NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs)
At the last Judgment, Christ will accuse those who have expelled Him from public life and will have the most terrible vengeance from such an outrage'. (Pius XI).
Sweeping homosexual 'rights laws'were upheld last night, by a majority of three to one, despite protests voiced by a crowd of between one and two trhousand protestors gathered outside the House of Lords as the peers inside debated the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Protestors took part in the torch-lit rally outside the House of Lords, shouting "No, No, No SOR" as they urged peers inside to oppose the regulations. Peers held a one-hour discussion on a motion put forward by Lord Morrow, calling for the Northern Ireland regulations, which came into power on January 1, to be annulled so that they can in turn be amended to protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. He asked, "Are we really Christians and will we stand up for Jesus?" stressing his personal determination to put God's laws first and man's second.
The Rev Paisley dismissed the reassurances from government that the new regulations posed no threat to Christian freedom of conscience. He warned that legislators would "come down on us as hard as they can. The time to break this is now." Thomas Cordrey, barrister and Public Policy Analyst with the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, commented, "The debate in the Lords is a signal to the government of the need to acknowledge that these regulations do not currently strike the correct balance between two competing rights." He denied that their opposition stemmed from homophobia: "Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong. It is a fundamental matter of freedom of conscience. We are not asking the impossible of the government. While these regulations will make it illegal for a Christian printer to refuse to print a leaflet advertising a gay pride march, in Canada the Supreme Court of Ontario came to the conclusion that such a printer should not be forced to act in this way. It is possible for these regulations to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, whilst guaranteeing the freedom for religious believers to abide by their faith."
Concerns have been high since the government fast-tracked the regulations in November after a consultation period which breached Cabinet Office requirements by its short duration. Accusations that the government had not given sufficiently careful consideration to the regulations were fuelled when a drafting error in the original regulations meant that a separate amendment regulation had to be laid before parliament only weeks after the original regulations were laid. The government delayed bringing the legislation into effect in the UK due to the enormous opposition.
correspondent at the scene of the demonstration last night reports
that the well-organised and well-disciplined crowd of some 2,000
people included numerous young people, a large contingent of black
Christians, many evangelicals, charismatics and Muslims - all
bearing placards which bore straightforward factual messages:
'Freedom from Persecution', 'Rights for people of Conscience',
'Freedom for believers', 'Civil Rights for All', 'Protect Our
Children'. The cries of black cheer-leaders echoed off the walls
of the Parliament building and were so loud that they must have
been heard clearly by sitting peers. 'Jesus Christ is risen'!
'Jesus Christ is God'! Many demonstrators were singing hymns,
saying prayers and reciting the rosary. : . 'We are speaking for
the silent majority'. One observer was struck by the ironic sight
- of Christians being corralled by police in front of the Houses
of Parliament where torches shone on official flags depicting
the Christian cross. A small number of homosexuals formed a small
counter-protest nearby. At times police were forced to move on
some of these counter demonstrators, who chose to put their views
across directly in front of the main rally.
What are the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs)?
Using powers that they gave themselves through the Equality Act 2006, the government are pushing through a new law (Sexual Orientation Act) which will make it illegal for anyone who provide any person with goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions, to discriminate against that person on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.
Christians are commanded always to love all their neighbours equally.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. [Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2357)
The basic approach of the Government is a reluctance to make any concessions to protect individuals' freedom of religion or freedom of conscience.
The Government has now committed itself to bring the Regulations into force into the rest of the UK by April 2007. It is likely that these Regulations will be voted on by Parliament during February 2007, at the latest.
Instead of having three readings in the House of Commons and a similar number in the House of Lords, with hours of debate and with the opportunity for amendments to be made, the Regulations will have just one presentation in the Commons - and one in the Lords. Once the Government calls for a vote, no further amendments can be made: Parliament simply says 'yes' or 'no'. It is crucial to note that this law is being made by way of Regulations - that is to say, it is not an Act of Parliament. (It is around 40 years since such a vote was last defeated).
The Government is not currently intending to provide exemptions from the Regulations for individual Christians, because of their concern that this would water-down the rights which the Regulations intend give to homosexuals.
In particular, the Government is firmly against giving individual Christians protection when they are operating in the commercial sector. The essence of this view is that as soon as anyone with religious beliefs engages in the provision of goods, services, etc for profit, they can no longer claim that the law should protect their right to act according to their beliefs.
So, for example, consider the situation of a Christian couple who own a bed and breakfast establishment. According to the law, they provide a 'service' and so, when the SORs become law, it will be illegal for them to refuse to let a room with a double bed to a homosexual and his 'partner' who had a registered civil partnership. According to the new Regulations a registered homosexual civil partnership is equal to a marriage, and to discriminate against homosexual civil partners would constitute discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
This legislation, which promotes one moral view of homosexuality over another, will discriminate against Catholics by creating a legal framework which, should they concede to it, would force them to sinfully promote, facilitate or assist homosexual practices.
How indeed am I to love my neighbour as myself if I negligently allow the wound, of which I am sure he will be brutally die, to fester in his heart? (Saint Peter Damian)
The fact that God created sex to be enjoyed exclusively between a married man and woman does not make a Christian hate homosexuals. It can never therefore never be the basis of criminal activity.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2359)
The Sexual Orientation Regulations were hastily imposed on Northern Ireland, and became effective on January 1st this year. This was an attempt by the authorities to crush the fiercest opposition before bringing in the new laws across the whole of the UK.
According to the law now in effect in Northern Ireland, anyone found guilty of discrimination may face a fine of between £500 and £1,000 for a first offence, and up to £25,000 for repeat 'serious' offences.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, organisers of the London demonstration, says: 'The regulations not only force people to assist and promote activities contrary to the historic teachings of their faith, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but also censor them from speaking freely about their beliefs.'
The harassment provisions also apply to state and independent schools and to universities. If a teacher teaches the orthodox Catholic belief that homosexual practice is sinful, pupils who self-identify themselves as homosexual will be able to bring a claim for harassment, complaining that such teaching had the effect of 'violating their dignity' or 'creating an intimidating, humiliating or offensive environment.' Is that the kind of situation in which we want to place our teachers?
This legislation will have an impact on Christian bookshops, on Christian organisations that run old people's homes and on Christian owners of bed-and-breakfast premises. The regulations will cause major concerns for Christians who are involved in life's many normal activities and who believe that they have the right to exercise their religious conscience.
Specifically regarding the situation in Christian bookshops, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State said: 'Whether or not an environment is 'hostile, degrading, humiliating, insulting or offensive' is a matter for the court. In this untested area it is impossible to predict whether a hypothetical book or poster could be considered 'hostile' etc. by a 'reasonable man' in all the circumstances, which is the basic test.' In other words, this has not yet been tested. The Rt. Hon. Member may find that, when it comes to the courts, I am right and he is wrong'. (Debate in the Northern Irish Parliament)
Consider the position of a Church which hires out its hall to local groups. In law, such an act counts as offering of 'premises'. If the Church refuses to hire the hall out to a local homosexual group which intends to use the venue for an event promoting homosexual practices, that would be illegal discrimination. .
Consider the position of Catholic schools. It would be illegal for them to teach Catholic doctrine - because this might 'discriminate' against any possible homosexual pupils, teachers or homosexual parents who wanted their child to be taught about the acceptability of homosexuality.
Consider the position of Catholic teachers. The law will oblige them to tell students that homosexual 'partnerships' are morally acceptable as an alternative and equal to heterosexual marriages.
Among the first actions to be taken by Pope Leo IX at the Council of Reims in 1049 was the passage of a Canon law against sodomy (de sodomuico vitio)
Consider the position of the advertising manager of a newspaper or magazine. The law obliges them, if requested, to print or publish publicity material for activities favourable to homosexual acts - for example, the promotion of homosexual nightclubs, bars, demonstrations, dating agencies or the promotion of homosexual ' partnerships'.
Consider the position of information technology consultants. The law will oblige them, if requested, to build websites designed for same-sex dating.
Consider government employees, obliged to administer and act on these new policies, and to run courses promoting them.
Consider the position of our Catholic adoption agencies which will be forced to close down if they do not comply with the Regulations.
The proposed regulations threaten to override the consciences and rights of free speech of Catholics and others who object to homosexual practices. But that consequence contravenes Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights - indeed, Article 9 of the Convention is given statutory force by the Human Rights Act 1998.
The freedom to teach religious belief also engages Article 2 of the first protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that: 'in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.'
In the Northern Ireland Parliament a motion was put by a Protestant member to oppose the introduction of the Regulations. The vote was a tie, 39 against and 39 in favour of the Regulations. Shamefully, the Nationalist parties, with a 99 percent Catholic support, all voted for the Regulations, while the Unionist parties, with 99 percent Protestant support, all voted against the regulations.
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