Free Church Moderator Designate Appeals for Liberty of Conscience

The Moderator Designate of the Free Church of Scotland, the Rev Dr John S. Ross, has appealed to the government to modify its Sexual Orientation Regulations, currently being forced through Parliament.

Preaching in Inverness on Sunday, Dr Ross described the Sexual Orientation Regulations as "a disturbing assault on liberty of conscience".

In his sermon, Dr Ross affirmed that the love of God extends to all people and that Christians are therefore to love and respect all people, regardless of differences of social background, race or sexual orientation and that bigotry and prejudice are contrary to God's will.

Dr Ross accused the government of failing to respect, however, the consciences of Christians in its Sexual Orientation Regulations:

"I call on the government to show due respect for freedom of conscience. The reckless speed with which it is forcing through Parliament the Sexual Orientation Regulations, totally disregarding the consciences of Christian people, is causing anxiety and fear."

"Christians operating Bed and Breakfast accommodation are afraid of falling foul of the law by refusing a double room to an unmarried couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Churches are anxious of the implications of refusing the use of their premises to groups promoting a view of family life contrary to Christian values. Ministers fear being sued if they should refuse to bless a same sex partnership."

"Such fears appear well founded, particularly, in view of the intolerance recently shown by Edinburgh University in banning the Christian Union from running one of its events after opposition by a gay and lesbian group."

Dr Ross welcomed recent warnings of the dangers of 'belligerent secularism' from church leaders such as the Roman Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham and the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

But, he added: "The leaders of Scotland's Churches must also give leadership by calling on the government to amend the Sexual Orientation Regulations to ensure that nothing in the regulations shall force people to act against their conscience or strongly held religious beliefs."

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