Truth, marriage and the threat to religious liberty

ABC Australia 6 Sep 2012
Anthony Fisher OP is the third Bishop of Parramatta. This is the text of the address he gave to the St Thomas More Forum on Wednesday, 6 September 2012.
Same-sex marriage (SSM) is all the rage at the moment. Last week the lower house of the Tasmanian parliament passed a bill to allow it. A similar bill passed first reading stage in New Zealand, and the Scots parliament announced it plans to make similar law. Meanwhile, on the latest count there are four bills before the Australian Federal Parliament on the matter, two in each house. Recent legislation for civil unions in the ACT ape marriage and the local Attorney-General openly says it is a stage towards SSM on the Tasmanian model….

…..Marriage as the crunch point for religious liberty

Dan Cathy, president of a family-owned business, Chick-Fil-A, is a Bible Christian. Unremarkably, you might think, he told a Baptist publication and a Christian radio programme that he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit” based on the marriage of a man and a woman.

All hell broke loose. Within hours the fast-food chicken chain was being labelled a hate organisation in the media, its restaurants were spray-painted with defamations and colleges were cancelling them as caterers. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he hoped to ban the restaurants from his city, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that “Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values” and the company that supplied Muppets and other toys for the Chick-Fil-A kids’ meals cancelled its contract and donated a large sum to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

This is no isolated incident. Peter Vidmar, America’s most decorated male gymnast, was selected to be the chef de mission for the 2012 Olympics, where he would have represented all American athletes and marched in the opening ceremonies. But his selection drew criticism from SSM activists because in 2008 he had publicly supported California’s Proposition 8 that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. He was forced to resign from his Olympic position. A couple of weeks ago, the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont, was forced to pay damages to a lesbian couple for having refused to host their wedding reception there. The inn also had to agree no longer to host any weddings or wedding receptions.

Only in America you might say. Well, after a hockey player made a television ad in favour of SSM a Canadian sportscaster, Damian Goddard, said on Twitter that he supported “the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” He was quickly fired by his employer, Sportsnet. Like Peter Vidmar, this Canadian learnt the hard way that being pro-marriage and pro-sport don’t mix.

Across the Atlantic, the Law Society of England and Wales revoked permission for a group called “Christian Concern” to use its premises once it realized the group supported traditional marriage: the Law Society said this was contrary to its “diversity policy.” British MPs are now threatening to stop churches holding weddings if they do not agree to conduct same-sex ones.

In several European countries state and even church schools must now teach homosexuality amongst the range of options for children. Religious leaders, such as the Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, have been sacked for daring to differ. In Spain same-sex lobby groups want to prosecute a bishop for hate speech after he preached in favour of Catholic teaching on marriage.

Not in Australia surely? Well, when Victoria’s Deputy Chief Psychiatrist, Kuruvilla George, joined 150 other doctors advising a Senate inquiry that children do better with a Mum and Dad, committed to each other and to the kids for the long haul, he was pilloried, forced out of his position on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and threatened with dismissal from his academic and medical posts. Even Prime Minister Gillard is under attack for agreeing to speak at a Christian conference. Alex Greenwich, Convenor of “Australian Marriage Equality,” claims it is “completely inappropriate” for our national leader to seem to endorse the views of pro-marriage Christian extremists. (Ironically, her talk will be on “Religious Freedom in a Secular Democracy”!)

Whether it is restaurateurs, athletes, broadcasters, psychiatrists, school teachers, rabbis, inn-keepers or politicians, no one is exempt from this ferocious campaign to silence advocates of marriage as traditionally understood. The view that marriage is between a man and a woman, which was common to people of every known religion, philosophy and culture in history till now has suddenly become unspeakable. To achieve this, the SSM lobby have cleverly shanghaied the language of race equality, repeatedly declaring that marriage redefinition is “inevitable,” that eight out of ten people support the change, and that opponents have no arguments to offer, only neo-Nazi hatred or (worse) “religion.”

Of course, for now there will be the outward shows of civil debate and promises of religious exemptions, but it’s an open secret amongst SSM advocates that any such exemptions will be temporary and that religious organisations will be required to fall into line in due course. “Gay rights” trump rights of conscience, belief and religious practice every time.

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