Telegraph (UK) 10 Sep 2012
Schools will be within their statutory rights to dismiss staff that wilfully fail to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex weddings, it is claimed. Aidan O’Neill, a senior QC and expert on religious freedom and human rights, also warned that parents who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will have no right to withdraw their child from lessons. In a report, he said that any decision to redefine marriage would have far-reaching consequences for schools, hospitals, foster carers and public buildings. The most serious impact is likely to be felt in the church where vicars and priests conducting religious marriage ceremonies could be taken to court for refusing to carry out a gay wedding, he said. The conclusions – in legal advice commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage – comes amid continuing fall-out over Government plans to tear up the centuries-old law on marriage.
….Sharon James, a Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman, said the proposed law change would have a serious effect on schools, representing an “unprecedented assault on the rights of parents”. “This is a dangerous path to go down and one that should be resisted,” she said. “The redefinition of marriage would ride roughshod over a person’s right to support marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman, whether that person be a teacher, a parent, a foster carer or a marriage registrar. The only winners from a change in marriage law will be lawyers.” Mr O’Neill – based at Matrix Chambers – has analysed the effect that any change in the legal basis of marriage would have on a series of public institutions. He outlined a fictional scenario in which a Christian teacher is asked to use a book called King & King, a story of a prince who marries a man, and produce a play based on the tale. The QC suggested that any refusal to comply would be “grounds for her dismissal from employment” because of a legal ruling that religious belief cannot be used by employees “to demand changes in their conditions of their employment”.