The United Kingdom continues to push forward with liberal plans to officially redefine marriage, however Roman Catholic Archbishop, Peter Smith has challenged the government's reasoning, and in doing so highlighted what he believes are serious issues that are frequently misunderstood in the divisive topic.
From 2001 to 2010, Smith served as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Cardiff and is currently the Metropolitan Archbishop of Southwark. According to the archbishop, the government has not given substantial reasoning for attempting to redefine marriage in the country. He defended his position by noting that civil partnerships already offer same-sex couples virtually all the rights of marriage within the U.K.
Within his statement, the archbishop laid out issues that have heavily plagued the Christian community over the past year. A majority of Christians oppose "gay marriage" because of the traditional biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin, and that marriage is defined by the Bible as between one man and one woman. However, gay activists often look to label those who disagree with their push for a redefinition of marriage as hateful or bigots. But the Catholic Church has pointed out, the point of contention is not about civil unions as much as the misusage of a Christian term.
A recent document produced by the Vatican, titled "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons," explains the difference between homosexual discrimination and the impedance of religious rights and freedoms.
The document first highlights the importance of marriage to the Christian community, stating, "The Church teaches that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church."
It also explains why same-sex marriage is against the church: "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts close the sexual act to the gift of life."
However, whereas the document states that many bible verses (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10) all condemn homosexual acts "as a serious depravity," it does not suggest that homosexuals are necessarily at fault simply for their feelings.
"This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."
However, the document also urges Christians to be compassionate and sensitive to homosexuals, and not to discriminate against them. It states: "Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
A spokesperson for the Church of England, in a statement to the Christian Institute said, "Opening marriage to same-sex couples would add nothing to the rights and responsibilities that already arise with a civil partnership but would require multiple changes to law, with the definition of marriage having to change for everyone."
Archbishop Smith met with British Home Secretary Theresa May during the week, but could not get an answer as to why the government was considering the motion.
"I suspect the government hasn't really thought out why the definition of marriage should be changed," he said.
"Marriage is not a commodity that can be re-packaged for a new market," the Evangelical Alliance, a Christian organization in the U.K, wrote recently. "The government's plans conflate difference with equality and would fragment and devalue marriage as an authentic relational covenant."
The Evangelical Alliance's statement highlights that the debate goes to the essence of religious freedom, and the importance of keeping the freedoms of faith out of the reach of the state. Many Christians have argued that marriage is a Christian term and is biblically defined – distinguished from civil unions – and so should be kept out of reach of what the state can impose itself on.
Forced redefinition by the state of a traditionally Christian institution imposes on the core beliefs and freedoms of the religion itself, advocates have claimed. Others, however, look to argue that legalizing gay marriage would have no affect on the Christian community, and are bewildered by their strong opposition to the change. But the gay activist agenda has already concerned many Christians in Canada and the U.K.
Ontario became the last province in Canada to legalize "The Accepting Schools Act" that insisted that students were responsible for making communities more inclusive for all people, and in particular to include "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning people."
Religious parents attempting to raise their children with Christian values opposed such a ruling arguing that it interfered with their parental rights. The Future of Sex Education also proposed a similar recommendation in the United States, which suggested that third graders should be able to "differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation." However, Christian advocates fought against the proposals saying that gender refers to the sex of a person, which is decided by God and not humans.
Last November, a U.K. housing manager was demoted, and his salary reduced by 40 percent for a comment he made on Facebook that stated civil partnerships in churches were an "equality too far."
Adrian Smith, a housing manager in the U.K. with Trafford Housing Trust, has worked with the company for over 18 years. In response to the comment, which was made on his private Facebook, the company demoted him and reduced his salary by 40 percent. Smith was found guilty of gross misconduct after it was concluded that his housing association is publicly-funded. The comment was made in regards to a BBC headline that read: "Gay church 'marriages' set to get go-ahead."
Smith even went on to further explain his stance on Facebook, posting after the other comment, "The bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women if the state wants to offer civil marriage to same-sex then that is up to the state; but they shouldn't impose its rules on places of faith and conscience."
His demotion directly reflected the impedance of religious freedom.
Therefore, Christian advocates have said that despite gay activist claims, regions which have been more liberal with legalizing gay marriage have categorically gone on to further impose on traditional Christian beliefs and their religious freedom.