Legal group criticises Irish evangelicals for support of Civil Partnership Bill
The Civil Parnterships Bill 2009 would provide rights and protections for same-sex couples in areas such as the home, inheritance and hospital visits.
The Evangelical Alliance Ireland’s General Director Sean Mullan said in a statement this week that evangelical Christians should “support the basic thrust of the Bill”.
“The Government is seeking to legislate for greater justice and fairness for co-habiting couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. As Christians we should support that stance,” he said.
“Co-habiting couples are a reality – this legislation seeks to deal with that reality from a legal perspective.
“We may disagree on the detail of the legislation but as followers of a just and compassionate God we can recognise the justice and fairness of providing some legal protection for the reality of both same-sex and opposite-sex cohabiting relationships.”
Mr Mullan went on to clarify the Evangelical Alliance Ireland’s position, arguing that Christians were called to show grace to people who disagree with their beliefs.
“The Christian Scriptures make it clear that God’s purpose for his gift of sex is that it would be the ultimate physical expression of love between a man and a woman in the context of the covenant of marriage,” he said.
“However, the Gospel requires of that we show grace to those who fundamentally disagree with our convictions and who do not shape their lives according to what we believe is good for them.
“Jesus requires of his followers that they love and do good to those who oppose them or who hold to different ethical standards than they do.”
Mr Mullan said Christians faced the challenge of living in a society that does not share its beliefs and may regard Christian principles as “out-dated, illiberal and even oppressive”.
“Some will criticise such a stance as a cop out. But the challenge to incarnate and commend an alternative way of living as followers of Jesus is no cop out,” he said.
CCFON said that with the support of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland, opposition to the Bill was “virtually non-existent”. The governing coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, as well as opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour have all expressed their support for the Bill, which is likely to be passed before the end of the year.
Director Andrea Minichiello Williams criticised Mr Mullan’s stance.
“It is totally misleading to say that by supporting legalisation of homosexual partnerships and giving them the same privileges as marriage, Christians are demonstrating the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” she said.
“Christians cannot be salt and light in the world by putting 'society’s changing moral standards above God's word and principles.”
The Bill, introduced by the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, was read and debated in the Irish Parliament last week. Mr Ahern has made clear that he wants the Bill to be passed without a freedom of conscience clause for organisations and individuals who object to homosexuality.
Mr Mullan said it was a possibility that the new Bill may be used to force Christians and churches to cooperate in same-sex ceremonies despite their conscientious objection, but claimed that “fighting for our rights on this one emotive controversial issue is likely to be misunderstood and unproductive”.
He recommended that Christians engage with the Government on the importance of freedom of conscience “without narrowing it down to this one Bill”.