The Undermining of the Family: Where are we at?

John Deighan FAITH Magazine November-December 2007

The Catholic Church and Christian values in general are suffering considerable opposition in society on a variety of issues. As a result our influence is ebbing from public life and we are increasingly finding ourselves at odds with popular culture and political opinion in areas of morality such as bioethics, right to life, family and sexual ethics.

The Family: Cell of Society

The Church recognises the family as the building block of society and for good reason has carefully defended the understanding of family relationships and of human sexuality which is so intimately linked to the ordering of family life and the procreation of succeeding generations.
In human and spiritual terms the focus on the family for any struggle between conflicting worldviews is obvious since it is here that cultural and religious values are primarily passed on.
Recent changes in legislation have transformed the legal understanding of family structure and human sexuality. These changes have been preceded by changes in the views being promoted in the culture shaping institutions of society such that there are now a considerable number of people in the areas of politics, law, media and education who are ready to implement a new agenda for family and social life.

The Need to Understand

It is important to understand the nature and ambition of this agenda and to recognise the tools that are being used to permit its spread.

In a society founded on the exaltation of freedom it is understandable that the desire to satisfy one’s human appetites takes an ever firmer grip on individuals who live in an environment where they have considerable spending power and great encouragement to spend on pleasures and material goods. With the decline in religiosity which has accompanied this change the meaning of life easily gets equated with the pursuit of pleasure. The overt sexualisation of society has proceeded with dramatic pace aided greatly by television soap operas, advertising, film entertainment etc.

Issues around sexuality and sexual practice are therefore powerful factors in shaping public attitudes and concomitantly the policies of public authorities.

An important aspect of this cultural development has been the influential presence of the homosexual movement in public life. The role of this movement as a tool to marginalise religion in society should not be overlooked. An overview of the progress of the homosexual movement in recent years is necessary to assess its rapid and startling success.

Dangers of Underestimating the Troubles

The greatest obstacle to halting the advance of the secularist culture has been a failure to recognise the ambition and goal of its protagonists. In seven short years there has been a massive transformation in the understanding of family life. The plans for this transformation had already been set out but were not widely known and so ambitious as not to have been taken seriously. At each stage it has usually been the prevailing view in society that it is inconceivable that anyone would want to move beyond the proposals currently being examined and there has been a broad willingness to accept assurances that developments would go no further. It has been a soft revolution to which few have raised voices of protest.

To gain an insight into the end point aimed at by homosexual campaign groups it is useful to consider and the terms ‘homophobia’ and ‘heterosexist’. We need to understand what the abolition of the supposed social evils they label will achieve. The former is understood as dislike of homosexuality[1] and the latter as the belief that heterosexuality is the norm. By working to get these recognised as social evils akin to racism or sexism[2]it has been possible to get towards the goal, which is that homosexual behaviour is firmly accepted in society and that society should be indifferent to the form of relationships which individuals choose to enter or make the basis of their family lives.

Recent Legislative Changes

Thus in 2000 we saw the removal of the law which prevented the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities (Clause 2a) because it was maintained that no-one would ever want to promote homosexuality[3]. The logic of removing a law which prohibits what no-one wants to do is applied in no other area unless it is decided that it is acceptable to do the once proscribed activity. This is what could have been anticipated and what has in fact happened. Massive funding was available for groups to create materials and get involved in youth work, especially focusing on the areas of bullying[4] and sexual health services.

The next stage was the promotion of the concept that sexuality is not biologically determined but rather socially constructed. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was introduced to allow individuals to choose their ‘gender’ and it is permissible to be of male sex and have a female gender.
The Sexual Health Strategy allowed further growth towards the equivalence of heterosexual and homosexual behaviour. No recognition is ever made as to the disparity in health outcomes between the two lifestyles save to insist that homosexual individuals are deserving of greater recognition in the provision of services. The message promoted through the sexual health strategy also led to greater targeting of children and the policy adopted was that children could have access to Sexual Health services without parental knowledge or consent[5]. This removes children from the protection of their family environment and allows increased sexualisation of our culture which aids the view of sex as recreation and separates it from its reproductive naturalorder.

Throughout local authorities and even in private business through the work of trade unions there are many ‘gay and lesbian’ associations and ‘diversity training’ courses for staff to ensure that they are sensitive to the needs of homosexuals. These are usually very supportive of homosexual relationships.

The Civil Partnership Act, passed in November 2004, raised homosexual relationships to the same status as marriage by granting the same rights to couples entering a civil partnership as to spouses entering marriage. Again it was argued that this was necessary to protect the rights of individuals in terms of property and wealth. Society was by this time well prepared to accept this measure although it was claimed that it was not at all the same as marriage despite being modelled very closely on the Marriage Act. It was also promised that the partnerships would merely involve couples signing the necessary papers with no ceremony being attached[6]. The civil partnership was devised to take effect at the signing of the contract rather than at theexchanging of vows for this very reason. Immediately upon being passed ceremonies were insisted upon and registrars compelled to offer the service by most local authorities. In wider society it is now common for those entering into civil partnership to be regarded as getting married[7]. At the same time local authorities etc. are changing forms to remove references to marriage and husband, wife, spouse being more and more replaced by partner or conflating ‘married’ and ‘civil partner’ together.

Having established that homosexual relationships are the same as heterosexual relationships the next step of promoting homosexual relationships as equal in providing a suitable environment to raise children logically and actually followed. The adoption bill permitted homosexual couples jointly to adopt and in another strike against the status of marriage also allowed unmarried couples to adopt. This bill was given overwhelming approval by the Scottish Parliament in December 2006. The Church opposed this development but also highlighted the problems that could be faced by Catholic adoption agencies that would want to follow the Church’s understanding (and in fact that confirmed by sociological evidence) that married couples present the best environment for raising children. It was insistedby government ministers that at the time they had no intention of preventing or hindering Catholic adoption agencies from selecting suitable adoptive parents in line with their beliefs. No evidence that the innovation was in the interest of children was made available but rather it was assumed that same-sex couples had to be as good as a mother and father since the equivalence had already been established in previous legislation. The unusual step was taken by the responsible parliamentary committee of asking those who were opposed to the innovation to prove that it was wrong rather than expecting the supporters of change to justify the change[8].

Very quickly it became apparent that Catholic agencies would not be safe. The Equality Act 2006 had provisions to create regulations (commonly referred to as the SORs or sexual orientation regulations) which would establish laws banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services including education[9]. Having firmly embedded the notion that homosexual relationships are good it is now to be illegal to discriminate on sexual orientation of couples seeking to adopt children. An agency assessing a married couple alongside a transvestite and his boyfriend must be indifferent to their ‘sexual orientation’ when deciding who the child is to be placed with.

The Equality Act created a new body: the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, CEHR, which will have the power to take up cases on behalf of those who feel there has been discrimination under the provisions of the Equality Act. Ben Summerskill is one of the Commissioners of the CEHR and Chief Executive of Stonewall, the most influential homosexual campaigning group. His predecessor at Stonewall was Angela Mason who until recently was head of the department which produced the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The provisions of the Sexual Orientation Regulations are binding across Scotland, England and Wales. Northern Ireland has its own version. The exemptions to faith groups are very tightly drawn such that they relate only to doctrinal and sacramental matters within the walls of the Church. Within schools it is accepted that it may be possible to state as a proposition that the Catholic Church teaches such and such a thing but not to insist that it is objectively true[10]. Regulation 7(4) covers detriment to a pupil such that it is not permissible, in the words of the minister Baroness Andrews, “to make a child feel that the school is not a place for them”. We of course understand that this should never be the case and that all people shouldbe supported. But we need to remember that homosexual practice and orientation are conflated by the government so that not supporting a homosexual lifestyle is not to support the person who claims to be homosexual.

End of the Line?

It would be a mistake to believe that these regulations mark the end of this process or that they can be somehow worked around. They have been carefully prepared and are in line with the agenda which has unfolded steadily always with assurances that things are not going to get worse for those who disagree. The end point should not be forgotten and that is that opposition to homosexuality (‘homophobia’) will be treated as a social evil. To hope for a benign interpretation of the agenda is what has prevented effective opposition to it in the past. “Heterosexism” is recognised as another social evil, more akin to ‘sectarianism’ as it is understood by the Executive. Thus educational initiatives are already underway to introduce young children to positive examples of ‘gay and lesbian’relationships[11]. In Scotland the curriculum is not set by law but this does not mean that what is followed in the curriculum can breach any law. Schools will be expected to fulfil the requirements of the Equality Act.

The homosexual lobby has been very effective in aligning itself with minority groups, is prominently represented at the Holocaust memorial service[12] each year and has created an image of itself as a group of people under persecution. This further prepares the mood for dealing with those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle, or in fact not just those who oppose it but those who fail to approve it.

There has been considerable agitation from the Equality Network in Scotland because of the failure of the Scottish Executive to bring forward measures on Hate Crime yet.

In a report from an Equality Network conference the question is posed “Should we be aiming to close down all the churches that preach against LGBT or against LGBT community?” It goes on to ask “Churches aren’t allowed to deny people communion on the grounds of race or disability - why sexual orientation?”[13] In light of the recent success, should we discount the possibility of success for the homosexual lobby if these do become the campaign issues of the near future? It is worth noting that Brazil is considering laws to imprison priests who preach against homosexuality.

The media through entertainment, soap operas and film has helped to promote and reinforce values which are detrimental to family life. These have coarsened attitudes and prepared society to be more accepting of promiscuity, infidelity and a variety of sexual lifestyles. At the same time the views of Christianity are being highlighted as an impediment to the new freedoms allegedly being enjoyed.

There are no doubt many significant reasons as to why this is the case but one aspect which needs to be considered is the extent to which some lobbying groups have advanced their views to influence thinking in public life. Lessons can be learned from a simple look at Stonewalls website and the myriad of projects which have been established to influence public opinion and to raise money, much of it public money.

The Scottish Executive has been providing financial support to the LGBT Hearts and Minds Group. This group is itself divided into five working groups which cover:

Education and family
Media and leadership
Citizenship and society
Workplace
Religion and belief

The Group will report in autumn of this year. The Scottish parliament has been encouraging the work through the Equal Opportunities Committee and continued support has been placed on the agenda of the incoming MSPs who will make up this group in the new parliamentary term.

Recently a teacher in a non-denominational school related her experience of young secondary pupils discussing their outrage that a ‘mad Christian party’ was standing and that they were ‘anti-gay’. The pupils unanimously deplored this and some commented that some people had obviously not learned the lessons of the Jewish holocaust. This may be one example but it seems to indicate that propaganda methods are working as planned and we may expect one-day for orthodox Christian teaching to be regarded on a par with the policies of the BNP.

Balancing Respect and Truth

There is a need to be concerned about the pastoral needs of persons with homosexual inclinations. However great efforts in proclaiming the dignity of active homosexual persons, confuses many people who are not used to seeing the dignity of adulterers or pornographers proclaimed with vehemence in the same breath as their behaviour is reproved. I believe that such messages can be interpreted as a sign that the behaviour is not being clearly rejected. At the same time an effective support network for those who wish to live a chaste life in spite of homosexual temptations is necessary lest faithful people are left alienated and feeling separated from the Church.

A Way Ahead

A response I believe is to apply the antidote to the poison of the bad ideas which such groups have propagated. Society is now hostile to religion to such an extent that it will be difficult to promote Christianity directly. Government bodies will not help and businesses in turn are likely to be too nervous about attacks from secular groups.

There is a need to find principles that can be established around which a Christian culture can be regenerated. The difficulty we have is that much of the language we would wish to use has been corrupted such that it is ambiguous, so tolerance and human rights can now be used to suppress Catholic beliefs and the freedom of Catholics to teach.

Natural law principles need to be re-asserted and these have to be chosen carefully to counteract what has gone wrong.

Beyond this, in the public and political spheres I would suggest that we need a campaign be commenced which focuses on

Freedom of conscience
Importance of marriage
Stability of family life

There is a variety of possibilities and I hope to offer some suggestions in a forthcoming issue of this magazine.

See also Road from Regensburg, Muslim Weekly piece and Neuhaus

Appendix:

 

  

Legal Instrument

Legal Change

Effect

 

 

 

Scotland Act 1998

Scottish parliament implemented Consultative Steering Group recommendations on discrimination. Established Sexual Orientation as a strand of equality.

Established a rule that all Executive Bills
should have a statement of impact on
equality, including for LGBT people. It set up an Equal Opportunities Committee
Executive and established an Equality Unit to ‘mainstream equality’.

2000 Clause 2a repealed

Decriminalised the promotion  of homosexuality by local authorities

Allowed public funding of campaigning groups who use health and bullying issues to promote their vision of sexual relationships and the acceptance of homosexuality.

Sexual Health Strategy

Promoted div ersity in sexuality and easy access to sexual health services including to school children

Groups now able to promote further the sexualisation of society and target children

Gender Recognition Act June 2004

Allowed individuals to choose a new gender

Reinforced the idea that gender is a social construct and undermined further the understanding of natural law.

Civil Partnership November 2004

Allowed same-sex couples to register their
relationships and be treated in exactly the
same way as married couples.

Civil partnerships celebrated widely as marriage. Benefits open to marriage made available to all civil partners

Family Law Bill 2006 (passed December 2005)

No fault divorce made easier, cohabitation recognized in law

Weakening status of marriage in society and the legal protection of the marriage bond

Adoption Bill 2007 (passed December 2006)

Unmarried couples including same-sex couples permitted to adopt jointly.

Children now able to be placed with a same-sex couple

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007) March 2007

Outlaws the discrimination on the grounds
of sexual orientation in the

Removal of right to disagree with promotion
or practice of homosexuality when
providing services which cooperate in so doing. Must regard heterosexual and homosexual relationship as morally equivalent and equally socially acceptable. Encompass-ing education to allow promotion of these values in schools and limit the freedom to dissent.

Future?
Hate crime, Harassment, Expanse of
educational initiatives to overcome
‘homophobia’ and ‘heterosexism’.
New Cabinet Secretary for Justice has
endorsed in principle creating hate crime.[14]
.

Aiming to eradicate the promotion of
views which are seen as socially evil
and to prevent those who promote
what is regarded as hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]The following gives a typical understanding of the term and is taken from www.religioustolerance.org/hom\_phob.htm “In our web site, we choose to define these words in terms of actions, not beliefs:
homophobia as engaging in a behaviour aimed at restricting the human rights of persons who have a homosexual orientation and/or who engages in homosexual behaviour. This behaviour can take many forms: signing a plebiscite; sending an Email to one’s senator or representative; participating in a demonstration; voting on a school board; voting to elect a homophobe; talking to co-workers or friends, delivering a sermon; etc. These rights include what many believe to be the most important human right: to be married; to have their spousal status recognised and registered; and to be assigned benefits and obligations by the government. Other rights are protection from hate-motivated crimes, protection in accommodation, and employment security.
homophobe as a person who engages in homophobic behaviour.
-homophobic, an adjective referring to a behaviour which attempts to maintain special rights for heterosexuals.”
[2]“Heterosexism is based on unfounded prejudices, just as racism, sexism, ageism, and so on, are based on unfounded prejudices. Most of society’s institutions unwittingly encourage these prejudices; sometimes they do so deliberately and maliciously.” ( http://www.glcsnsw.org.au/documents/lnfopack/09\_heterosexism.pdf).
[3]Four examples: (i) “We believe that repeal of section 2a is about creating a more tolerant Scotland. We believe it will make it easier for teachers and schools to deal with sensitive issues that arise. But it definitely will not lead to homosexuality being promoted in our schools” Sam Galbraith, Minister for Children & Education, in letter to all school boards and headteachers January 2000. (ii) “The education minister has been at pains to stress to parents, the Catholic church and Cardinal Winning that nothing will change if the clause is scrapped.” Parliament ready for Section 28 debate, By Elizabeth Quigley, BBC Scotland political correspondent, 8 Feb, 2000 (iii) “Promotion of homosexuality is impossible, and no-one has any interestin attempting it.” Equality Network, Written evidence for the Equal Opportunities Committee on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill 20th March 2000. (iv) “The bill also provides for the repeal of section 2A. That repeal is not, and never has been, about the promotion of homosexuality in our schools. It is not about political correctness or, even less, about marriage. It is about building a tolerant Scotland.” Wendy Alexander, Minister for Communities in Scottish Parliament debate, 21st June 2000.
[4]Fergus McMillan, LGBT Youth Scotland’s policy manager, said: “What we particularly bring to the new anti-bullying service is a sense of diversity and a set of skills about working with a group of pupils who are marginalised and don’t have power. We want to work with the Catholic Education Service and Catholic schools just as we will engage with everyone.” Equality Network News November 2006.
[5]This has been the case at least since the mid-1980’s Gillick ruling. In the Scotland in recent times this practice has been based upon a very dubious interpretation the Age of Legal Capacity Act (Scotland) 1991 by the Scottish Executive. It is now explicitly part of the 2005 Sexual Health Strategy.
[6]“There is no legal requirement for a ceremony to make a civil marriage legal, and the law on civil partnerships (available from 5th December this year) mirrors civil marriage. However, the General Register Office for Scotland issues guidance to district registrars on the form of civil marriage ceremonies, including a form of words, which registrars follow (except that, at their discretion, they can agree a different wording with the couple).” Extract from Equality Network Press Release 08/03/2005.
[7]Hello magazine now refers to Elton John’s partner as his “husband”.
[8]e.g. Frank McAveetyMSP, Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Evidence Session 7 June 2006 gave the “perfect example” of a woman in a long-term same-sex relationship, who herself was adopted: “... the woman is in a stable relationship, understands what it is like to bring up children in difficult circumstances, cares passionately and possesses moral values that are as strong as those of anyone around this table. Why should she not be allowed to adopt?”
[9]“The regulations will therefore impact upon how education is delivered to ensure that a classroom becomes a place where learning and not prejudice can flourish.” Baroness Andrews, Hansard 21/3/07, Column 1293.
[10]“ln our view there is an important difference between this factual information being imparted in a descriptive way as part of a wide-ranging syllabus about different religions, and a curriculum which teaches a particular religion’s doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true.” Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights report on the regulations of 26 February 2007.
[11]‘King and King’ (See Appendix 4) is a story for young children which is one of several being promoted in a government sponsored project. The project report states - “Ofsted and DfES have both identified homophobic bullying (bullying based on assumptions about sexual orientation) as a key priority for all schools. Many children will have a connection, through family or friends, to non-heterosexual relationships, and some will come to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, but the life experience of all children will be profoundly affected by the ethos of their school, and this means creating a school environment where no-one is an outsider. This might involve, for example, including non-heterosexual relationships withindiscussions of family, friendship, self or growing up, exploring a range of identities and relationships through literacy, art, history or drama, or including a specific focus on homophobia within a class- or school-based initiative to tackle bullying.” http://www.nooutsiders.sunderland.ac.uk/about-the-project.
[12]This link has been encouraged by some groups as one which should be made with school children, for example see www.schools-out.org.uk/teachingpack/awholeschoolissue.htm which encourages schools to have ‘inclusions of oppression of gays and lesbians when looking at the Holocaust in history.’
[13]Brave New World, LGBT Equality In A Changing Scotland, Report From The Conference, 20th May 2006. The Arches, Glasgow.
[14]For example, following the development of the Sexual Orientation Regulations The Scottish Executive Equality Unit has stated: The key commitment from the Executive was to establish a Forum to look in detail at the issues around hearts and minds... what specific recommendations needed to be made to the Executive and partner organisations in order to challenge prejudice and tackle discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” (n.37). March 2006.

Faith Magazine

November - December 2007