Thursday, 1 August 2013

Are The Drewitt-Barlow's Striking A Blow For Equality Or Fighting Against Religious Liberty?

Though they have mentioned this before it would appear that the Drewitt-Barlow's, regulars on day time television and same-sex parenting pioneers, really are going to sue the Church of England in order to enable them to marry in a CofE church.

Among a certain kind of Twitter user this has already evoked the reaction one would expect. Not only are there grumpy statements of "we knew this would happen" but some are already acting as if the Drewitt-Barlow's have won the case and churches all over the country are now being forced to marry people they don't want to.

To them I'd say: hold your horses! One lawsuit doesn't make a persecution. Maybe express your opposition and wait and see the outcome before becoming convinced the world is out to get you. Some Christians don't just wear a cross, they carry it on their back and act like they are being marched off to their crucifixion. Do they want to build a coalition with those who want to protect them or just be all self-pitying? I'm guessing the latter.

Meanwhile back in the real world. I've no doubt that Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow sincerely wish to get married in their local church. And I've no doubt they sincerely believe it is their right, especially given the onerous fact that we have an established church in this country who previously had the requirement of marrying anyone in their parish (within reason). But I also believe they are wrong to be pursuing change within the Church of England in this manner.

Forcing people to do things against their wishes (unless they are taking our money without our own free choice of who gets it, i.e. Government employees) goes against the spirit of what the LGBT rights movement has worked for throughout its life. And if you don't agree with that then try: I personally think it goes against the spirit of what the LGBT rights movement should have been working for. The right to choose freely, the right to be true to yourself, the right to live in peace. These are cherished things all reasonable people should support.

Change must come from within anti-LGBT religious organisations. As an atheist I've little interest in changing what a church supports. But I'd hope that if you were interested in that sort of thing, you'd do so from the inside. The Church of England has procedures for change, though these work at a similar speed to cooling lava I accept, and it is through these procedures (as the Government has suggested) that changes such as supporting same-sex marriage should be made.

Forcing an organisation to accept something they don't wish to risks creating a martyr complex, and many Christians have a big enough one of those already. Suing the church is bad for the church (as it doesn't come to terms with the change through internal debate), bad for LGBT rights (as we become the bad guys) and bad for freedom in general. If we are to have the freedom to love who we wish, then we must allow others the freedom to worship as they wish.

Have we not learnt anything from those who despise us on how to be better people than them?


Musings From Jack said...

This is very eloquent but misses the fact that the church in question wants to perform the wedding. Hence, in this case it is not a question of LGB rights vs religious freedom, it is a question of religious freedom of A church vs the religious freedom of THE church. If the Drewitt-Barlows win their case then it will mean that it is the C of E churches that want to perform same-sex weddings and their LGB parishioners who are happy, instead of the churches that don't want to perform them being happy. Either way some churches will be upset, others happy and as such the religious freedom argument doesn't hold much water. I still hope they win

Jae Kay said...

The "A church" we are talking about here is part of "The Church". It doesn't have to be. The priest and congregation are quite free to leave (although the actual building is owned by "The Church" hence part of the problem). So it isn't just a case of religious freedom for the priest.

I'd actually say that by remaining within a anti-LGBT rights organisation the priest is doing more harm than good. It'd be far more radical if they left, and make a far greater statement against the church's policy.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the way the couple are going about this (mainly because they have no chance of succeeding), but I don't see how the principle is very different to the B&B cases. If religious freedom implies a right to discriminate, then it applies to everyone (not just churches), and all forms of discrimination (not just discrimination against women and LGBT people). If a shop put up a sign saying "no Anglicans allowed", or if someone set up a white supremacist church and refused to marry non-white people, I suspect the C of E would be among the first to complain - and they would have the law on their side.

Jae Kay said...

When we get rid of "gay men only" hotels, we can demand B&Bs grant us entry. Don't get me wrong, I constantly worry about whether there will be a problem at a hotel when my partner and I check in. Horrible feeling when they even just question your sleeping arrangements, and it is way more common that people like to admit.

But we aren't in a position to lecture others when our own community bans heterosexual people (hell I even got questioned once going into the Box bar by bouncers who thought my policeman date and I might be straight! We had to kiss to prove ourselves, how embarrassing!) from our own businesses.

Craig Nelson said...

I find the itch to overturn a newly minted law passed by Parliament deeply troubling and wrong.

I think it exposes the LGBT community to a lot of negative views like we are trying to destroy the church and don't believe in the freedom of religion.

The whole 'I want' 'I want 'I want' thing is deeply embarrassing. No doubt flows from being rich where you are used to getting what you want, a kind of arrogance if you will.

The only way the law can be overturned is if it is contrary to the case law of the ECtHR - it just isn't. If it came to a case the CofE will be able easily to produce evidence that it has a doctrinal basis for not allowing same sex marriages (Canon B30, General Synod 1986, Lambeth 1998). The energy the CofE will have to put into defending the antigay stance will set back hopes of asking them to relax it, possibly by decades so it will end up being totally self defeating. It might make them feel a bit better and relieve them of a few hundred thousand £s but it will make it worse for everyone else.