AN Archbishop might soon be prevented from saying that marriage should be between a man and a woman, making Britain a “frightening place” in which to live, a Parliamentary inquiry investigating Christian freedom in the UK heard on Tuesday.
The second of three sittings of the Clearing the Ground inquiry (News, 11 November) heard evidence from representatives of the Church of England, the RC Church, a joint delegation representing the Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed Churches, and the Evangelical campaigners CARE.
The inquiry seeks to discover whether recent changes to the law, and court judgments involving Christians, have diminished Christian freedom.
The parliamentary co-ordinator for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Richard Kornicki, told the inquiry that, if in the future religious doctrine had to come under law, “an archbishop could no longer state that Christian doctrine hasn’t changed for 2000 years.” This would create “an uncomfortable country to live in”.
He said that, in the recent spate of court cases involving Christians, “what we’re beginning to see is the rights of Christian freedom versus sexuality rights, and Christians taking second place,” a “worrying” develop-ment.
The problem for Christians in the UK was exacerbated by the fact that new areas of law under the Equalities Act were being operated by people who didn’t understand religion, he said.
The director of the C of E’s Mission and Public Affairs Division, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, said that the Church, which had previously had power and been in the “driving seat”, was experiencing a sense of loss. Sometimes it seemed that people were “out to get us”. He cited the example of the closure of the RC adoption agencies. “What harm would have been caused for anyone by letting different types of agencies exist?”
Dan Boucher, the director of parliamentary affairs at CARE, told the panel that the raft of new legislation brought in by the previous Government since 2005 had created a “massive sea-change, which has impacted on Christians”. It was particularly a problem for Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, illustrated by about 70 court cases that had taken place.
The cross-party inquiry is being chaired by Gary Streeter MP, and includes Gavin Shuker MP, Fiona Bruce MP, Lord Edmiston, and Lady Berridge.
The committee will sit for a third and final time next Tuesday.