RELENTLESS PRESSURE

So despite the fact that feedback to the public consultation was, as several MSPs admitted, ‘overwhelmingly negative’ the Scottish Parliament has enacted legislation permitting same sex marriage anyway.

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The debate was notable for its attacks upon Christianity. Patrick Harvie (Green) suggesting that opposition to same sex marriage was necessarily homophobic. John Finnie (Independent) equated opposing same sex marriage to religious groups who throw goats off towers to their death. Mary Fee (Labour) asserted that the Bible should not be used to attack same-sex marriage because the ‘Bible also supports slavery’, and prohibits cutting hair.

So far so bad. But, as usual, there is worse to come. A number of amendments to the bill designed to protect churches and other religious institutions from potential legal action or discrimination were all rejected. Protection for charities and registrars was deliberately omitted. The legislation was deliberately enacted with a weak opt in provision for faith groups or individuals which opens the door for further gains by the homosexual lobby. Churches at present can still refuse such marriages but if they wish to in the future they can opt in and provide same sex marriage ceremonies.

We should take this in conjunction with the statement from the CofS spokesman. Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church’s Legal Questions Committee: ‘The Church of Scotland holds to the mainstream Christian belief that marriage is properly between a man and a woman.

‘Although there are a range of views on this issue within the Church, this will remain our view unless changed by our General Assembly, the supreme decision-making body in the Church, which meets each year in May.’

Technically accurate but what it means is that the GA is wide open to the redefinition of marriage, and in the present climate how long will it be before the GA reverses its position? We have ministers who whole heartedly approve of same sex marriage and will themselves take the opportunity to enter such an arrangement. Can we realistically see the GA saying it disapproves of their action or considers such to be un-Christian?

Some day in the not too distant future a homosexual couple will approach a carefully selected Church of Scotland minister and ask for a church wedding. If the minister complies, as is entirely possible, they get their wedding and the church gets a problem. The church will have to decide what to do about the minister. If they don’t institute disciplinary proceedings the church de facto accepts same sex marriage. If they do discipline the dissenting minister he or she will inevitably become a martyr to the cause and focus of dissent within the denomination leading to the eventual acceptance of same sex marriage. If a civil case were to be brought against the church by the minister can we be sure that in the prevailing climate the church would win?

It does not take the gift of prophecy to predict this, merely reflection on recent events. Whenever the homosexual lobby have campaigned for a gain it has been with the assurance that this would be all they wanted. As soon as they get what they want they move on to the next gain. We can all remember declarations that all that was desired was civil partnerships and that there was no wish for marriage.

This will happen because the homosexual lobby is relentless. Their view of freedom is that they should be free to say and do what they like and we should be free to agree with them. Dissent from the prevailing homosexual orthodoxy is not a permitted option.

Homosexual orthodoxy already has such a grip that many Christians find themselves in extremely difficult positions. I recently had a letter from a young friend asking for advice. A gifted classical singer, choral director and composer he finds himself under pressure if he wishes to continue working in his chosen field. The same letter, however, could have come from a teacher, a medic, a registrar, a couple wishing to adopt, from any of us. With his permission I include part of his letter.

‘I experience and have experienced first hand a form of militant liberalism from within and without the church which I find, frankly, terrifying. Having been a Christian all my life, living out my Faith as best I can, I suddenly find myself labeled as an extremist, a fanatic, and considered a danger to society. This is not an exaggeration! When I was a scholar in a certain episcopal cathedral, some of the beliefs I held were regularly described as abhorrent (though I must confess I was not, at the time, brave enough to profess them openly).

‘I would value any advice on how a young Christian with some influence should respond to the environment in which I regularly work. I must confess, I find myself increasingly living in fear of being asked direct questions which, answered honestly, could lead to me being black-listed at best and hated a worst. I am most afraid of being read wrong. For example, I have many friends and colleagues who are gay. How could I expect them to understand that their life-style does not make me love them any less, and yet I cannot agree that homosexual relationships are acceptable. And then the other end of the spectrum: I believe that God has given me a calling for working with children and I spend great amounts of time and energy on that calling. As a young, single male, you can guess how many of my peers view that calling…

“Any words of wisdom / scripture references and/or advice would be most welcome.”

What advice or help would you offer to a young Christian friend?

SAME SEX MARRIAGE SCOTLAND

Dating back to at least 1532 the Faculty of Advocates is the independent body of lawyers given the task of preparing future lawyers for admission to the Scottish Bar. The Inns of Court perform roughly the same function for England and Wales. The Faculty is a douce organisation with a reputation of being an earnest body of serious lawyers not given to exaggeration or hyperbole. Therefore, when it issued a report in March 2013 eviscerating proposed legislation coming before the Scottish Parliament we would have hoped the government would take note. Unfortunately Alex Salmond’s government takes little notice of anyone other than pollsters and the media.

The SNP government in Scotland in its sad eagerness to be seen as a serious player with the big boys in the playground pursues every trendy cause it can. This usually involves passing laws to ban things, well that’s how the elites work. This time though they want to widen the borders of what is acceptable. Last week they published their proposed legislation to legalise same sex marriage. Without actually saying so out loud the Faculty clearly think the proposed legislation is ill thought out and impracticable, and the government has done nothing to allay their fears.

The Faculty report drew attention to the chaos likely to result from the proposed legislation. In a Bill which proposes to alter the legal definition of marriage in Scotland the SNP never actually define marriage, its nature or purpose. Thus the proposed legislation also deals with civil partnerships without clarifying any essential difference between civil partnership and marriage. When this legislation goes through we in Scotland will have at least four forms of legal status: single, cohabiting, civil partnership and marriage. To further confuse the issue there is even talk amongst SNP politicians of eventually extending civil partnership to heterosexual couples.

More seriously the Faculty pointed to possible grave dangers for all who are opposed to homosexual marriage. The conflict between the rights of homosexuals to be married and the right of freedom of thought and conscience has not been resolved.

Alex Neil, Health Minister in the SNP government, claims that the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill contains ‘unequivocal protection’ for those who refuse to participate in same sex ceremonies. Matters, however, are not quite so clear cut. Janys Scott QC, convener of the Faculty’s Family Law Reform Group, says that Neil could not provide a ‘cast iron guarantee’ of protection for those opposed to same sex marriage.

The proposals give initial protection to religious bodies to decide their own policy with regard to same sex marriage. That this protection will last is open to serious doubt. The European Convention on Human Rights Article 13 gives everyone the right to ‘effective remedy’ if their rights have been violated, no matter by whom. Does anyone seriously believe that a homosexual activist will not seek out a non-compliant church in order to take it to the European Court for denial of his rights to be married in church?

Those in other occupations do not have even the fig leaf of supposed protection. Under the Bill local and other authorities will have an obligation to promote same sex marriage. Amongst others government employees such as chaplains in prisons and hospitals, foster parents and teachers will all be subject to the requirement to promote same sex marriage. The Faculty pointed out that the European Convention on Human Rights in Article 9 protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This potential conflict is not addressed in the Bill, but we can have a good idea of what the European Court of Human Rights will decide in any future cases brought before it.

As well as individuals this Bill will also impact groups operating in the public sphere. Will a local authority be able to use church premises for functions or occasions such as polling stations at local and general elections? Will bodies which oppose this legislation be allowed to retain their charitable status? The Bill does not address these issues.

In restrained language the Faculty judgde that the protection given to parents and teachers is ‘less robust than implied’. Whilst under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 Section 9 parents can withdraw their children from religious instruction and a parent’s attitude towards same sex marriage may be shaped by their religious convictions, teaching on same sex marriage is not viewed as religious instruction. Thus there is no protection for Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or non-believing parents who do not wish their children to be taught that same sex marriage is a positive good for society. Parents have no statutory right to withdraw their children from sex education, no matter what form it may take.

The report from the Faculty also discussed the confusion about to be created by the proposed legislation in a number of areas such as our understanding of divorce, adultery, bigamy, cohabitation and transgender marriage. These issues remain to be worked out, meanwhile the Bill steams ahead.

The SNP government have taken what the Faculty describes as ‘a superficial similarity with heterosexual marriages’ and without working out the possible pitfalls have determined to push through this legislation with the support of the other parties no matter what. For our political class, even in parliaments as small as that of Scotland, avoiding criticism by the media is more important than governing well.

The Eye Of The Beholder

Human rights in the English speaking world owe their origin to a document enforced on King John of England in 1215 by the English barons, the Magna Carta Libertatum. Subsequent to the Magna Carta we have understood
human rights to be the restriction of the king’s power thus enabling the people to
expand their freedoms such as freedom of speech.

Human rights were grounded in restrictions which the people placed upon the king. Today progressive human rights in the West are grounded in restrictions the government places upon the people.

We see this when we come to the new right not to be offended. This Orwellian concept replaces human rights with group rights. We have the realisation of the Orwellian prophecy of the day when “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” If you belong to a group which is privileged the state will accord you rights it refuses to others.

A few months ago Simon Ledger was singing oldies in a bar. Amongst the numbers he sang was “Kung Fu Fighing.” Those old enough to remember disco may now blush. Bad enough one would suppose and an occasion for cotton wool in the ears, but unfortunately two passers by, not even patrons of the bar, heard him singing, they were Chinese. One was offended enough to report Ledger to the police, he was arrested for racism.

If you were to sing Kung Fu Fighting to me I would have to thole it, perhaps with an ill grace but I would just have to take your assault on taste and culture, I couldn’t report you to the police and have you arrested no matter how much I thought you deserved it. I don’t belong to a favoured minority or identity group. A joke or a song has become a possible criminal action according to whom you perform it before and whether or not they choose to find it offensive.

When individual justice is replaced by social justice we lose the concept of universal human rights and find them replaced by group rights.

The Scottish Parliament has before it the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, which could make certain jokes, songs or actions illegal in certain circumstances. If Roseanna Cunningham, minister for Community Safety has her way if a Roman Catholic were to make the sign of the cross in front of a bunch of rampaging Rangers supporters he would possibly be committing an offence. If a Rangers supporter were to sing Rule Britania in front of a group of Celtic supporters that could be considered an illegal act. It all depends on how the ‘victims’ choose to react.

Frank Mulholland the Lord Advocate tried to clear up Roseanna’s bumbling explanation of the proposed legislation by saying that making the sign of the cross or singing the national anthem would not be criminal offences. Obviously, but listen to the rider, “Unless there are aggravating circumstances.”

Any song adopted by the opposing supporters could be deemed provocative if the criteria of judgement is offence perceived by the purported ‘victim,’ or even the possibility of offence as judged by a police officer. From my experience of Scottish football the fans are creative if nothing else in the songs they sing. What if Rangers fans sing new words to the tune of The Sash would that be offensive? If a Celtic fan offers up a silent prayer before a penalty at Ibrox would that be offensive?

The bill refers to “behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive”. But the very person who chooses to find the sign of the cross or the singing of a song offensive and requiring a violent response is not a reasonable person. He, and it is almost invariably a he, is an emotionally charged irreligious bigot ready to take offence at the mere existence of the opposition.

The Scottish Parliament is being asked to abrogate the human right of freedom of speech in the name of groups rights not to be offended. This would destroy a foundational principle of justice, equality before the law.

Our ideas of justice derive from Scripture. There we learn that we are created individually and as responsible individuals we stand before God. The rights we have as His children are individual rights.