With little fanfare, and almost no debate in the House of Commons, the English government recently passed a law allowing same-sex couples to hold “civil partnership” ceremonies on religious premises.
In America, at least according to Administrative Law Judge Solomon Metzger, a New Jersey religious group recently violated a similar law.
According to the New Jersey finding, “The Law Against Discrimination makes it unlawful for the owner of ‘any place of public accommodation’ to refuse its use on the basis of sexual orientation or civil-union status.”
Metzger says that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association did just that when it refused to allow a lesbian couple to hold a ceremony on its property.
WND reported that the couple sued the association when their offer to rent an association pavilion for the purpose of holding a same-sex civil union ceremony was denied.
Joining the couple in the fight was the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.
“The government should not be able to force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs,” said Jim Campbell, a litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, who represented the association.
WND reported that the ADF is considering the next steps for the religious group. If the State Division of Civil Rights doesn’t overturn the judge’s ruling, it will become final.
ADF attorneys argued that the Camp Meeting Association’s use of its private property in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs does not run afoul of the state’s nondiscrimination law and that, even if it did, that application of the state’s law would violate the New Jersey and U.S. constitutions.
Backers of the new law in Britain caution that same-sex couples might be disappointed to learn they are not yet allowed to force British churches to perform the ceremonies.
They also note that very few churches have indicated a willingness to perform the ceremonies.
But, liberal members of parliament are promising with the full backing of the prime minister’s office, to completely redefine marriage in Britain in the near future.
Conservative MPs are calling for a stop to the newly passed law in Britain, especially since it was only made law through a set of regulations, defined after an equality bill had an amendment attached to it in 2010.
That amendment dropped previous exemptions for religious groups, and left some wondering how a law with the potential for sweeping repercussions was passed without proper debate
According to the Telegraph, a group of MPs called for a motion to “scrap the rule change,” which “will for the first time allow same-sex couples to hold civil partnership ceremonies on religious premises, has not been debated properly in the House of Commons.”
While some say that English churches will not be forced to perform the ceremonies, others fear legal action would not be hard to imagine if a church refuses to bend their beliefs.
“Churches that do not agree to offer them [same-sex ceremonies] are likely to be put under huge pressure to change their policy by campaign groups,” says Andrea Williams, of Christian Concern, a group infusing a Christian voice into the public sphere.
“It is almost certain that homosexual campaigners will commence litigation against churches that refuse.”
She says that a move is under way to introduce full homosexual marriage in England in the next few years. If successful, it could spell an end to the legal definition of one man and one woman, currently the law in England.
This plan has the full backing of Prime Minister David Cameron, according to Christian Concern.
“Churches will inevitably be coerced into performing these ceremonies, and those that don’t will be vilified and sued,” Williams said.
“With the prime minister also backing plans to introduce full homosexual marriage soon, the church at large needs to wake up very fast, or else church leaders who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman may well lose their liberty to continue acting according to that belief, and may be forced in the future to resign their positions,” says Williams.
“This is all part of a wider, radical social and political agenda to redefine marriage and force this redefinition on everybody, whether they want it or not.”
“Such a redefinition will affect the whole of society profoundly, and has severe repercussions for the family.”
The Church of England has weighed in on the matter, and has said its churches will not be expected to host same-sex ceremonies.
The group, Christian Concern, isn’t so sure, “In addition, this move is likely to open the door towards severe restrictions on religious liberty which will have implications for everyone, but especially pastors, vicars and church leaders, who could in the future be forced to undertake these ceremonies against their beliefs.
“In no way are there sufficient protections for those who object on the grounds of conscience to providing this service.
“At Christian Concern we have no doubt about what will happen. Nobody will seriously believe the government’s assurances to the contrary, given the way in which previous assurances on civil partnerships have been shattered.”