01 January, 2017

Lawmaker's solution to marriage row: Get the state out of it

This legislator is on to something, but I think he has it backwards. I've argued for years that we churches should get out of registering 'marriages' for the State. In effect, we should adopt the practice of most European nations. Want a religious ceremony of marriage/matrimony? Go to a church. Then go register your union in a separate civil process at city hall. This would free up churches to practice in accord with their beliefs free from the interference of the State.



Lawmaker's solution to marriage row: Get the state out of it

6 comments:

  1. First of all Happy New Year Fr. Tim.

    I agree that civil and religious marriages should be separate as exists in many countries but how has the state interfered with the practice of marriage in Canada outside of excluding polygamy, consanguinity and age of marriage? Some religious/denominations object to those restrictions but other than that religious denominations are free to practice their beliefs free from interference from government or other religious denominations.

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    1. Michael: Happy New Year to you and yours!

      In Canada, it's not so much a case of the State imposing restrictions as it is their imposition of obligations. There are cases before a few HRCs (and no doubt soon before the courts) trying to force churches to marry folks that contravene religious doctrine such as gay marriages. Right now the only protection is the legislative clauses in the marriage acts which grant us exemptions from this 'obligation' - exemptions that are required since we act as both agents of the Church and State when we officiate weddings. My experience has been that such legal 'privileges' can disappear as fast as a snowbank in springtime. It's for this reason that I believe we as Catholic clergy should renounce our right to function as State officials who witness and register legal marriages. It will be the only way that we can protect ourselves from being forced to do something contrary to our religious beliefs.

      Fr. Tim

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    2. I know of no example in Western democracies where legislatures have obligated religious denominations to marry people against their practices except in situations where it is a state church because in those cases the church is controlled by the state.

      I agree about separating the civil from the religious ceremony as then it keeps both ceremonies focused on purpose as one is legal, the other religious.

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    3. Michael: There were no Western democracies that even recognized gay marriage until the courts ruled that they had to. My point is that this strategy which worked to bring same-sex marriages into the mainstream is the same one now being pursued in the HRCs and courts to strip churches of the right to refuse to celebrate them. So imho, the danger is real. If we're honest, how many people actually thought that gay marriage or adoptive rights were going to become the norm 10 or 15 yrs ago? Not too many I believe. But the gay rights advocates hit upon a winning strategy and voila! So I would suggest that the odds are no better than 50/50 that they will ultimately triumph through the courts again.

      Fr. Tim

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    4. Fr Tim. It's rather the opposite. Various churches, especially in the US, have taken in recent years to stop other denominations from practicing marriage how they seem fit. The Catholic Church in Ireland has campaigned to not allow divorce, even though other churches want to accept it. Fundamentalists like the current Vice President elect have pushed to teach creationism in public schools even though its against the teaching of many churches including the Catholic Church.

      Again, no modern Western democracy has sought to change a churches teachings and practices on marriage be it gay, divorced or marrying non-members in their church. If you ever have an example please post it.

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    5. Michael: There is a case before the BC HRC right now. There are pending legal actions in Ontario and Quebec. Again to clarify... it's not the legislative branch of government that's posing the threat to churches. It's the judicial (and quasi-judicial in the case of the HRCs) arm through which the danger is coming. It was through this arm of the government (eventually the Supreme Courts on both sides of the 49th parallel) that gay marriage became legal. It was not through the office of the executive or legislatures. It will come from their interpretation of the equality statutes in our respective bill of rights.

      So you are 100% correct in saying that no 'Western government' has sought to make this change. But I am just as correct in pointing out that there is another proven path that can (and I do stress 'can' since it is not a certainty but imho, a probability nonetheless) put we religious institutions in jeopardy when it comes to our refusal to act as state agents in registering same-sex marriages.

      Look at it this way: a Justice of the Peace or other mandated civil registrant of marriages cannot refuse a gay couple because they are acting on behalf of the State. So is every religious clergyperson similarly a civil official. How long do you think that the contradiction between our civil and religious obligations will be allowed to exist before the State - probably at the behest of a court - must move to 'level the playing field' for those wanting to have their union recognized? So long as I stand as both an agent of the church and state, this conflict exists. If we as clergy want to be able to preserve our rights, we should give up the civil half of our mandate to officiate at marriages.

      Fr. Tim

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