Church claims gay marriage threatens Church-State ties

Photo credit: York Minster

Photo credit: York Minster

Top Church of England officials have warned that efforts of the government to allow same-sex marriage by 2015 could cause the greatest rift between the church and the state for almost 500 years.

Anglican officials have claimed that the government’s proposals threaten the institution of marriage as they would “alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” They have described the proposals as “divisive,” “legally flawed” and “essentially ideological”. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, caused controversy earlier this year by saying that centuries of tradition would be overturned if gay marriage was legalised.

According to the Home Office, religious organisations would not be coerced into conducting gay marriage. However the Church of England fears that this exemption would eventually be overturned by domestic and European courts, meaning that it will be forced to treat gay couples who wish to marry in the same way it treats heterosexual couples. This redefinition of marriage, Church figures argue, would pit canon law against state law, and lead to the greatest rift between the Church of England and the state in almost 500 years.

As part of the ties between the Church of England and the state, the Church can act on behalf of the state by conducting marriages for parish residents. Currently around a quarter of marriages take place in a Church of England service. However this unique position that the church holds would be threatened if two competing definitions of marriage, a civil definition and a religious definition, were to emerge.

The Church of England’s attitude towards gay marriage has been attacked by gay rights campaigners like Peter Tatchell, who has accused the Church of “scaremongering” and advocating “legal discrimination”. Ben Summerskill of the gay rights pressure group Stonewall has argued, “There is manifestly no evidence that the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact of the institution of marriage for heterosexuals”.

Meanwhile a petition opposing the government’s plans, organised by the campaign group Coalition for Marriage, has collected over 550,000 signatures. It is estimated that up to 100 Conservative backbenchers might vote against the government over the issue, whilst other Church leaders, including the head of the Roman Catholic Church, have also attacked the government’s plans. However, according to a recent YouGov poll, 71 per cent of the British public support the idea.

9 comments

  1. I am SICK of these Church of England know-nothings thinking that anyone cares what they think.
    A large-scale study found that only around 15% of people in this country say they beleive in a god or higher power. 15% don’t, and a whopping 70% (approx.) are unsure.
    The Church of England is irrelevant in any issue in modern Britain. If we want to move forward we do not need thocratic politics. If we want equality we need to look past “in the Bible it says this therefore that’s illegal” and use our brains.
    I am seventeen years old. know for a fact that same-sex marriage will be legal in my lifetime, sooner or later. I also know that the longer you hold on, the more the children of the future will look back in disgust at your prejudices. In 40 years, these prejudices won’t be accepted.
    Let same-sex couples marry. Religion is a personal matter, not a legal one.

    Reply Report

  2. @Kelly

    “70% (approx.) are unsure.” [that they believe in a higher power]

    As someone who is a Christian (very wide brush stroke), I both believe there is a God, and I am unsure whether or not there is one. To me that’s what belief is about, and requires doubt to be present. Therefore I would have to say I am quite impressed by the number you quote for those unsure about whether they believe in a God. Makes me feel like there’s hope yet!

    But on a serious note, the issue of gay marriage and the debate around it needs to be treated with respect from both sides. Saying “I am SICK of these Church of England know-nothings thinking that anyone cares what they think” and “The Church of England is irrelevant in any issue in modern Britain” may sound good to anyone who already agrees with you, but is not really that constructive. There are those on both sides of the debate who have strong views, but it doesn’t mean the majority in the middle can’t have a reasoned debate, and try to understand each others’ perspectives and views.

    After all, the debate does boil down to: are we a Christian country with a state church, or a secular one? For that debate to be had, and a resolution to be made, we need to be able look past thinking the other side is stupid, and understand exactly why they believe or think what they do.

    Reply Report

  3. Guys.. I just want to be able to get married someday and have a beautiful baby.

    Reply Report

  4. JJJP is right…………..this is the mature view rather than the emotional one. As a Christian I FEEL some very strong things about the idea of gay marriage. What I FEEL is not important – it may be right or wrong…..only time will tell.
    What is certain is that this proposal has far reaching constitutional ramifications that have been glossed over in an attempt to popularise an unpopular coalition government. Young people like Kelly are being politically manipulated with a blatantly ‘youth friendly’ policy. The politicians know that it is the youth of this country who have experienced the shift in marriage and moral patterns at first hand. They know that the youth are unlikely to support the conservation of a pattern of traditional marriage that many of them have not benefitted from…..and unlikely to be bold enough to condemn what their piers see as a new dawn for society.

    That being said this government has not had the mental discipline to think the issues through properly before launching their ideas on an unsuspecting population…..or the manners to get the permission to do so by putting the subject in their election manifestos.

    Accross the political spectrum the behaviour of the parties has underhand and anti democratic. This is what I really object to. It is as if the public cannot be trusted to make the right decision on this matter.

    In reality a change of this moment must be tested by referendum…..not punched through by a metropolitan elite who somehow beleieve they have a ‘god given right’ to say what is right or wrong……even if what they have been proposing has been resisted by the vast majority of people for all history. They believe that they have the right to force the rest of us to believe what they do. That is a shocking attitude more akin to Facism or Communism than liberal democracy. I truely hope that they have no such right in a democratic society.

    Reply Report

  5. I am a Roman Catholic and I think the Church is absolutely right to defend what it belives in and has always taught through the ages. I don’t blame people who are gay for this current situation but politicians total mishandling of the matter. It is ill thought out and doing a lot of harm to people on both sides. Britain is a diverse country and people won’t agree on everything but the liberal totalitarians in power simply cannot accept religious conscience and it is attacked everywhere i.e. in medicine over important pro-life issues. The gay civil partnership has the same rights as marriage so I don’t understand the need to change things unless there is an agenda to force gay marriages on places of worship (not just Churches). I wish the government would get on with sorting the mess with the economy out and focus on youth unemployment etc. Cameron and Clegg did not campaign for office on the issue of introducing gay marriage so they have no democratic mandate for it. I feel sad that some people are so anti-christian and particularly anti-catholic because in the last 100 years it is politics which has caused the most evil in the world with nazism, communism and 2 world wars resulting in millions of deaths.

    Reply Report

  6. “In reality a change of this moment must be tested by referendum”

    Why should gay marriage be decided by referendum and not every other policy? Basically, direct democracy is not a very good idea. Most people don’t have the time to look at policies in much detail, or the patience to think about them seriously. Better to have elected representatives, rather than allowing the population to vote against a policy just because they don’t like Nick Clegg (as with the AV referendum).

    Reply Report

  7. This threatens Church-State ties… and it’s framed like it’s a *bad* thing?

    Reply Report

  8. “Church of England claims gay marriage threatens Church-State ties”

    About bloody time..

    Reply Report

  9. And by that I mean it’s about bloody time Church-State ties were threatened, sorry, that wasn’t clear.

    Reply Report

Leave a comment



Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.