British Churches Respond: Government Using Orwellian Tactics in Catholic Adoption Row

By Hilary White

  LONDON/EDINBURGH, January 30, 2007 ( – Catholic officials told reporters today that the government was engaging in Orwellian strong-arm tactics against the religious freedoms of Christians in attempting to force Catholic adoption agencies to adopt children to homosexual couples.

  The comments came in response to yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Tony Blair that British Catholic adoption agencies could not expect an exemption from a new law prohibiting “discrimination” in the provision of goods and services.
“Some legislation, however well intended, in fact does create a new kind of morality, a new kind of norm - as this does,” Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

  Blair and his cabinet said that a 21-month “delay” was a “sensible compromise” and the best way to help Churches come into compliance with the law. The cardinal, however, was unimpressed with the Labour government’s generosity.

  The BBC quotes Murphy O’Connor saying that the move will force Christians out of public life. “Here the Catholic Church and its adoption services are wishing to act according to its principles and conscience and the government is saying: ‘No, we won’t allow you to ... you have no space, you have no place in the public life of this country.’”

  He added on an ominous note, “Now that seems to me to be just one step and there will be further ones.”

  Anthony Esolen, editor of Touchstone Christian magazine, wrote last year that the purpose of legislative tactics to force churches to act against their conscience were specifically and only attacks on the freedoms of Christians.

  At the time of the closing of Boston’s Catholic adoption agency last year by a similar legislative move, Esolen pointed out that homosexuals can legally adopt children from secular agencies and could not possibly benefit from the strong-arming of Boston’s Catholic adoption agency.

  Esolen wrote, “The conclusion seems inescapable: the Church was given the ultimatum not so that homosexuals would benefit, but so that the Church would be hurt, either by a capitulation that would signal its subservience and irrelevance evermore, or by a curtailment of the freedom of Catholics to practice their faith in the public square.”  

  This was echoed by Bishop Nichols who said last week, “Catholic adoption agencies do not obstruct adoption by same sex couples.”

“Any such request made to Catholic agencies are referred to other agencies that are able to respond. Granting an exemption to Catholic agencies will not alter the legal rights of same sex couples seeking to adopt children,” Nichols added.

  The spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church said the legislation attacked freedom of religion in a broader way than adoption agencies alone. The legislation, he said, “will impact on anyone who provides goods and services, from the priest who refuses to hire the parish hall to a same-sex couple, to the editor of a Catholic newspaper who refuses to carry a Gay Pride advert, or a printer who refuses to print those adverts - they will all be criminalized by this Draconian measure. This is as close as you can get to a thought crime.”

  The Scottish Catholic Church, rather than close its adoption agencies, announced that it will continue to apply Catholic moral law to its adoption procedures. When a suit is filed under the new statute, a spokesman said the Church would pursue a court case under human rights legislation.

  Read previous coverage:
  Birmingham Archbishop: “Oh by the way,” Britain’s Catholic Adoption Agencies Already Adopt to Gay Singles

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