LONDON, January 15, 2013 ( – A letter signed by 1054 Catholic priests and bishops has caused a stir by saying that if the government creates “gay marriage” it could return Britain to the days of outright, state-sanctioned persecution of Catholics and other religious objectors. The change could spell the effective end of religious freedom in Britain, they say, including the freedom to teach their religious beliefs in the pulpit.

The letter is being called one of the largest open letters ever produced in British political history. The number represents one quarter of the Catholic clergy of Britain and includes 13 bishops and abbots and the head of the new Ordinariate for Anglican converts to Catholicism.

Philip Egan, the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth told the Daily Telegraph, “I am very anxious that when we are preaching in Church or teaching in our Catholic schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it, that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.”

Though it is an aspect of British history no longer frequently acknowledged, the memory of the persecution of the Church following the break from Rome by King Henry VIII has remained prominent in the Catholic collective memory. From the late 16th to the mid-19th century, Catholics were legally barred from professions, could not own land, hold public office or enter professions. In the early part of that history, they were subject to arrest and horrific execution.


With Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Catholics began to integrate into the mainstream of British public life, but the letter’s signatories and their many lay supporters warn that these gains in social stability will be threatened by the government’s plans.

The letter warns that “many legal consequences,” will ensue, including “severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship”.

“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time,” the letter continues.

Another signatory, Fr. Timothy Finigan, the founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life, wrote, “The question of teaching something as true is at the heart of the debate over the freedom of the Church to teach.

“The Metropolitan elite want to pretend that they do not teach anything as objectively true but that they respect everyone's views. Any first year Philosophy undergraduate could see that this is incoherent since the principle of relativism is itself taught as an absolute truth which nobody may deny.”

While the claim is being denied by the government and mocked as alarmist in the homosexualist press, it is well-supported by the dozens of cases in which Christians have fallen afoul of the legal fist supporting the “political correctness” doctrines currently in fashion in Britain. Mike Judge a lawyer for the Christian Institute wrote in the UK edition of the Huffington Post that the Cameron government’s “unseemly rush to redefine marriage” will cause even more legal damage.

“People who believe in traditional marriage,” Judge wrote, “are at risk of being left out in the cold.” The Christian Institute has been the major force defending the rights of Christians in Britain.

“Employees, particularly teachers and others in the public sector, risk being kicked out of their profession unless they endorse same-sex marriage. All the concerns about how the redefinition of marriage will hit ordinary people are proving to be true,” Judge added.

He quotes a legal brief by Aidan O'Neill QC for the Coalition for Marriage campaign group that told the government’s consultation that teachers, chaplains working in the public sector in the NHS, armed forces or universities could be sacked if they refuse to endorse gay marriage in their venues.

“Local councils could be within their rights to stop couples from fostering if they believe in traditional marriage. Churches could be banned from using village halls if they refuse to do gay weddings. These are the kind of injustices that are likely to hit ordinary life if marriage is redefined.”

Indeed, nearly all of these scenarios have already occurred, with the Christian Institute fighting, in some cases, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Anthony Ozimic, communications manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, (SPUC) told “These brave priests were absolutely right to raise the issue of schools.”

SPUC is committed to a national campaign against the government’s plans. The group has written to the headteachers of all state-maintained secondary schools in England and Wales to warn them about the possibility mentioned in the letter.

“If same-sex pseudo-marriages are allowed in law, the result will be compulsory teaching of same-sex marriage, dismissal for teachers with a conscientious objection to teaching about same-sex marriage, and no opt-out for faith schools,” Ozimic said.

“This will constitute official persecution of Catholics, not just for upholding the teaching of their religion but for upholding basic facts about human biology, sexuality and society.”

See the full text of the priests' letter here.

See also the full text of a letter sent from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children to headteachers of all state-maintained secondary schools in England and Wales to warn them about this consequence of the proposed legalization of same-sex “marriage”.