The developing disagreements in the United States over “gay” marriage are “ecclesiastical,” according to a spokesman for President Bush, and he won’t comment on them.

“The president is not going to comment, nor am I, on ecclesiastical disputes,” Bush spokesman Tony Snow said yesterday.

He was responding to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House.

“This concerns the president’s oath to support and defend the Constitution … [and its] freedom of religion,” Kinsolving asked. “Does the president believe that national religious leaders should be able to confiscate all the property of local churches who vote to leave their denomination because they agree with the president’s expressed conviction, and now the Massachusetts legislature’s two votes that marriage is between one man and one woman?”

Snow said there would be no comment on the issue that is wracking the Episcopal Church USA right now. He also noted that the Massachusetts legislature voted on whether to vote on the issue.

The ECUSA, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion worldwide, has been beset by controversy since 2003 when the church approved a self-proclaimed homosexual, V. Gene Robinson, as a bishop in New Hampshire.

Various churches and church organizations within the ECUSA protested, and some have made decisions to withdraw from the American denomination. They have chosen to remain part of the Anglican Communion, however, by affiliating with other branches of that 77 million member worldwide group.

Several large churches in the Washington, D.C., area recently voted – overwhelmingly – to take that step, and one of the leaders of the Truro, Va., church, Martyn Minns, was consecrated as a bishop by Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola, a strong supporter of biblically-based marriage between one man and one woman, in order to lead the churches in the U.S.

Akinola has described the acceptance of homosexual “couples” in the Christian church as a “satanic attack.”

Most recently, it was the Truro and Falls Church church members who found themselves opposed to “gay” marriage being endorsed by their Christian church, and left. Now, however, under its rules of incorporation, the denomination, not the individual churches, claims ownership of the millions of dollars worth of property the congregations have acquired over their lengthy existences.

That issue remains unresolved, and likely will deteriorate into a court proceeding, observers have said.

The new affiliation between U.S. churches and Akinola’s church hierarchy in Nigeria is being called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Congregations formerly affiliated with the ECUSA from British Columbia to California now are realigning their associations, officials said.

The two Virginia churches were founded in British colonial times and are two of the oldest and largest Episcopal congregations in the nation. But with the decision by the church members came a warning from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia that the two parishes do not own their buildings.

The Massachusetts legislature this week vote to allow a voter initiative that would define marriage in that state as being between one man and one woman to go forward. Under the state’s lengthy process for amending the state Constitution, another legislature must vote the same way, and then the initiative signed by 170,000 people could be placed on a statewide election ballot, possibly as early as 2008. Massachusetts was the first state to “recognize” homosexual marriages after its supreme court ruled they could not be banned.

Kinsolving also asked Snow about plans – or lack thereof – to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“There is a report that in the fall of 2000, when he was first running for president, Mr. Bush received standing ovations from thousands in Washington and elsewhere by promising that on January 20, 2001, he would order the U.S. embassy be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in which he was supported by the 90 percent vote of both houses of Congress in 1995. And my question: Since the Zionist Organization of America has declared that, ‘the president has completely violated his repeated and public presidential campaign promise,’ what do you say … as his spokesman?”

“I think you would be hard-pressed to find any president who has been more faithful in his defense and support of Israel than this one,” Snow said.

“I understand that, but what about his promise to move on Inauguration Day?” Kinsolving asked.

“I believe that they have said that temporarily the – I believe that the announcement that came out is that the embassy is going to remain temporarily in Tel Aviv. I will repeat to you, because the implication is that somehow the president has not been true to his word when it comes to supporting Israel, that no president has been more supportive,and that’s all I’m going to say on it,” Snow said.

The comparison had been made earlier that it was like Israel’s embassy in the United States being in Baltimore.

In an earlier series of questions, Snow also said the president does not intend to change his focus on moral issues – stem cell research, abortion and the like – just because Democrats have moved into the majority in Congress.

“The president has made it clear, for instance, on stem cell, he doesn’t believe that – he believes in stem cell research so much – the fact that this administration has done more to finance stem cell research, embryonic and otherwise, than any administration in history, and also does not believe that this kind of research necessitates the taking of a human life and believes in spending – believes in encouraging, through federal largesse and otherwise, investigation into promising technologies. The position hasn’t changed,” Snow said.

Snow continued to address the issue of the president’s “conservative social agenda.”

“Now you’re going to have a Democratic Congress and they will have to go through the process of drafting bills, marking them up, debating them – well, maybe in the Senate anyway – and then having a process where people have to engage in proper compromise and debate, and when we start seeing the product of those legislative deliberations then we’ll be in the position to tell you where the president will stand on certain things.”

Snow said by design, the U.S. legislative system is “inefficient.”

And he hinted of the power of the presidential veto.

“The founders wanted a situation in which it took time to draft legislation, it required people to have debate about legislation,” Snow continued. “The president would have his own opportunity, if he is opposed to legislation, to send it back.”

“So all of these things may come into play in the months ahead, but the important thing now is the president has made it clear he’s reaching out to Democrats on a whole series of issues where we know that there is substantial agreement,” he said, citing energy issues, education and the minimum wage.

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