Armed Forces chaplains face sack over gay marriage

Military chaplains who oppose gay marriage could be disciplined or sacked, says former defence minister Gerald Howarth.

He raised concerns in a letter to defence secretary Philip Hammond in which he said that chaplains could encounter problems if they continue to uphold a traditional view of marriage after the Government has pushed through its redefinition of marriage to include gay couples.

Mr Howarth warned “that under the Government’s proposals if the definition of marriage is rewritten, then those chaplains who maintain their support for the traditional/biblical meaning could face disciplinary action and even dismissal”.

He refers in the letter to legal advice from human rights lawyer Aidan O'Neill, who said that if an objection were raised against a chaplain preaching a mainstream Christian view of marriage, the chaplain could be disciplined or dismissed under the Equality Act.

The Government has given assurances that churches will not be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages.

However Mr Hammond said ministers were "in no position" to make such promises "since the interpretation of any new law will rest with the courts and, ultimately, the impertinent European Court of Human Rights".

Colin Hart, Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage, shared his concerns, saying that protections under British law were "virtually meaningless" as they could be overturned by the ECHR.

“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," he said.

“These plans are profoundly undemocratic and with the Human Rights Act and equality laws create the perfect storm that will mean brave military chaplain’s face being disciplined, or sacked for believing that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”

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