Religious groups must retain “unfettered freedom” to decide whether they wish to register civil partnerships in their premises, the Church of England has warned.
The Government is proposing an ‘opt-in’ system which would allow religious bodies or individual places of worship to choose to register the same-sex ceremonies.
But critics have warned that the proposals could lead to litigation against churches that do not agree to register the controversial unions. The Government’s own consultation document also admits this.
Responding to the Government’s consultation on the issue the Church of England says its current objective is securing religious liberty.
William Fittall, Secretary General of the Archbishops Council and General Synod, said that the Church’s “present objective” was to ensure that the proposals “provide unfettered freedom for each religious tradition to resolve these matters in accordance with its own convictions and its own internal procedures of governance.
“For most Christian denominations as well as other faith groups the issues involved are set to remain sensitive and, to varying degrees, contested.”
The Government’s own consultation document admits that the proposals could lead to litigation against churches that do not opt in.
The Christian Institute has submitted its own response to the consultation warning that implementing such a system is likely to result in “legal action against churches who disagree”.
The Institute warns: “The plans are not workable and fail to provide adequate safeguards. The Government is risking the religious freedom of many thousands of people by introducing a scheme for which there is so little demand.”
The Institute adds: “By creating this situation the Government will effectively have taken sides on a highly controversial issue.
“The consultation paper also seems to imply the plans are the ‘first step’ towards redefining marriage, a move which would be deeply unpopular with the public.”
Currently homosexual civil partnerships can only be registered in secular venues such as register offices, hotels and stately homes.