Paul Goodman: Gay Marriage Bill is a threat to religious freedom
In response to allegations that someone with 'strong social connections' to the Prime Minister (allegedly Lord Feldman) is of the opinion that Conservative Party members are 'mad, swivel-eyed loons', David Cameron has written to every party member assuring them that he thinks nothing of the sort. He said: "I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise."
The problem is that many members simply will not believe him, not least because 'swivel-eyed loon', if not quite an aphorism, is an innate Cameroon attitude. Ever since he became leader and sought to stamp his programme of modernisation upon the party, some of his allies have freely described members as ‘Turnip Taliban’, ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘backwoodsmen’. And they have done so with impunity. Lord Feldman's alleged views are therefore unsurprising: there is little to distinguish the prehistoric dinosaur attitude of the rumbling backwoodsman and grumbling Turnip Taliban from the madness of the swivel-eyed loon.
Cameron naturally denies that he is sneering at his party, but his actions belie his words. As the excellent Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome explains:
The Loongate row is still reverberating in the Party, especially at local Association level. The key point about it is that too many Conservatives, from the Cabinet table to the grassroots, believe that the controversial words are what is thought and said of them in Downing Street. No measure has done more to buttress that impression than the same-sex marriage bill - which has been imposed on the Party with such absolutism, and which is the cause of such a bitter culture war. Many older people especially see the measure as a deliberate assault on their values: the bill might thus almost have been designed as a recruiting-sergeant for UKIP. For this reason alone, Tory MPs should vote against the bill this evening in good heart. They will certainly grasp that Ministers haven't a clue what the courts will do when they get to work on Equality Act challenges, and that the bill is consequently a threat to religious freedom.The vast majority of Conservative Party members - along with discerning Conservatives like Paul Goodman, Sir Gerald Howarth, Edward Leigh and David Burrowes - fully appreciate that same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty: it is simply not possible to sustain two competing equalities; one must give way to the other.
Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, has warned that gay marriage will lead to ‘state fascism’. Those who oppose will be cast as bigots, Nazis and fascists ( or 'swivel-eyed loons') ranged against the moderate, enlightened and utterly reasonable proponents. The consequences of this Bill are being completely ignored:
“You are summoned to a tribunal where you cannot have a defense lawyer and you cannot record the proceedings nor have a witness present. The people judging and prosecuting you have no legal qualifications. The accusation is ambiguous, having to do with ideas the state does not like. The penalties could include fines equal to several thousands of dollars, public recanting, and rehabilitation classes. You are a bishop. This is not China. This is Canada. The offense: explaining why homosexual relations are a sin.”So began the address of Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, to St Thomas University Law School just six months ago. He set out - calmly and rationally - 'the alarming consequences of same-sex “marriage” from the Canadian experience'.
The Archbishop was recounting the true experiences of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who received complaints for preaching the Church’s traditional and historic teachings on homosexuality. The complaint was subsequently dropped by the plaintiff, who admitted that he only filed it to get media attention.
How many Christians will be targeted and harassed by 'aggressive homosexuals' - the homosexualists - simply in order 'to get media attention'? And don't think it's only the Christians: the crusading gays are ferociously unforgiving in condemnation of their moderate dissenting co-sexualists (see here, here and here).To the rabid, intolerant homosexualist, a gay person who doesn't support gay marriage is 'like the token Asian guy who wants to be in the BNP'. Nice, huh?
We will doubtless be seeing an awful lot more of this: The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has warned of the 'profound difficulties' ahead for those who dissent from the state's redefinition of marriage. We will surely see Christian ministers and schoolteachers dragged before commissions and inquisitions, and they will be judged 'guilty' irrespective of the religious conscience. Their crime will simply have been that of preaching a sermon or delivering a lesson expressing some concern about the gay agenda or casting some doubt upon the validity of gay marriage. But someone will complain about 'hurt feelings' (whether truly hurt or not), and these preachers and teachers will be arrested, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned. The only means of avoiding this will be self-censorship: the mere discussion of homosexuality will become taboo.
Canada has gone before us. Archbishop Prendergast tells us that gay marriage has resulted in the Bible being called 'hate literature'. Like the Roman Catholic adoption agencies here, there is 'growing pressure for the Church to comply or to be shut down'. Indeed, we've already heard the threats - from a Cameroon Conservative MP.
Archbishop Prendergast enumerates the consequences of same-sex marriages as including 'restrictions on freedoms; forced sex education; sexually confused children; sexual experimentation among children; and muzzling and debilitating the Church'.
“By reassigning financial benefits to same-sex marriage, what was once an incentive to fruitful, traditional families has become an incentive to sterile, destructive social arrangements,” he said.
But David Cameron will march on regardless, persuaded that those who oppose him are the real swivel-eyed loons. He can deny it, but we know that he despises traditionalists. "If our Lord Jesus was around today," he preached back in 2010, "he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality.’
This is his theology.
And when asked if he thought the right of gay children to have a safe education trumps the right of faith schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin, he answered: “Basically yes – that's the short answer to that."
This is his notion of religious liberty.
When the Prime Minister appropriates Jesus to his gay-marriage cause, the dissenting theologian is not merely a swivel-eyed loon: he is a heretic. Not since 1559 has there been an Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to assent to a particular worldview, and it took more than 300 years to eradicate that. But sexual orientation has acquired a quasi-religious status which trumps any religious worldview that opposes it. It is secular pluralism by statute law.
Paul Goodman accuses David Cameron of acting in an absolute fashion. Interestingly, back in 2008 the Archbishop of York wrote of New Labour:
"Our current Government is in danger of sacrificing Liberty in favour of an abused form of equality – not a meaningful equality that enables the excluded to be brought into society, but rather an equality based on diktat and bureaucracy, which overreaches into the realm of personal conscience.”Cameron once naïvely claimed to be the 'heir to Blair'. Certainly, on equality, they are peas in a pod. Cameroon Conservatives are a continuation of New Labour, which is why they turned to Labour yesterday to rescue this appalling Bill from recalcitrant Tory backbenchers. The Prime Minister has lost sight of the foundational importance of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. He has forgotten that these hard-won liberties are crucial for the peace and security of the realm. He has no understanding at all of what it means to be Conservative in the realm of religion. He has forgotten - if ever he knew - what it is to be conservative.