New Proposals for Divorce
It is expected that proposals will shortly be announced to reduce still further the waiting time for divorce in Scotland. If approved by the Scottish Parliament, couples will be able to divorce after one year instead of two, where there is consent. If the divorce is contested, the waiting time would be reduced from five years to two.
Amazingly, government statisticians argue that, after an initial jump, the number of divorces will not be significantly affected by these proposals. It can scarcely be denied that easier and speedier access to divorce has encouraged the breakdown of marriages which would otherwise have been saved. Besides, a climate of thought has been created in which no one expects marriages to last. In these circumstances, it is worth reminding ourselves, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, of the scriptural grounds of divorce: “adultery or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate”.
There is one crumb of comfort. The draft white paper which contains these proposals to “overhaul family law” is expected to oppose any suggestion that “homosexual marriages” should be recognised.
The End of Clause 2A
The sorry saga of the attempts by the Scottish Executive to repeal this clause is now at an end. Clause 2A (Section 28 in the rest of the UK) forbade the promotion of homosexuality in schools. On June 21 the Scottish Parliament agreed to its repeal, by an overwhelming majority in spite of the huge majority who voted, in a privately-organised referendum, against repeal. (Although only a minority of Scots took part, the proportion who did so compared very favourably with, for instance, the last elections to the European Parliament.)
Yet the referendum, and other widespread opposition to repeal, produced a climate where the Scottish Executive were glad to take up the recommendation of a specialist working party that they should include, in legally-binding guidance to be issued to local education authorities, a reference to “the responsibilities of parenthood and marriage”. Yet, in claiming that this change did not represent a climbdown, an official spokesman declared, “We always maintained we would not promote marriage above anything else”. In other words, children are not to be shown that marriage is, to put it very mildly, better than any other relationship. This is still thoroughly unsatisfactory.
Much of the debate has been conducted on the basis of vague slogans. One government minister claimed that repeal was “about creating a more tolerant Scotland”. Maybe. But it is a Scotland more tolerant of sin. There were frequent references to the unacceptability of discrimination against homosexuals. The fact is that every country, in various ways, discriminates against those who commit certain sins. Discrimination is not the issue, but right and wrong. Very few would condemn discrimination against the promotion of paedophilia.
Society has an obligation to discriminate between right and wrong. In the Bible, God condemns “the men [who], leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another”. If society refuses to discriminate between marriage as a God-given institution, and other forms of relationship, whether stable or otherwise, it is sowing the seeds of its own destruction.
New EU Religious Directive
The intention of the UK government to approve a new EU directive is causing serious concern. The effect of this directive would be to prevent Christian organisations, including Churches, advertising for Christian staff. The only exceptions would be posts which involve direct religious instruction that is: ministers, and teachers in church schools who give denominational religious instruction. In appointing a church secretary, for instance, it would be illegal to refuse to appoint the person best-qualified as a secretary, no matter what that persons religion or lifestyle might be.
The Director of the Christian Institute has commented: “The Labour Party only employs card-carrying Labour Party members. A strict rule applies. Why shouldnt Churches have the right to employ Christians?” And The Daily Telegraph pointed out in an editorial: “In this latest move, Europe has jumped even further ahead than America, usually supposed to be the heartland of equality. The US Supreme Court has just ruled that it was fair to sack a Boy Scout leader on the grounds of his homosexuality. . . . Requiring the Scouts to accept a homosexual Scout master would significantly burden the organisations right to oppose or disfavour homosexual conduct”.
No doubt this directive reflects the idea that religion is a peripheral matter. It is not. Churches cannot present an effective or consistent witness to the world unless they have control over the staff they appoint. Letters to MPs and to the Government may be helpful.