From Mr Donald E.
Sir, - I am not qualified to
comment on the theology behind the Revd Dr Nigel Scotland's
assertion that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is "clearly
contrary to established Christian doctrine" (Letters, 7 June),
but, as a solicitor of some years' standing, I would venture the
opinion that his view could be be described as "moot". What is
absolutely clear, however, is that there is no legal basis for his
opinion that this makes it impossible for the Queen to grant the
royal assent, should the Bill be passed by Parliament - as now
The Queen has never yet
withheld the royal assent in her 61-year reign. This is because the
Constitution is predicated on the supremacy of Parliament. The
coronation oath was not intended to give the monarch the discretion
to reach his or her own judgements on religious matters - quite the
reverse. It was intended as a polite reminder of Parliament's
desire not to return to the traumas of the Tudor disputes and the
Commonwealth, and of the parameters within which the monarch would
be expected to work. There was to be no "back-door" reintroduction
of Roman Catholicism, and any monarch had to agree to that as a
condition of being crowned.
Subsequently, the views of
Parliament on religious matters have evolved, but the convention
remains that the royal assent is withheld on the advice of
ministers (as happened the last time the royal assent was withheld,
by Queen Anne in 1708). Such advice appears inconceivable in the
There has been only one
occasion when the monarch has seriously considered withholding the
royal assent on the grounds that it was incompatible with the
coronation oath - in 1829, when George IV threatened to withhold it
from the Catholic Emancipation Act. In the end, he relented, and I
think we can all thank God now that he did. Since then, there have
been several occasions when Parliament has passed legislation that
could reasonably be said to be "clearly contrary to established
Christian doctrine", most obviously the Matrimonial Causes Act
(1857). Gladstone described this as the first Act ever passed that
was explicitly contrary to Christian doctrine, but even he did not
think for a moment of seeking to ask Queen Victoria to withhold the
It appears desperately
unedifying for Christians, having lost the wider argument about
homosexuality, to try to block legislation with which they disagree
by putting Her Majesty in a position where she either provokes a
constitutional crisis or is made to look as though she is somehow
being disloyal to her coronation oath, when nothing could be
further from the truth.
For the record, I have no
great enthusiasm for gay marriage, but I recognise that it is the
will of Parliament, and, indeed, of the majority of the
DONALD E. DRAPER
Fairlawns, Combine Close
West Midlands B75 9TJ
From the Revd Alan
Sir, - The Revd Dr Nigel
Scotland echoes the recent call of the Coalition for Marriage for
the Queen to refuse to give the royal assent to the Marriage (Same
Sex Couples) Bill, on the grounds that it "clearly contradicts
established Christian doctrine".
Leaving aside the
constitutional implications of such a move (which would be
considerable and damaging), I fear that Christian doctrine may not
be as clearly established as Dr Scotland supposes. James I (VI of
Scotland) was the first King of a united British Kingdom and has a
good claim, with Elizabeth I, to be the co-founder of the
Established Church in a form recognisable to us today.
He was Supreme Governor of
the Church of England, a devout Anglican (indeed, the reputed
originator of that word), a biblical scholar of some note, and the
authoriser of the magisterial vernacular Bible translation that
still bears his name. In short, he has an even greater claim than
Dr Scotland to be an authority on what might constitute "the
Protestant Reformed Religion as established by law" and the
doctrine of the Church of England. He has probably an equal claim
to be able to be able to define "the law of God and the true
profession of the gospel".
As David M. Bergeron reminds
us, in 1624 James wrote to his "favourite", George Villiers, whom
he had recently made Duke of Buckingham, saying how much he hoped
"that we may make this Christmas a new marriage, ever to be kept
hereafter. For God so love me . . . I had rather live banished in
any part of the Earth with you than live a sorrowful widow's life
without you. And so God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and
grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband"
(King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire, University
of Iowa Press, 1999).
James was adamant that his
love for Villiers was compatible with the scriptures, and is even
reported by Roger Lockyer as having told the Privy Council that
"Jesus Christ had done the same thing as he was doing and there was
nothing reprehensible about it, for Christ had his John and he had
While I would never presume
to tell Her Majesty how to do her job, on the basis of the above,
my advice to those hoping that, having lost the argument, they
might still win the war, is not to hold their breath in expectation
of royal support.
41 Hobhouse Close, Great Barr
Birmingham B42 1HB
From Mr Robert Ian
Sir, - The Revd Dr Nigel
Scotland believes that the Queen will have her coronation promises
violated if she signs gay marriage into law.
Does he realise that our
Queen is also Queen of New Zealand and Canada, and that her
signature, in the person of her respective Governor General, is
already on similar legislation? Indeed, in the case of Canada, it
has been there for ten years, and the Queen has not used her
two-year veto, which exists in the Canadian constitution, to
rescind such legislation.
ROBERT IAN WILLIAMS
Y Garreg Lwyd, Whitchurch Road
Bangor Is Y Coed
Wrexham LL13 0BB
From the Revd Dr M. A.
Sir, - The disgraceful
speeches and voting of the Bishops last week in the House of Lords
debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill brings to mind Canon
Sydney Smith's comment in 1832:
"The attempt of the Lords to
stop the progress of Reform reminds me forcibly of the great storm
at Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs Partington on
that occasion. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm,
Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of
her house with mop and bucket vigorously pushing away the Atlantic
Ocean. The Atlantic was roused: Mrs Partington's spirit was up; but
I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic
Ocean won, as Reform will do."
Fortunately, the Bishops'
efforts were defeated by 390 to 148, a majority of 242, and once
again their moral leadership was questioned.
1 Foxgrove Drive, Woking
Surrey GU21 4DZ
From the Revd Liam
Sir, - The Archbishop of
Canterbury has argued in the House of Lords that the Government's
proposal to extend the language of marriage to same-gender couples
"diminishes" the covenantal aspect of marriage and "weakens what
The Church of England has a
website (www.yourchurchwedding.org) dedicated to
promoting Anglican churches as attractive venues for weddings. On
the site, marriage itself is marketed as a lifestyle choice: not
only is much made of the apparent financial advantages, but we are
even told that marriage is good for our health.
The site also informs us
that "sexual activity is strongly and invariably correlated with
happiness", which probably undermines 2000 years of Christian
teaching on sex and relationships.
If the Archbishop is anxious
that marriage is being "weakened", perhaps the fault lies closer to
the Church's door than we might first like to admit.
2 St Mary's Road, Honley
Holmfirth HD9 6AZ
From Canon John
Sir, - You report the Bishop
of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, as saying that "the Bishops
would seek to ensure church schools were able to teach traditional
forms of marriage" (News,
Presumably, this would
include polygamy (the marital norm for much of the biblical period)
and the priority of reproduction (according to the 1662 Prayer
Book, and before the Lambeth Conference approved family
What a pity the Bishops
cannot concentrate on the divine quality of faithful love.
39 St Michaels Road
Liverpool L17 7AN
From Dr Christopher
Sir, - Your leader comment
June) asserts that "the institution" of marriage is in trouble.
This is demonstrably untrue.
If it were the institution
that were at fault, the fallout from this would be seen in every
land, historical period, and culture where the institution is
found. But it is not. Therefore, it must be particular cultures -
or, rather, their movers and shakers, and their faulty philosophies
- that are to blame: in this instance, post-1960 secularism.
When secularists point to
this institution's contemporary failures, we should remember that
all of these are a result of the "reforms" that they themselves
initiated and the Christians opposed.
186 Ellerdine Road
Hounslow TW3 2PX