Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Concerns grow that UK will force religious groups to participate in ‘gay marriage’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite government assurances to the contrary, concerns continue to grow that religious institutions will be forced to participate in “gay marriages” in the UK under soon-to-be issued rules. Secularist campaigners are openly questioning the right of Christians to be involved in the debate, while one Catholic bishop warns that the pressure is growing to keep Christianity strictly a private matter.

This week, the Catholic Education Service (CES), was criticized when it contacted 385 Catholic secondary schools asking that a letter issued by the bishops encouraging opposition to the government’s same-sex “marriage” plans be read out in classes. The CES also asked for participation in the petition being circulated by the Coalition For Marriage. As of this week, over 470,000 people have signed the petition, which is asking the government to retain the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Maeve McCormack, policy manger for the Catholic Education Service, told the Telegraph the bishops’ letter “was an explanation of marriage and a positive affirmation of marriage, celebrating the huge value that it brings to society – we are proud of the fact that these kinds of values are taught in our schools.”

But two secularist campaigners have responded with press releases questioning the legality of Christian educational bodies becoming involved in the debate. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said in a media release, “This is a clear breach of the authority and privilege that the Catholic Education Service has been given in schools.” Richy Thompson of the British Humanist Association, said, “The Coalition For Marriage petition is very deliberately a political document and for this reason we question whether the CES has broken the law.”

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In an impassioned keynote speech at a conference on religious freedom at Oxford University earlier this month, Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley, Scotland, warned that the government’s push for “gay marriage” will herald genuine persecution of Christians dissenting from the zeitgeist.

Those Christians who refuse to “bend to become a religion of the state,” he said, will soon no longer be tolerated by the powerful of British society, politicians, judges and celebrities. 

Bishop Tartaglia did not hesitate to name the source of the current conflict between the Church and the state in Britain. Shortly after his elevation as bishop of Paisley in 2005, Bishop Tartaglia said that he quickly realized that “the advance of the homosexual agenda, in concert with equality legislation was beginning to have a problematic effect on the freedom of the Catholic Church to operate in the public sphere.”

The bishop said that several cases in which courts ruled against Christians in conflict with homosexuals demonstrated to him that “with the support of the courts… the power of the courts and of the political establishment, that religious freedom and freedom of conscience could be set aside in favour of the advance of the homosexual agenda.”

Bishop Tartaglia asked, “Will society continue to afford the Catholic Church and other religious bodies the oxygen and the vital space to be themselves and to express themselves in the public square, or will my Church be forced to conform to a publicly acceptable form of religiosity, a kind of patriotic Church?

“Or worse, will we be driven to the margins of society, and perhaps denied the legal right to carry out our mission and to express our faith in public?

Some are concerned, however, that the Catholic and Anglican churches and their educational bodies, may have impaired their ability to stand against that advance, including the change to the definition of marriage, after years of ambiguity towards the central issue in the debate: homosexuality itself. Critics have pointed out that statements and letters from Catholic bishops defending traditional marriage have painstakingly avoided talking about Christian teaching on human sexuality, shying deliberately away from bluntly stating that homosexual behaviour is sinful, as many of their Evangelical co-religionists do regularly.

Leslie Pilkington, a Christian psychotherapist who is facing professional discipline for helping homosexuals leave the gay lifestyle, told LifeSiteNews.com that the failure of the churches to clearly articulate the moral objections to homosexual behaviour has significantly contributed to the current situation.

Pro-family campaigners have questioned whether the focus exclusively on the goods of marriage from both the Anglican and Catholic Churches in Britain, and the refusal to address homosexuality directly, comes from the long history in both communions of tacit and even overt support for the homosexualist political agenda.

As early as 2005, the Anglican Church of England voted to allow homosexual clergy to “marry” members of the same sex and live together openly. This March, the current Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced he was retiring from the position, after a ten-year tenure plagued with arguments over the acceptance of homosexuality that have all but fractured the Worldwide Anglican Communion. 

The last three Catholic Archbishops of Westminster, Cardinals Basil Hume, Cormac Murphy O’Connor and the incumbent, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, have actively endorsed significant points of the homosexualist program, including allowing the continuation of “gay Masses” in London that have been the subject of criticism from faithful Catholics around the world.

Last year, while expressing opposition to gay “marriage,” Nichols told media at a press conference, “We would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”

“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life,” Nichols said. “The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.”

Last year, Archbishop Nichols told an interviewer at the Tablet magazine that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales had no problems with homosexual civil unions, a stance that the pope has been specifically mandated against by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

At the same time, evidence continues to mount that the government, despite its assurances to religious leaders, will not fight the pressure of lobbyists to force churches and other religious bodies to participate in “gay marriage.”

Prime Minister Cameron did not reprimand one of his Conservative Party MPs who urged the government to force Christian churches to conduct homosexual “wedding” ceremonies. Cameron accepted without comment a letter last August by Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade, that said, “As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality.”


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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