Today’s widely welcomed statement by the Government on equal marriage contained an extraordinary admission about the Church of England (and also the Church of Wales).
The Government is proposing legislation that will enable same sex couples to get married but provides a number of exceptions to ensure that those those who do not want to conduct same-sex marriages are not required to do so. Thus, the Government says:
“First, we will write on to the face of the Bill a declaration that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit that to happen on their premises. Secondly, I will amend the Equality Act 2010 so that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or for refusing to allow their premises to be used for this purpose.
Thirdly, the legislation will make it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation has expressly opted to do so. As part of this lock, a religious organisation will have to opt in as a whole, and each individual Minister will then have to opt in too. Therefore, if a religious organisation has chosen not to conduct same-sex marriage, none of its Ministers will be able to do so. However, if an organisation has chosen to conduct same-sex marriage, individual Ministers are still under no compulsion to conduct one unless they wish to do so.”
That seems pretty comprehensive.
But the Government goes on:
“Finally, …. the legislation will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples.”
The only conclusion is that the Government believes that neither the Church of England nor the Church of Wales are religious organisations.
Have they told the new Archbishop?