Like us, you are no doubt deeply disappointed by the way the Government has pushed the same-sex marriage Bill through Parliament, and brushed aside concerns about civil liberty protections for people who believe in real marriage.
Have our prayers been ignored?
I have been praying earnestly that this Bill would not succeed. I have been asking God to keep the real meaning of marriage in UK law. I know that many of you have been too. Short of a miracle it now looks as though David Cameron will get same-sex marriage on the statute book.
It was right for Christians to pray against this Bill; it was the right thing to do and we can still pray that the nation would return to the correct view of marriage. Our society doesn’t deserve God’s mercy, given the way marriage and family values have been denigrated over the decades.
God sometimes allows, or hands over, a nation to go the wrong way so that it experiences the consequences of its actions. But even in this campaign there have been many mercies. Opposition has been very vocal. A very large network of pro-marriage supporters has been set up with C4M which will do much to expose those who want to punish others who believe in traditional marriage.
We are right to be concerned
Our nation is still very blessed by God in many ways. But we are right to be very concerned about the impact that redefining marriage will have on society and the church.
Even though we are deeply saddened and perplexed by the consequences of same-sex marriage, we need to remember that God is good. His ways are perfect.
We have been working very hard to uphold the principle of marriage, as established by God, for the good of everyone. We have been attacked, ridiculed and derided for believing in marriage. This Bill is a direct assault on the meaning of marriage, and I am convinced that the social cost will be extremely high.
Who initiated this Bill?
Unlike past gay rights issues, this Bill was not initiated by homosexual lobby groups. Polling of gay people shows that only a minority regard it as a priority. Many gay people are opposed to redefining marriage. Britain’s leading gay lobby group, Stonewall, was less than enthusiastic about campaigning for same-sex marriage. No, this Bill was initiated by the Prime Minister in Downing Street as a political rebranding exercise, and it was only possible with the strong backing of the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Cameron could not get a majority of his own MPs to vote with him.
The leaderships of the three main political parties have been ranged against us without any attempt to properly engage in the debate. Prolific use was made of whipped votes. Whatever the parties may say, these votes were far from free. The party machines have manipulated procedure and deceived the electorate. They refused all our attempts to hold on to real marriage, and ignored our calls to introduce adequate civil liberty protections. They have recklessly swept away the meaning of marriage without any attempt to properly engage in the detail.
The campaign has been important
There have been some positive changes to the Bill. The Government has made clear that opposing same-sex marriage is not, in itself, a hate crime. And the Government has accepted an amendment which widens the safeguards against churches and clergy being compelled to perform same-sex weddings.
In addition, the Government has put some very important things on the record – without going so far as to put them into the Bill. The Government has said, publicly, that no individual, organisation or school teacher should be penalised for their beliefs about marriage. It claims their beliefs are protected by law. We will hold them to that.
None of that would have happened if Christians had not been raising concerns.
Where do we go from here?
Our campaign to defend and promote religious freedom, including the freedom to act upon beliefs about real marriage, will continue long after this Bill has cleared Parliament. We will make sure that cases of injustice are brought to light. We will help Christians to hold the Government to account.
I am sure we will be busier than ever in that regard. The redefinition of marriage is one of the biggest threats to religious freedom seen in my lifetime. But we have no intention of keeping our heads down. We are not going to let them push Christians into a corner.
The party leaders may think they are reflecting popular opinion, but they’re wrong. They are only reflecting the values of the metropolitan elite in the Westminster bubble – including the values of those in the broadcast media.
They do not represent the views of the ordinary British voters. Time and again, the redefinition of marriage has proved to be a vote-loser. Christians, naturally, want to see politicians elected who respect their values.
Has marriage changed forever?
Parliament can’t change what is hard wired into the nature of our existence. They could pass a Bill saying the moon is made of cheese, but it doesn’t make it so. Marriage remains the union of a man and a woman, whatever the politicians say about legal marriage. Marriage predates British law, and it will carry on into the future. Jesus said marriage will exist right up to the end of the world, so we can take comfort in that (Matt 24:37-38).
Not everyone at Westminster has been dancing to the tune of the party leaders. Over 300 MPs and Peers have been exceptionally courageous in standing up for real marriage. In particular, I would like to thank David Burrowes MP who led the campaign in the Commons, and Lord Dear who led the campaign in the Lords. There are many others who also deserve the sincere appreciation of Christians.
We should also remember that five national newspapers – who are more in touch with real Britain than the broadcast media – have repeatedly raised concerns about redefining marriage. Fleet Street has not given the Government an easy ride on this issue, far from it. That shows it’s not just Christians who care about marriage.
Still much good that can be done
We should also remember the other good work being done by The Christian Institute. At the European Court of Human Rights, the Ladele case along with three similar cases did secure some important modifications on the way religious freedom is handled in the British courts. It’s already bearing fruit.
Before that ruling from Strasbourg, the British Government said that the religious liberty of Christians was guaranteed because they were free to quit and find another job (or another business) if they were in difficulty because of their faith. But that argument was rejected by European judges, and it is beginning to have a positive impact in UK court cases.
The Strasbourg ruling was quoted helpfully in a recent case involving B&B owner Susanne Wilkinson. Although she lost her case, the Court of Appeal made some useful remarks that could improve the situation for others. It shows we are making progress. Read more here.
It is important to remember that we can still win in Parliament on other issues, even though a majority may be against us on marriage.
We should remember the good work that was done when we successfully campaigned, with others, to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The reform has yet to come into force, but when it does it will be a big help. We will continue to be vigilant against further erosions of gospel freedom.
And we should remember that Parliament has voted decisively against legalising assisted suicide in recent years. So there’s still much that can be done in Westminster.
Yes, we are deeply disappointed about the way the same-sex marriage Bill has been pushed through Parliament. We are frustrated by the way the main political parties have refused to pass civil liberty protections. But we are determined to keep proclaiming the truth, and we should also remember the other good work that’s going on.
Most of all, we should remember we have a sovereign God who reigns over all things. He is working out his purposes, he loves his church, he delights to save, he has the ultimate victory, and we have utter confidence in his unfailing love. With his help, and your support, we will keep proclaiming the truth.
Yours in Christ,
The Christian Institute