Religious Freedom in Today’s Society
I have had a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph.
Religious freedom is a cornerstone of a free society. The law must not treat any one set of beliefs more favourably than another.
Imagine the outrage if the law said that, because some churches opposed inter-denominational marriages, then no church may perform one. This would (rightly) be seen as an infringement on religious freedom.
In Northern Ireland today, some churches oppose same-sex marriage. Others do not. Yet, curiously, the law only accommodates those churches opposing it.
If a Christian same-sex couple wants to get married in their church, and the church wants to perform that marriage, they cannot. The law dictates how the members of that church are allowed to practise their religion.
In recent months, there has been a huge upwelling of support for the freedom of conscience for the owners of Ashers Bakery. The freedom of conscience of people in places of worship must be at least as important as the freedom of conscience of people in places of work.
Until the law is changed and the churches that want to perform same-sex marriage are allowed to perform same-sex marriage, freedom of conscience in worship is severely restricted in Northern Ireland.
ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL