The Scottish Government’s plans to redefine marriage risk undermining religious freedom, the nation’s top Roman Catholic has warned.
The SNP-led Government says it wants to amend the Equality Act to protect those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, while still going ahead with its same-sex marriage plans.
But Cardinal Keith O’Brien has written to the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning that the plans to redefine marriage threaten religious freedom.
“The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland believes that there is considerably more at stake here than the religious freedom of celebrants”, he wrote.
“We believe that religious freedom itself is at stake, in the sense not just of freedom of worship, but of freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of action.
“Specifically, if a same-sex ‘marriage’ law is enacted, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland urges that not only should no pressure be put on the Church to solemnise same-sex ‘marriage,’ but no penalty or sanction should accrue for not doing so.”
Cardinal O’Brien also sought assurance that “no one should be prosecuted under the law for speaking against the legislation or upholding in private or public discourse the view that the nature of marriage is a union solely of a man and a woman”.
The Cardinal said the bishops are “deeply disappointed” at the decision to push ahead “especially because the Government simply ignored its own consultation”.
The Government revealed that it intended to push ahead with the redefinition of marriage last month despite the response to its consultation being 2:1 against.
The Cardinal said that this showed “quite emphatically that there was little will for the legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage’ among those who responded to the consultation”.
The decision to push ahead with same-sex marriage has led to two of the party’s veteran activists quitting.
Last week it emerged that former Councillor Liz Fordyce, who sat on Dundee City Council for 13 years and chaired the Dundee East constituency branch, had quit the party after 46 years.
And the week before Robert Stewart, another veteran activist, quit the party and branded the leadership’s decision to push ahead with same-sex marriage “undemocratic”.