By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, OCT. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- State laws on homosexuality are increasingly creating conflicts for Christians who wish to follow their conscience. In recent days, news came from England of a Christian couple who face being forced to give up their role as foster parents because they were not prepared to promote homosexuality, reported the Telegraph newspaper Oct. 24.
Vincent Matherick and his wife Pauline are registered as foster parents in Somerset County. They are also ministers at the non-conformist South Chard Christian Church. They were recently informed by authorities that they must obey laws that require them to treat homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality.
The couple told the Telegraph that they would neither condemn nor condone homosexuality, and that they could not actively promote it because of their religious beliefs. They have 3 children of their own, and have cared for no less than 28 children.
“We feel we are being discriminated against as Christians, and many others are finding themselves in our position,” said Pauline Matherick.
An article published the same day by the Daily Mail newspaper added that the new laws are part of the Equality Act 2006, which make discrimination on the grounds of sexuality illegal. The change comes at a time when the Daily Mail said there is a critical shortage of foster parents, with an additional 8,000 needed.
Freedom of religion
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor strongly criticized the ideology inspiring such laws shortly after their approval, during a lecture given March 28 at Westminster Cathedral Hall. In his address titled “The Kingdom of God and This World: the Church in Public Life,” he maintained that, “freedom of religion is much more than the freedom to worship; it is the freedom to act according to that belief in the service of others.”
He also warned against a model of a secular state that seeks to totally exclude religious principles. “The choice of the state to side with the secular is said to be neutrality; and it is usually justified by an appeal to equality,” Cardinal Murphy O’Connor explained.
“But this is in itself ideology, divorcing religion from the public realm on the pretext that religion is divisive,” he continued.
“If equality can only be promoted at the expense of the freedom to manifest our religion, we have reason to question the nature of that equality,” the cardinal observed. “It is not, surely, an equality which adequately recognizes the common dignity of all.”
One of the consequences of the new laws is to force Catholic adoption agencies to place children in the care of homosexual couples. Recently Catholic Care, one of these agencies, announced it is ending its adoption service as a result of the law, reported the Daily Mail newspaper July 27.
According to the article, Catholic Care, which is run by the Diocese of Leeds, is one of seven Catholic agencies that may be forced to stop adoption services. The law gave the agencies until December 2008 to adapt to the new regulations on sexual discrimination.
The Daily Mail also warned that the new law will have widespread consequences. For example, a Christian printer will not be able to refuse producing material promoting homosexuality, and churches will not be allowed to refuse to rent out conference centers or parish halls to homosexual groups.
On July 30, the Telegraph newspaper published an article reporting on a warning by Meg Munn, a junior government minister, that Muslim or Christian guesthouse owners cannot refuse to accept homosexual couples unless they impose a ban on all couples from sleeping together.
Just before the Matherick’s case came to light, an employment appeal tribunal heard the claim of a Christian magistrate forced to resign because he refused to place children for adoption with homosexual couples, reported the Times newspaper Oct 23.
Andrew McClintock was forced to stand down from the family panel in Sheffield after he was refused exemption from adoption hearings involving same-sex couples. He continues to act as a magistrate for non-family cases. McClintock lost a claim for discrimination at a hearing in March.
During the hearing, Paul Diamond, representing McClintock, explained that his client’s objections were based on the conviction that placing children with homosexual couples was an experiment in social science.
The Church of England has also run into problems with anti-discrimination laws. A tribunal ruled in favor of John Reaney, a homosexual who was refused a job by the bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis, reported the Telegraph newspaper July 19.
An employment tribunal found that Reaney had been discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation when he was refused the post of a youth worker in the diocese.
Bishop Priddis said that in his evidence he had made it clear to Reaney that a person in a sexual relationship outside marriage, whatever their sexual orientation would be turned down for the post, according to the Telegraph. In addition the bishop said that Reaney’s behavior was contrary to Church teaching and had “the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese.”
Marriage ceremony pressure
England is far from being the only country where Christians are feeling the pressure of anti-discrimination laws.
In the United States, an Ocean Grove church group is suing the state of New Jersey, reported the New York Times, Aug. 14. The group complained that authorities are pressuring them to allow a civil ceremony for a lesbian couple at a pavilion they own on the oceanfront.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association originally denied a request in June by Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster to hold the ceremony on Sept. 30. The couple then lodged a discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. In reaction, the group filed a suit with the United States District Court to defend their religious rights.
Then there was the case earlier this year in New Zealand, where a homosexual Iranian won asylum while another Iranian, a Christian, was denied the same status. According to a Feb. 9 report by the New Zealand Herald, the Refugee Status Appeals Authority allowed Ahmad Tahooni to stay, even though in his original appeal he had claimed asylum on political and not sexual grounds.
Meanwhile, Thomas Yadegary, also Iranian, converted to Catholicism after arriving in New Zealand in 1994. He was arrested in November 2004 and his application for refugee status was rejected. Yadegary argued that Muslims who convert to Christianity face a potential death penalty in Iran.
“What kind of hypocritical double standard is in place, among this country’s immigration officials,” asked Auckland Catholic priest, Father Peter Murnane, in a Feb. 7 press release by the New Zealand Catholic Communications office.
The promotion of homosexuality is not only affecting religious liberty, but is also taking on the tones of an ideological campaign of promotion. On Oct. 24, the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on a campaign being launched by the Italian region of Tuscany against anti-homosexual discrimination.
The photo depicts a newborn baby with a hospital bracelet on its arm, bearing the word “homosexual.” Plans call for thousands of copies of the photo to be distributed in the form of brochures and posters.
According to Alessio De Giori, president of the Tuscan branch of a pro-homosexual lobby group, ArciGay, is to convince people that homosexuality is not a choice but is something immutable and genetically determined.
The photo was immediately criticized by the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, reported the Italian news agency ANSA that same day, who said that the organizers had gone too far in their campaign. Increasingly, a tolerance for differences is a concept homosexual advocates have removed from their vocabulary.