UK Speaker: Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Be ‘Proper’ Until Churches Can’t Opt Out
In a shocking attack on religious freedom and even property rights, the speaker of Britain's House of Commons argued that the country won't have "proper equal marriage" until churches are unable to turn away requests to host a same-sex marriage.
"I still feel we'll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right," John Bercow, the Commons speaker, declared at a PinkNews reception in July.
Britain legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, but Bercow suggested that the LGBT issue will not be settled until churches are unable to refuse to host such weddings. "We don't want to behave like it's all over, everything's been done and nothing remains, because that isn't true," he added.
This statement proved particularly revealing, in light of religious freedom struggles in the United States and the forthcoming vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia. Other events in Britain at the time also revealed the inherent struggle between the LGBT movement and the freedom of churches to host the weddings they choose to bless.
Bercow's statement came one month after Tim Farron resigned from leading the Liberal Democratic Party because the British press had launched a kind of inquisition into his Christian faith. Farron, who supported legalizing same-sex marriage, was nevertheless accorded suspicion, and reporters badgered him on whether he thought homosexual activity is a sin.
"The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader," Farron wrote at the time. "To be a political leader — especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 — and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me."
Chillingly, he concluded: "I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my part. Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honor. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something 'so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all'" (emphasis added).
For a politician who supported same-sex marriage to write those words is nothing less than astounding. Did he know that the very right to hold a belief against homosexual activity — in the church itself — was under assault in Britain?
Yet another British politician, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening, said that Christian churches need to "keep up with modern attitudes" on same-sex marriage.
"I think it's quite important that we recognise that for many churches, including the Church of England, [same-sex marriage] was something they were not yet willing to have in their own churches," Greening, who announced her own homosexual orientation last year, told Sky News.
While Greening insisted, "I wouldn't prescribe to them how they should deal with that," she nevertheless declared, "I think it is important that the church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country."
"For me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country," she concluded.
This statement should chill anyone who believes in religious freedom and the ability to hold counter-cultural beliefs. Greening wasn't just saying churches should accept same-sex marriage, she was suggesting that religious organizations should be discouraged from having a counter-cultural witness. This from a secretary for education!
In Britain, the LGBT movement is vastly becoming an established religion. When churches are expected to follow cultural trends, rather than declaring their own truth from God, they are relegated to effective state censure. If religion is to have any freedom to actually mean something in people's lives, churches must be free to act according to their teachings, but the LGBT movement seems unwilling to brook any opposition.
Even in the United States, the movement has started pushing against the right to opt out of serving same-sex weddings.
Many wedding-related service providers — who gladly serve LGBT people in other contexts — have refused to serve same-sex weddings, fearing that doing such business would be seen as an endorsement of something that violates their religious beliefs about marriage.
Notable example include Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, and Colorado baker Jack Philips (whose case will come before the Supreme Court).
In fact, at least one LGBT group in Ohio announced its plans to target churches to force religious organizations to host same-sex weddings, regardless of their faith positions on marriage being between a man and a woman.
Furthermore, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has listed mainstream Christian organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and the Ruth Institute (RI) as "hate groups" — to be lumped in with the Ku Klux Klan — because of their religious beliefs on marriage. A sitting U.S. Senator actually compared ADF to the genocidal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot last week.
This "hate list" actually inspired a terrorist attack in 2012, and might have inspired another this year.
The LGBT movement is relentless, however. In discussing cases where bakers, florists, and farmers refuse to serve same-sex weddings, openly gay megadonor Tim Gill declared, "We're going to punish the wicked."
Polling suggests that those who identify as LGBTI in Australia are utterly opposed to allowing anyone to "opt out" of serving a same-sex wedding. In a survey early this year, a full 59 percent of LGBTI people said they would oppose a legal exemption allowing religious celebrants (priests, pastors, or other ministers) to refuse to marry two men or two women.
Nearly 60 percent of LGBTI Australians said it should be illegal for a pastor to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. But it got worse.
A full 94.3 percent said a church or a religious organization should not be allowed to deny the use of its property for a same-sex wedding. Australia has yet to legalize same-sex marriage. When LGBTI people were asked if they would allow churches to refuse to host same-sex weddings in exchange for making same-sex marriage legal in Australia, a full 90.6 percent still opposed it.
This is the kind of vitriol unleashed against Christians who are faithful to the Bible's teaching on homosexuality. Such people are forced out of politics, even if they supported same-sex marriage. They are "the wicked" to be punished. They are "hate groups" on the level of the KKK. They are compared to a dictator who mercilessly slaughtered a quarter of his own people.
On Tuesday, Australians will begin the process of voting whether or not to make same-sex marriage legal. Conservative groups have warned that doing so will unleash an LGBT movement which will destroy religious freedom and teach boys and girls in kindergarten that they can become the opposite sex if they want (sound familiar? at this school, parents won't even be notified).
Before the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, conservatives were mocked for using the "slippery slope" argument that if same-sex marriage passed, religious freedom would be threatened. Two years later, the cat is out of the bag.
So many issues intersect when it comes to churches being able to "opt out" of hosting a same-sex wedding. In such cases, churches should have the religious freedom to operate according to their consciences. They should have the free speech to express their views to a hostile culture. They should have the freedom to do whatever they want on their own property.
Finally, this issue is not just about same-sex marriage. Churches should be able to refuse any couple for any reason — if the couple wishes to have an "open marriage," or if they do not have the right understanding of marriage, for example.
A state senator in Alabama has sponsored a bill to formally separate legal marriage from religious marriage. This bill would outlaw marriage licenses, which give an officiant the sense of blessing a marriage. Instead, a notary would merely record a marriage, and no minister or officiant would be required to sign the document.
"It is my belief that the state cannot make any kind of contract sacred," the bill's sponsor Greg Albritton (R., Baldwin County) told PJ Media. "That's not its place, that's not its purpose. It doesn't have that religious authority to make something sacred, but it can make it binding for the purpose of the parties."
Christians like Albritton are not trying to make same-sex marriage illegal — they are merely trying to separate the issues at hand.
Churches are independent organizations, and they should not be forced to celebrate or host ceremonies with which they disagree. Many churches are happy to marry same-sex couples, and everyone will suffer if independent organizations lose the right to operate according to the dictates of their own conscience.