses of worship to conduct same-sex ceremonies for civil partnerships.  Now they will be permitted, should a house of worship register to perform them.

Fine, except that with all these laws — from the seat-belt laws in the 1980s to smoking bans to the new Equality Bill — the goalposts inevitably move.  A Christian Institute article from 2009, ‘Gay groups want civil partnerships in church’ reports:

Ben Summerskill, head of Stonewall, said: “Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in ten or 20 years, that may change.”

Rather like, ‘All we are asking is that flights under two hours be made completely non-smoking.  It’s such a small request.’  Now look where we are.  Some two decades later, smokers are increasingly denied housing, employment and health care.  We have untrammelled scope creep with smoking.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this spread (conversely) to same-sex partnerships.  After all, as the Christian Institute article goes on to say:

Tony Grew, a leading homosexual campaigner, said the Government’s Equality Bill aims to “entrench gay rights in all aspects of public life”.

Substitute ‘non-smokers” for ‘gay’ in that sentence and you’ll see what I mean.

It was only a month or so ago that we had the controversy over the older couple, the Bulls, owners of a B&B in their Cornwall house.  They had to pay damages to a gay couple to whom they tried to give separate rooms.  The Bulls said that their website stated their policy on unmarried couples, regardless of orientation.  Their gay guests said that they had not seen this.  The Telegraph explains:

Judge Andrew Rutherford rejected the suggestion that Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy, with the assistance of a gay rights organisation, had tricked the claimants …

The judge made the ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court as he awarded the couple £1,800 each in damages.

Mr Hall, 46, and Mr Preddy, from Bristol, were seeking up to £5,000 damages claiming sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 …

The Bulls, along with Christians in general, were described online in various fora and discussions as being bigoted and hateful.

Yet, there are hotels in England which are exclusively for certain groups of people.  In fact, at least two hotels cater for gay clientele in the northern seaside resort of Blackpool. One is called Chaps, which bills itself as (caps in the original)

Blackpool’s friendliest GAY hotel

and

is the largest and one of the best Hotels for men only and perfect for Gay holidays and Gay weekends, Chaps Hotel Blackpools Premier Gay Hotel is truly one of the most popular hotels in Blackpool and has been ‘the place to stay for gay holidays’ for many years … Chaps Hotel one of the UKs premier Hotels for Men only Holidays.

Similarly, Guyz Hotel clearly states on its website that it caters

for gay couples, singles and groups who want a gay environment with quality accommodation.

So, it appears that some groups are more equal than others.  Try substituting the word ‘Christian’ for ‘gay’ in the above publicity blurbs.  It seems that such advertising would be discriminatory.

More equality discrepancies

In a comment on the Telegraph‘s editorial regarding the Bulls, ‘Gay couple awarded damages’, paratw-t at 01/20/2011 12:43 AM explores several instances of discrimination on various grounds (caps in the original):

Insurance e.g. Sheila’s Wheels. My son paid £2000 for car insurance, same company same criteria, chick pays £600. Legal, because it is based on actuarial data. However, when actuarial data applies in men’s favour, as in life insurance and life assurance, the EOC got that ruled illegal in Europe, but did not press for it to be ruled illegal in insurance, nor have they or their successor taken any actions out in this area.

I took this up with the “equality” hustlers some years ago when I was approached by a copper who was losing out on part-commutation of his pension because he was male. Females at his rank got about £18 grand more because they lived longer, therefore the fund saved more on their part-commutation. Every male officer in Strathclyde Police had put in a SD1 discrimination form on the advice of the Police Federation, who [ha]d hired a QC to fight it, then gave up on his [ad]vice after a judgment against Colorol, the wallpaper firm …

Equality mean[s] that if a man and a women both contribute, say £ 50,000 they should get 50g back plus any interest SPREAD OVER THEIR ACTUARIAL LIFE SPAN — otherwise men are subsidising women …

Women only swimming sessions? Swimming pools are businesses. There is an exemption from SDA for “risk of serious embarrassment” but plenty of them have women only sessions – with male lifeguards!

Women only- training companies? Ethnic-only training companies -allowed under SDA in some cases, and abused in many others. So … businesses are allowed to discriminate in some areas, and are allowed to get away with it in others, but not if those di[s]criminated against are not on the privileged list of “victims”.

Getting back on topic, people don’t really mind what consenting adults do in private.  However, when a law applies to one group of people differently than it does to another, we have a problem.

A word in closing …

Chuck Anesi has written a helpful and concise primer on fascism, which includes a study of Mussolini’s government.  He also discusses control through legislation and has this to say:

Amateur commentators on fascism … fail to see that fascists did most of their work using the state’s monopoly on “legitimate” violence with nearly universal popular approbation.  This included passing laws that controlled the most trivial aspects of human behavior, backed up by the traditional apparatus of police, courts, and prisons.  In many cases considerable procedural due process existed, most notably in Italy, where the judicial machinery was largely untouched.   But of course procedural due process used to enforce an unjust law does not yield justice.

The point here is this: if you think you are better than a fascist because you are passing laws to control people’s behavior in trivial and oppressive ways … well, you are wrong.  The fascists did exactly the same thing.   In fact, you are worse than a fascist, because you are too cowardly to do the dirty work yourself, and want to leave it to the police and the courts.

Tomorrow: More scope creep in the long march through the institutions