Evangelicals fear for churches that refuse civil partnership ceremonies

The Government is considering lifting the current ban on same-sex civil partnership ceremonies being conducted in places of worship and religious settings.

Despite assurances from Home Secretary Theresa May that “no religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration”, many Christians are concerned that vicars will find themselves brought before the courts if they refuse.

Although a small number of religious groups, including the Quakers, have expressed their support for the proposals, the Evangelical Alliance said it was concern for the tens of thousands of churches that deem practising homosexual relationships to be incompatible with their beliefs and practices.

Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “History shows that when new rights are given today, they can often lead to laws being imposed tomorrow.

“If the Government wishes to advance equality for LGBT people, who represent less than 1.45 per cent of the population, they must show they are at least as committed to the religious liberties of the vast majority of people who want to be assured that a minority right can never become an obligation.

“It would have been helpful if the Government statement had referred to the equally important views and concerns of the religious sector rather than appearing to privilege one set of rights against another.”

The Evangelical Alliance is the latest group to voice its concerns after Affinity, The Christian Institute, Christian Concern, Reform and the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches came together to decry the Government’s plans.

In a joint statement, they pointed to the closure of faith-based adoption agencies and a recent court ruling requiring Christian guesthouse owners to pay compensation to a same-sex couple they refused to accommodate in a double bedroom.

“When it comes to equality legislation, permission often turns rapidly into coercion,” the groups said.

“Christians will need a great deal of reassurance that the Government is not about to do something that will make their situation even worse.”