Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Should Clergy Have Choice?
The MSP John Mason has certainly created discussion - which he claims was his objective - with his motion against the proposal that gay marriage should be enshrined in Scottish law.
Divisions within the SNP have called Mr Mason's objection 'a nasty little anti-gay marriage motion' - and that comment was from my own MP Pete Wishart. How I do wish Mr Wishart would stop sinking into the Westminster bubble and view public opinion realistically. It was only the other week he was promoting 'Britishness' on a Scottish group blog and I decided he was now a lost cause to recognising Scottish society. Too much time spent in the Westminster bar Pete.
Mr Mason is concerned that the proposed legislation does not allow anyone who conducts a marriage ceremony to opt out should they not approve of same sex partnerships. The gay lobby have gone as far as calling for the definition of marriage - currently defined as the joining of one man and one woman - to be deleted from dictionaries and redefined as the joining of two people, regardless of gender.
I understand Mr Mason's concerns. Nobody should be forced into performing any service if they disagree with any part of the applicant's reasons for wishing to have a religious ceremony. Over the years I've known ministers in the Church of Scotland refuse to marry men and women because they did not attend their churches or were not fully paid up members of the CoS. Those people found another minister to fulfill their wish for a church service. Also ministers have refused baptisms for similar reasons, although I've yet to know one refuse to lead a funeral service.
What right has anyone, unless they are members of a particular church, to demand a minister or any other religious person, carry out a service? None. If they're not a paid up member then they can't complain.
Lawyers provide legal services but they're not obliged by law to accept a 'customer'. They have choice.
Without the safeguards Mr Mason's motion proposes, people of religion who are legally able to undertake such ceremonies may well be sued or even worse, hounded from their vocations. At present we have choice in this country, but if a proposal which insists that all members of the clergy of any religious denomination or none must perform same sex marriages, that denies choice.
The criticism about Mr Mason's motion is not about same sex marriages because, if his comments on Newsnight Scotland last week are to be believed, he is ambivalent about them. Personally I see no harm whatsoever in marriages between same sex couples or a male and female and I'm very much pro-marriage where children are concerned - preferably before the children arrive, but I do see a deeper agenda here from the gay lobby who may be happy to humiliate anyone who refused to carry out their request for a marriage service, then, of course, to claim compensation in accordance with the HRA. Such actions are few and far between but they do occur and cause consternation in communities.
I've yet to hear of a CoS minister who has refused to conduct a same sex marriage ceremony so who is pushing for this legislation? We have serious social and economic problems in Scotland which need the urgent attention of our parliament and affect the whole of our society, yet same sex marriage is taking priority.
Our politicians should stop spending valuable time on this matter and begin to address the serious issues such as job creation, improving educational standards and ensuring the vulnerable in our society are cared for - not to mention doing something to alleviate the increasingly unaffordable utility costs.
Leave those who are legally registered to perform marriage ceremonies to make their own choices. After all, we live in a democracy, don't we?