The Christian Institute

News Release

Christians ‘need to know legal rights’ after council demands that churches perform gay marriages

The case of a county council incorrectly demanding that churches perform same-sex marriages shows the need for churches to know their legal rights, The Christian Institute has said.

Essex County Council had circulated a letter saying that “with immediate effect” churches “must be licensed” to conduct gay marriages, but The Christian Institute’s new free legal guide gives reassurance that churches are well within their rights to say no.

While the council issued an apology a week later, Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute, said: “The behaviour of Essex County Council goes to show why churches need to know their legal rights, because bureaucrats who want to push for gay marriage will try and go beyond the law.”

The guide, ‘Same-sex marriage: Your legal rights to object’, provides simple, clear and accurate explanations and answers to 19 crucial questions which Christians are asking about the new legal landscape.

Compiled with input from The Christian Institute’s experienced legal team, the free booklet is comprehensively referenced and also gives helpful advice for Anglican and non-Anglican churches.

Mr Calvert said providing a legal guide for Christians is “vital” in light of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which came into force earlier this year.

“Churches and Christians want to know about the impact that redefining marriage will have on a range of reasonable activities such as conducting wedding services, teaching in churches, renting council facilities, speaking out in the workplace and much more.

“This free legal guide is a vital resource for the church in this land as it battles with a new law which goes against Biblical teaching.

“We want to be clear that Christians still have the right to express their belief that marriage is between a man and woman. Christians have every reason to be confident and bold in upholding the truth about marriage.

“Looking long-term we have always had concerns about the effect of litigation in the European Court of Human Rights. There is instability in the law because there was never a safe way of introducing same-sex marriage.

“But there is no legal reason whatsoever for churches to stop holding marriages in the ways they always have. They are free to do so.”

The booklet covers church provision of marriage services, church teaching and pastoral support, church policy and administration and Christians in the workplace.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act contains a set of four legal safeguards for churches and ministers who disagree with gay marriage, known as the ‘quad lock’, which were introduced following massive pressure from Christians.

Copies of the legal guide can be obtained free of charge from The Christian Institute’s office.

The Christian Institute’s free legal guide

Essex County Council’s letters to churches

Notes for editors:

  1. The Christian Institute is a registered charity which seeks to be a Christian influence in a secular world. The organisation campaigned against the introduction of same-sex marriage as part of the Coalition for Marriage umbrella group.
  2. The first same-sex marriages took place on 29 March 2014 under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.