Military chaplains who do not support same-sex marriage could be dismissed under Government plans, a former Defence Minister has warned.
Sir Gerald Howarth, who served as a Defence Minister until September this year, made his concerns known in a letter to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
Sir Gerald cautioned that a chaplain who was also a Church of England minister could be “disciplined or dismissed” for preaching in support of traditional marriage.
Mr Hammond “asked for advice” upon receiving the letter, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said.
Responding to Sir Gerald’s letter Colin Hart, director of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), said: “We have consistently warned that ripping up the centuries-old definition of marriage is a poorly thought-out policy that will have many serious consequences.
“These plans are profoundly undemocratic. The Human Rights Act and equality laws create the perfect storm that will mean brave military chaplains face being disciplined or sacked for believing that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
Both Sir Gerald and Mr Hammond have previously expressed reservations about the Government’s plan to bring in same-sex marriage.
In his letter the former Defence Minister adapted an example from a legal opinion which warned of the wide ranging possible implications of the Government redefining marriage.
In the opinion Aidan O’Neill QC cautioned that NHS chaplains who preach about traditional marriage in church could be disciplined under diversity policies – even if they were off duty at the time.
Sir Gerald warned that a similar situation could occur for army chaplains.
Earlier this month Maria Miller, the Equalities Minister, said the Government will publish the results of its consultation on redefining marriage before Christmas.
The Government says it has received a staggering 228,000 responses – the largest number in British Government history.
But that number appears not to include the names and addresses of a further half-a-million people, submitted by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M).
C4M officially submitted the names to the Home Office as part of the consultation process, but it appears they may be ignored.