Church leaders urge Scottish Government not to redefine marriage

More than 70 evangelical leaders in Scotland have signed a letter calling upon First Minister Alex Salmond to retain the current definition of marriage.

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on its plans to introduce same-sex marriage and allow religious ceremonies for civil partnerships.

At the time of the launch, the Scottish Government said faith groups should not be obliged to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

However, church leaders in Scotland are concerned about the implications of redefining marriage, particularly on children.

“It stands to reason a redefinition will be promoted as standard by public bodies. This has significant implications across society, not least for what children will be taught in schools," they say in a joint letter.

“Government did not invent marriage, and it is astonishing that it is seeking to legally redefine it at the behest of a small minority.

“What is to stop it being redefined further? There is a very real risk of definition-creep. If
marriage is redefined who is to say that, for example, polygamy should not be legalised?”

In changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions, church leaders fear that the message being given to society is that “a child does not need a mother and a father.”

They argue that there is no need to redefine marriage because the current definition of one man uniting with one woman does not deprive others of their rights.

“In supporting marriage, we are not removing rights from anyone. Redefining marriage is not an issue of equality or fairness, as argued by those calling for this change. Equality does not mean sameness but recognises diversity.

“In the Scottish Government’s consultation document it is abundantly clear that homosexual couples already have the rights of marriage available through civil partnerships.”

Paul Rees, senior pastor at Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh, said the Scottish Government had “miscalculated the strength of feeling” on the issue.

In Glasgow, the Rev David McCarthy of St Silas Episcopal Church said the effects of changing the definition of marriage on society would be “profound”.

“Traditional marriage gives kids the complementary parenting of a mother and father which same-sex marriage does not provide,” he said.

In the letter, church leaders go on to say that they have “well-founded misgivings” about religious liberty, despite promises to protect those who in conscience cannot accept same-sex marriages.

The Rev David Meredith of Smithton-Culloden Free Church, Inverness, said: “Our overall concern is that redefining marriage would have far-reaching implications for Scottish society as a whole.

“But we are also concerned that there will be an erosion of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for those who believe in traditional marriage. We have already seen some illiberal reaction against those who have stood for marriage.”

The Rev Dominic Smart of Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen, expressed similar concerns.

“If marriage is redefined in law then that new definition will be the one promoted in schools.

"Children will be taught that when they grow up they can marry someone of the same sex.

“Any parents who object will be labelled as intolerant and narrow minded.”

The closing date for responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation is December 9. Responses should be sent to