Catholics fear persecution should same-sex marriage become legal in the UK

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By Alessio Tummolillo

On Saturday, the Guardian reported that more than 1,000 priests signed a letter claiming that the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom would tread on religious freedoms comparable to the centuries of persecution Catholics faced in England starting with Henry VIII.

In the letter, the priests state that same-sex marriage could even kick Catholics out of certain professions, including teaching. The letter was signed by 1,054 priests, 13 bishops, abbots, and other Catholic figures higher up in the echelon – all who feel their rights to practice or speak about Catholicism will become restricted. 

According to the letter: 

After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country…Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship…It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.

The Right Rev Philip Egan, the bishop of Portsmouth, a signatory of the letter, said to the Telegraph: “I am very anxious that when we are preaching in church or teaching in our Catholic schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it, that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.”

A political spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport stated: “We have been very clear that our plans for equal marriage will fully protect the freedom of religious bodies to preach, teach and put into practice their beliefs about marriage.”

The Coalition is due to publish its Equal Marriage Bill, allowing couples of the same sex to wed at the end of this month.

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