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Maria Miller: Allowing churches to hold same-sex marriages will strengthen religious freedom

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  1. You, Maria Miller, are still an enabler of bigots, and hence a vicarious bigot yourself.

    It is simply unacceptable – utterly unacceptable – to let religious institutions get away with refusing their services to everyone in society. They MUST be compelled to offer marriage to all or to none, irrespective of how homophobic their doctrines and cultures are.

    Nobody else in society gets this special “conscientious bigotry” exemption. Employers don’t, civil servants don’t, businesspeople don’t, schools and universities don’t. Everyone else who provides a service is required to abide by our equality laws. Religious groups are no different. Nothing about them makes them a special case. Simply having a culture of archaic homophobia and saying a magic sky-wizard approves of homophobia is not a good reason for exempting someone from equality law.

    Which is more important, then, Maria, – ensuring absolute equality or privileging irrational bigotry? Because your current proposals do the latter.

    1. Read the article , she says “The European Convention on Human Rights already guarantees freedom of religion, and this cannot be breached” .You can’t force them to do SSM otherwise it would be overturned by the ECHR.

      I agree with you to a certain extent. I think the burden of who wishes to conduct SSM should be up to the actual minister/vicar etc and not the undemocratic synod, pope etc …. some individual vicars would like to do SSMs but they would be prevented from doing so by the heads, the hierachy. That’s not fair really.

      1. l have read the article.

        I’m not sure her interpretation of what the European Convention on Human Rights entails is correct. But if it is then said convention is part of the problem and ought to be amended – if it protects bigotry over and above equality then it is morally unjustified.

        I do not think it should be a matter of conscience for each individual vicar or equivalent. It is not a matter of conscience for each individual shopkeeper whether they serve black customers, or for each individual employer whether they hire female employees – in these cases equality law compels them to offer their services equally. They can get out of it by not offering services at all of course – as could the vicar or equivalent, by not offering marriage services at all.

        1. I think getting a shopkeeper to offer services in a non religious buidling is quite different from asking a rabbi or viar to offer SSM ( with religious readings , symbols etc )in a religious building. Like Maria Miller says “We should not confuse this issue, as many do, with some cases currently going through the EU courts about the right to wear items such as crucifixes – this is about a fundamental religious tenet”. For example you can’t ask a rabbi to perform a christian wedding not will a CofE vicar perform a muslim or jewish wedding. Your argument is nonsense, CofE etc have freedom to perform whatever weddings they want to do at the moment.

          I suspect Maria’s intepretation of the ECHR is not only her own but also that of very high ranking lawyers who are advising the govt on this.

    2. I don’t think you’ll get very far with that argument VP. Religious freedom is guaranteed under the EHRC. Generally they do not offer their “services” to “everyone in society” – only to their own members – & even then they are free to refuse if they like.

      What is the point of trying to make ‘martyrs’ out of a religious cults? They would like nothing more. And what couple would like their wedding officiated by a religious minister who despised them?

      Let society move forward and they will gradually change with time. The biggest, and most effective, challenge to them is from their own members.

      The Church of England is, of course, a little different, claiming as it does to be there for everybody and, on that basis, having an established, privileged, constitutional role and holder of community property. It is surely untenable for them to be both part of government and yet to act in opposition to it.

      1. They should not be free to offer services only to their own members. Such an arrangement is inherently unjust.

        Why make martyrs out of them? Simple – to prove the point that secular equality law ALWAYS trumps religious bigotry. Equality is a supremely valid and worthwhile principle – superstitious bigotry is AS NOTHING compared to it. It is offensive to even suggest there is a conflict here – equality must win every time, and the stronger that message is the better.

        And by forcing them to abide by equality law they will be forced to change their attitudes.

        And why should we wait for gradual change when we can force rapid change, and thus arrive at the desired situation years or decades ahead of schedule, saving the world from the immense amounts of bigotry that would remain for longer? Did we say “oh, but racism will die out naturally, why bother making laws to eliminate it?” No, and homophobia is the same. Zero tolerance. No exceptions, especially not pathetic ones like this.

    3. Religious people can refuse to marry whichever straight people they like regardless of any legislation. If the priest/vicar/rabbi/whoever doesn’t want to marry you, you cant force them too.

      Why should this be different for gay people?

      1. Ah, but I find this situation grossly unjust also, and I do not support it either. They should be forced to marry anybody who asks and is legally able to marry, irrespective of any other arbitrary and irrelevant concerns.

        Just as shopkeepers are so compelled by equality legislation, and all the rest – marriage is a service like any other, and should be administered as such. Anything else is not true equality.

      2. I thought that at present all CofE churches are COMPELLED BY LAW to marry any opposite sex parishoners who ask them to do so?

        1. I don’t think they are compelled by law John, certainly not in the case of divorced people looking to remarry. Same goes for the catholic church.

          The example of divorce is helpful though as it shows that different definitions of civil and religious marriage can coexist without the sky falling in, as some of the CforM lot peach.

          Sadly you can’t treat religions as shopkeepers as some have suggested here because of centuries of ingrained religious privelege. Witness the recent farce over women bishops: in comparison, imagine if Sainsburys barred women from becoming directors?

          For me civil marriage will be the most important step forward for gay people since decriminalisation. Using the law to force religions to change their stance on marriage is a much larger battle which would play straight into the hands of those who would claim religious persecution.

    4. VP, these bigoted religions will either change or die out naturally imo. You can’t force them to change, it’d only add fuel to the fire.

      You are right though how strange it is that most of society must behave in a certain way whereas religious institutions are totally exempt. I am not saying what is wrong or right but when you analyse it, it is indeed strange how we are fine with such a contradiction and double standards.

      I.e. Christian vicar refuses to marry gay couple (fine), Christian couple refuse gay couple room in their B&B (not fine).


      1. Except we can and have forced them to change. There are well-documented examples of it. Perhaps the most prominent is when the US introduced its anti-racism legislation in the 60s and the Mormon church immediately abandoned its doctrinaire racism. Legislation to enforce equality can expedite changing attitudes markedly – religions are not exempt from cultural pressures, they change and adapt as any other idea-complex does in response to the changing demands of the societies they exist in.

        And I very much AM saying that it is wrong that we have these pathetic double standards where religious institutions are concerned. Painfully, obviously, outrageously wrong. More than just curious – blatantly unacceptable!

    5. Nope nope nope… they must not be compelled. They are not offering a service.. belief is a choice, attending a church is a choice… You cant force single sex schools to take on children of the wrong gender, and you cant force the local footie club to play basketball.. The proposed changes are perfect, the state offers the equality to all, and you get to choose who puts the icing on the cake. Everyone is happy

    6. As a vegetarian I feel my butcher should be forced to sell vegetables.

    7. VP you would be better off calling for disestablishment. This is the real issue that these churches that don’t want to marry gays are offering a state sanctioned service.

      Church marriages shouldn’t be recognised by the state at all, they should all have to pop down to the registrar first to get the certificate. Then they can do what the hell they like behind their closed doors. They can dance naked over goat entrails for all I care. As long as they pay tax and have no state privileges.

    8. Lots of good sense in all the replies to VP. However, in principle I find myself agreeing with VP – NOT that churches should be NOW compelled to conduct SSM – but that it is wrong that they are able to discriminate against members of their own church. If two people were born – and have fervently remained – Catholics, it seems wrong to me for their church to refuse to marry them when they are asking to take solemn vows in the eyes of their god. Wrong and cruel.
      But pragmatism demands that now is not the time to be stamping feet about this. One day at a time, sweet Jesus.

    9. You are correct. They cannot refused to marry two black or Asian people or a mixed couple, but they get to refuse two men or two women. This is still not equality folks, regardless of who legislates their right to do so. It is not full equality.

    10. de Villiers 8 Dec 2012, 12:45pm

      The only freedom you seek, VP, is the freedom to oppress others. Freedom of thought, conscious, religion – all necessary for a liberal democracy, all to be crushed by you. Everyone must OBEY.

  2. Well said Maria ….sounds perfectly clear to me

    Can somone now explain to me why churches and Tory MPs think that churches can’t be forced to employ women, gays, conduct marriages for divorcees etc etc without being challenged by the ECHR yet can be challenged if they don’t do “gay” marriages ?

    Can they also explain to me why UK churches would be forced to do SSM whilst no other european country which has introduced SSM has had to?

    1. That There Other David 8 Dec 2012, 12:00pm

      There’s nothing to indicate anyone will be sued, neither in British history regarding divorcees nor in the countries that already have marriage equality. The whole scenario is just a fantasy being put about by Cardinals and Bishops in order to convince their followers that they’ll be negatively affected by any extension of marriage to include us.

      Truth it, the only people that this will actually affect are same-sex couples that wish to get married. For everyone else life will go on exactly as it does now.

  3. How nice to hear some common sense and positivity from the Tories after all the unpleasantness.

  4. Benjamin Cohen 8 Dec 2012, 12:21am

    I really welcome what Maria Miller has to say here. She is so right and bravo to the Government for all that they are doing for our community

  5. VP is sounding like a Christian troll or agent provocateur for C4M. His supposed views are unreasonable & illogical.

    The world is a big place & there is no reason not to respect the rights of individuals their own beliefs and practices so long as they do not impinge or interfere with others.

    We may not like the private views and church practices of some religious people but we will certainly won’t change them by making them illegal.

    Why would anyone want or need to get married in a Church or Meeting House whose religion they didn’t share and whose members did not agree with the ceremony?

    1. You have a point of allowing people to have their views; but, it is not okay to make their bigotry legal while equality is ignored?

    2. de Villiers 8 Dec 2012, 12:48pm

      Freedom of religion and conscious is a mark of a liberal democracy. The world does not fit into neat boxes or labels – as lots of us proclaim – and yet we then seek to impose uniform rules on the basis of… labels and uniform rules for all.

      Life is not drawn in straight lines. People like VP are like fascist dictators – ready to crush those who disagree with them under their jackboots.

      1. de Villiers 8 Dec 2012, 12:48pm


  6. I too welcome Mrs Miller’s firm stance on religious freedom and am delighted that the govt is expanding its move on equal marriage to include those religious institutions that want to embrace equality and diversity. However, I fear that in seeking to calm bigot fears about the issue, Mrs Miller is going to enshrine a degree of homophobia in the proposed law. She says ‘No religious organisation, or individual, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages’. Why just same-sex marriages? I thought it was precisely this kind of unwarranted segregation of LGBTs that marriage equality is supposed to do away with. I fear we are going to see a clause in the new bill that echoes Mrs Miller’s rhetoric. I do hope not, the last thing anyone needs is a new Section 28. It is right that religious institutions should not be forced to conduct ceremonies if they don’t want to but this freedom to choose must relate to all marriages, not just those of same-sex couples.

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 8 Dec 2012, 2:25pm

      Tom the current laws actually permit religious denominations to refuse to marry a hetero divorced couple. You cannot have a religious marriage in the CoE if one is divorced and of course, there is NO divorce in the Catholic church nor does it allow divorced members access to its sacraments. No amount of written guarantees ensrhined into law protecting denominations in opposition would ever be enough. The ECHR doesn’t even consider same-sex marriage a right, so the argument that there will be lawsuits brought against the opposing denominations is frivolous. This amendment is just a provision to appease some of them so they can’t complain that their religious freedom is being violated, an opt out if you will. There has not been one cause that I can recall in which a divorced heterosexual has ever brought a lawsuit against a denomination in the UK and won.

      1. “No religious organisation, OR INDIVIDUAL, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages” (emphasis added).

        Unfortunately this could mean that within religions it will become “legal to deny or terminate employment on the basis of support for marriage equality, but not for opposition to it” (see link below). This is already proposed by the Scottish government. Allowing religious organisations to determine whether their employees preside over same-sex marriage is necessitated by freedom of religion. Therefore, any religion which wants to “force” their celebrants to conduct same-sex marriage, by sacking those refusing to conduct same-sex marriages, should be allowed to do so.

        If, for example, the Roman Catholic Church is allowed to sack the celebrants they employ who do not share their beliefs on marriage then why should religions such as Liberal Judaism, Unitarianism, and Methodism not also be allowed to sack the celebrants they employ who do not share their beliefs on marriage?

        1. Here is the link about what the Scottish government proposes: http://embrownbill.posterous.com/one-step-forward-for-marriage-two-steps-back

  7. barriejohn 8 Dec 2012, 12:35pm

    She’s dead right: they are actually being given an opt-out. What more do they want? Oh, yes, they would really like to be exempted from all the laws of the land, seeing that they are answerable to “God”!

  8. Robert in S. Kensington 8 Dec 2012, 2:29pm

    Thank you, Maria Miller, well said although for some in opposition, it’s never enough. It will however make it a lot more difficult for them to claim discrimination and abuse of religious freedom. An air-tight case, probably unlike any equal marriage law with written guarantees. We are the only ones who will be affected by passage of equal marriage, nobody else.

    It won’t deter heterosexuals from marrying either in a church or in a registrar’s office as some in opposition claim it will dilute the meaning of marriage altogether. Just another ridiculous red herring. This has more to do with homophobia than anything else.

  9. Christine 8 Dec 2012, 2:46pm

    @Ms Miller focuses too much on the “rights” of those crying infringement on their “religious freedom” while almost ignoring the issue of those actually are having their liberties infringed upon.

    If you want to “mention” that no one is “forced” to gay marry, fine. Don’t make the easing of the homophobic “cry” the main point.

    There are actual people, whose rights are being trampled. They should be the focus and the concern, not the other way around.

  10. “No religious organisation, OR INDIVIDUAL, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages” (emphasis added).

    Unfortunately this may well mean that within religions it will become “legal to deny or terminate employment on the basis of support for marriage equality, but not for opposition to it” (see link below). This is proposed by the Scottish government. Allowing religious organisations to determine whether their employees preside over same-sex marriage is necessitated by freedom of religion. Therefore, any religion which wants to “force” individual celebrants to conduct same-sex marriage, by sacking those refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, should be allowed to do so.

    If, for example, the Roman Catholic Church is allowed to sack the celebrants they employ who do not share their beliefs on marriage then why should religions such as Liberal Judaism, Unitarianism, and Methodism not also be allowed to sack the celebrants they employ who do not share their beliefs on marriage?

      1. *for “refuse” read “refusing”*

  11. You can see the dilema for religion. Their ‘rule book’ forbids homosexuality. But then it forbids so many other things which they selectively and conveniently ignore. It’s either a rule book (like The Highway Code) or it isn’t. Personally, I think they should burn their rule book and start all over again .. if they must. To me, the world seems a MUCH happier place without organised religion ….

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