Is it now illegal to question same-sex marriage?

Anglican Mainstream has emailed me an inspiring sermon on marriage, written by the late Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1943. Bonhoeffer, for those readers who have not heard of him, was a German Lutheran theologian and member of the Confessing Church in Germany (to be distinguished from the “official” Lutheran Church) during the twelve years of Nazi rule. Implicated in the July Plot against Hitler, Bonhoeffer was hanged (naked and with thin wire) at Flossenburg prison in April 1945, just over two weeks before Germany surrendered.

The sermon was written from his prison cell for his niece. He writes, “God is guiding your marriage. Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations… Marriage is more than something personal; it is a status, an office.” He goes on to state that God gives the married couple “the promise of children” and that “God allows man to share in His continual work of creation; but it is always God Himself who blesses marriage with children. Children are a heritage of the Lord and they should be acknowledged as such. It is from God that parents receive their children and it is to God that they should lead them.”

I quote these extracts from this well-known Christian pastor’s sermon simply because he takes it for granted that marriage is always between a man and a woman and that children are a blessing that come from it. We who, whether Christian or not, want to to retain this traditional understanding of marriage in the face of current plans to redefine it, need to show where we stand by signing up to the Coalition for Marriage and replying to the Government’s own on-line consultation document.

As I write, news has come in that the Law Society has cancelled a forthcoming colloquium organised by Christian Concern, part of the World Congress of Families, on the subject, “One Man, One Woman. Making the case for marriage for the good of society” and due to take place at the Law Society’s headquarters in Chancery Lane later this month.

Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court judge in the Family Division, who has recently co-founded a new “Marriage Foundation” to champion the institution of marriage, was to have been one of the contributors to the conference. Other speakers lined up were Peter Duckworth, barrister, divorce specialist and member of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship; Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of The Bow Group, the Conservative think-tank; Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica; and Cristina Odone, Telegraph and Herald journalist.

Why the sudden cancellation of the booking? The reason the Law Society gives – wait for it – is that the conference is “contrary to diversity policy, espousing as it does an ethos which is opposed to same-sex marriage.” Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, stated, “We are proud of our role in promoting diversity in the solicitors’ profession and felt that the content of this conference sat uncomfortably with our stance.” Ah: so it’s our old friend “diversity policy” again.

I should point out here that we are not talking about stopping a member of the BNP from standing up at Speaker’s Corner and making a racist speech; this is about banning distinguished members of the legal and political establishment from having a civilised debate on Law Society premises on a critical matter – which is not (yet) law.

According to Hudson, the Law Society has “assisted the organisers in identifying an alternative non-Law Society venue.” However, Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, contradicted him. She said, “We’re not looking at another venue. I’ve not spoken to them about another venue. We’re asking the Law Society to honour its contract with us. I was called to the Bar in 1988 and am proud of our country’s long and great legal history, leading the world in promoting and protecting freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. I will not be hounded out of a legal institution for holding a debate on marriage.”

She added, “Since when can debate be against diversity? …This action by the professional body…demonstrates how discussion on traditional views on marriage is being shut down before any change in the law to redefine marriage has come into force.” She pointed out that the Law Society had adopted a pro-same-sex marriage policy ahead of the outcome of the Government’s Consultation and without consulting its members. Bow Group Chairman, Ben Harris-Quinney, agreed that in the light of the Government Consultation it was essential “for parties to come together to debate the issue in forum.” He called the Law Society’s decision “exceptionable”.

Those who would like to support Andrea Williams and Christian Concern over this extraordinary decision can contact her on 020 7935 1488 or write to: The Christian Legal Centre, 70, Wimpole St, London WIG 8AX.