The referendum in Ireland that saw 62% of the population vote for legalising same-sex marriages clearly demonstrates a major shift in society. The Ireland that we possibly think of as being largely Catholic and conservative, clearly isn’t.
The shift in attitudes is happening around the world. It is a dramatic time in terms of changes in our understanding of morality.
A question for the church, of course, is whether it should follow suit or continue to stand where it always has. It is a question the Irish churches have anticipated. Their decision has been that they continue to believe that marriage is a relationship of one man and one woman.
The Presbyterian Church of Ireland, The Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church of Ireland have expressed their views following the referendum.
Essentially, they express disappointment and ongoing belief in traditional marriage. They call for tolerance and they say that it is a wake-up call indicating that the church needs to work much harder to speak to the younger generations.
In related news, a Christian Irish printer must face a complaint to the Equality Tribunal after refusing to print invitations to a civil partnership ceremony, and a Christian bakery has been found guilty of discrimination after refusing to make a cake with a slogan promoting gay marriage.
Central to both of these cases is that the businesses had not discriminated on the basis of their customer’s sexuality. They had served them in the past. They had simply refused to be part of something that was contrary to their consciences.
A Canadian jeweler agreed to make engagement rings for a lesbian couple but they asked for their money back when they later discovered that he believes marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. They believed their rings were “tainted”. It wasn’t that he had refused them service – simply that he had expressed his Christian beliefs (and not to them) which they found offensive. These cases raise all sorts of questions about freedom of belief and freedom of speech. It is an interesting time to be a Christian.