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The rest of the ABC human rights speech story…

The rest of the ABC human rights speech story…

UPDATE: see below

According to some there is a double message in the speech by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams to the World Council of Churches. On the one had he comes out strongly against abusive laws that discriminate and kills gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but also supports discriminatory marriage laws in the name of religion:

The World Council of Churches has published the full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on Human Rights and Religious Faith

The Daily Mail sees a full court press against marriage equality in Williams statement:

The law has no right to legalise same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared yesterday. Dr Rowan Williams said a new marriage law for gay couples would amount to forcing unwanted change on the rest of the nation.

He also said it would be wrong to legalise assisted dying because of the threat it would pose to the vulnerable and because it would go against the beliefs of most people.

In a key speech on human rights, the head of the Anglican Church put his weight behind other leading clergy who have launched a powerful campaign to prevent David Cameron from going ahead with his plan to allow the full rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

Dr Williams’s predecessor in Lambeth Palace, Lord Carey, notably told the Mail last week that same-sex marriage laws would be ‘one of the greatest political power grabs in history’.

Dr Williams’s statement means the Prime Minister now knows he will face opposition from the liberal-minded leadership of the Church of England – as well as its determined traditionalists – if he continues on the track towards legalised gay marriage.


The Archbishop has long been a personal supporter of gay rights and his lecture yesterday insisted Christians must accept that gay equality laws are here to stay.

But he has also listened to the concerns of traditional Christian believers since he began his career at Lambeth Palace in 2003 by refusing to allow an openly gay cleric to take a post as a CofE bishop.

His remarks yesterday came after Coalition ministers insisted they would go ahead with a same-sex marriage law whatever the churches say.

The official website for the Archbishop of Canterbury reports:

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has made a profound impact in fighting injustice and is “a landmark in the history of moral consciousness”, says the Archbishop of Canterbury in a lecture on Human Rights and Religious Faith at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

However, Dr Williams also notes current tensions around the discourses of rights, faith and culture. He observes that there has been a more recent trend to develop Human Rights as a purely universal legal code around the entitlements claimed by individuals and in this lecture he offers an alternative approach that takes into account the cultural and the community aspects of human interaction – which is an integral part of religious belief…

Reuters reports:

… he said laws against sexual minorities were equivalent to racism, and warned that legal regulation of consensual sexual conduct “can be both unworkable and open to appalling abuse – intimidation and blackmail.”

A panel of the U.N. rights body will consider action in Geneva on Wednesday aimed at halting persecution of gays and lesbians around the world, despite fierce condemnation from Muslim and some African countries.

h/t to Thinking Anglicans

What do you read in his speech?

UPDATE: Tobias Haller comments at his blog In a Godward Direction:

The real problem in paragraph 14 is that he speaks of categories of marginalization or stigma, which is far from the reason some are advocating for marriage equality. The issue is that marriage is a fundamental human right. It has nothing to do with GLBT persons wanting “acceptance” but their wanting free access to rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled by virtue of their being human. Same-sex couples are seeking marriage equality — not the removal of some stigma.


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Gary Paul Gilbert

Mr. Williams fails the so-what test. Why should anyone care about the gap between civil law and religion? If the discourse of universal human rights is to be applied equally to all similar situations, then it ought not have any relation to any particular religion. He seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. This is the same person who wants to say he is a universalist but justifies sharia law.

Let Parliament and not the C of E legislate on assisted suicide and civil marriage equality.

“And so we face the worrying prospect of a gap opening up between a discourse of rights increasingly conceived as a universal legal ‘code’ and the specific moral and religious intuitions of actual diverse communities.”

Gary Paul Gilbert

tobias haller

[aplogies for the misspelling of Weiwen’s name… my eyesight and fingers were failing me.]

Rod, this is the problem with religious exceptionalism, and the artificial privilege given to ideologies once they are branded “religions.” Why should religious beliefs trump social goods? As someone noted recently, there is no war on religion, but there is religious war on society! It is just that the religious (some of them) want all to do as they believe ought to be done. Most religions haven’t yet woken up to the reality of a pluralistic society no longer gi8ving them the privilege of calling the shots. (The establishment in England makes it all the worse…)

Rod Gillis

Wiewen Ng has a very good point.

Here’s my problem. For decades Anglican leadership has lectured governments and business on a variety of social issues i.e. discrimination, poverty, investment policies, foreign policy etc. etc. Yet, when it comes to taking decisive action within the “household of God” what does the church do? It responds with the same rejoinders it has received from business and government i.e., ” you don’t understand” or ” this is not the time” or “it’s very complicated” or “one must respect the conscience of conservatives” blah, blah, and more blah.

The problem is not the ABC’s critique of the law in Uganda, for example. The problem is the split thinking on human and civil rights both within the church on on the part of those leading it.

tobias haller

The problem Wiewen, is his attempt to address two issues — the Ugandan and the English — in one statement. He could simply have deplored violation of human rights in the form of draconian law without even mentioning the issue of whether law should _advance_ human rights in other settings. “Chalk and cheese” — to use the English expression.

Weiwen Ng

In response to Rod Gillis – I think that reasonable conservatives should definitely be against laws like Uganda’s. They are clearly against Christian teaching. You should be able to be against legalized persecution, while at the same time opposing same-sex marriage. I could respect that, and I can think of one Christian (Tony Campolo, albeit he’s not exactly a conservative Christian overall) who takes such a stance.

So, Rowan should definitely have come out against Uganda’s law. I think some on this thread should consider: you’ve castigated him when he was silent, which is good, but you continue to castigate him now that he’s spoken … would you rather he have remained silent?

Walking back to my earlier comment, I am deeply and truly disappointed that Rowan has made an assertion that is most likely not grounded in fact. It does hurt his moral standing, in my eyes. I am also deeply disappointed about how long he has remained silent on this issue (at least that we know – he may well have thought it best to try to exert pressure behind the scenes). But he’s spoken out in public. So, I can live with this. I can excoriate him for his frankly idiotic statement on same-sex marriage in the UK, though.

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