PCI Statement on new same-sex religious marriage regulations for N. Ireland

Statement regarding new UK regulations permitting same-sex religious marriage in Northern Ireland, that were laid before Parliament on 18 July 2020 and come into force on 1 September 2020.

In a statement on the new regulations, Rev Daniel Kane, Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Council for Public Affairs said, “The position of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on marriage is well known.

“As a denomination we uphold the historic and Christian understanding that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman. This understanding is in keeping with historic, mainstream and orthodox Christian teaching, and the biblical position of marriage that is also held by the vast majority of countries worldwide. We have consistently opposed the redefinition of marriage, and therefore as a Church, we welcome the fact that the regulations acknowledge in law the right of PCI, and other religious bodies, to maintain its position and not undertake such ceremonies.

“Looking at the broader picture, in our response to the public consultation on this issue, we voiced significant concern about the increased trend towards what we see as the almost enforced privatisation of religious conviction and belief, including the Christian faith, in the public square.”

Rev Kane – Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Council for Public Affairs

Mr Kane, who is the minister of West Church Presbyterian in Ballymena, continued, “We therefore regret the fact that these regulations prevent local businesses, such as florists and photographers, from separating their business practices from their right to manifest their religion in practice and observance – protections provided by the European Convention on Human Rights. The same could be said of those employed by local authorities and other public bodies.

“In an increasingly pluralist society, creative ways should surely be found to facilitate reasonable accommodations that properly value the role of conscience in the public square. I am thinking, for example, of a civil registrar, who may not wish to officiate at a same-sex marriage ceremony. If such a case arose, surely a local council could provide alternative arrangements to protect that employee’s freedom of conscience, whilst not frustrating the legal right of individuals to avail of the new legislative provisions.”

Mr Kane concluded by saying, “It is certainly not a licence to discriminate. In these matters reasonable accommodations must be found and if necessary provided for through new local legislation. To compel people of faith to compromise their strongly held religious convictions, or indeed force people of faith out of valuable roles in our community, runs contrary to what we all desire – an open and tolerant society where everyone can play their part.”

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