Monday 9 April 2012

C4M - bigotry on the march in Carmarthenshire - Updated

You may not have heard of C4M, or the Coalition for Marriage, but it is active here in Carmarthenshire and has been persuading chapel-goers in the Amman Valley to sign a petition calling for the government to abandon its plans to allow gay marriage, and attacking prominent supporters of equality, including our MP Jonathan Edwards.

Supporters of C4M are of course entitled to their views, but their tactics and the message of hatred they are spreading have no place in a civilised society.

It is worth emphasising that the issue here is a very simple one. The government is proposing to give same-sex couples the right to marry in civil ceremonies. There will be no obligation on the churches, chapels or other religious bodies to carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies.

This blog has looked in the past at the bewildering maze of fundamentalist lobby groups which has grown up in recent years. It is usually fairly easy to work out how they are related to each other by looking at their websites, but C4M is rather more secretive.

It is registered as a company, however, and its relationship to other organisations becomes clear when you look at its leading personnel. And there we find our old friends the Evangelical Alliance and CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education), as well as the Christian Medical Fellowship, Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.

Looking at the C4M website, it is sometimes hard to know whether to laugh or cry. It carries a "news" section with links to newspaper articles attacking the proposals. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these come from the Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Telegraph.  There is also a blog which reports among other things on the implications of gay marriage for the monarchy and courtesy titles. One Tory MP, it says, is worried

it could allow a lesbian Queen to rule together with a Queen consort, or a gay King with a King consort.

And what will happen if a gay man is knighted? What title would his same-sex partner be entitled to use?

Perhaps the talk in the vestries of Ammanford is about nothing else.

Don Horrocks, head of public affairs for the Evangelical Alliance, has compared same-sex weddings to humans marrying animals. "Soon there will be people wanting to marry their horse or perhaps three or four people all want to get married," he is on record as telling the Guardian.

Cneifiwr lives in a small, rural community where two local businesses are run by lesbian couples. Everybody knows about the relationships, and nobody has batted an eyelid. Both couples have integrated well, and are well-liked. If they chose to marry in a civil ceremony, the likelihood is that very few people would see that in any way as a threat to anyone or anything.

If Rhys and John or Rhian and Jane down the road want to get married, in what way does that harm me or infringe on my rights? The second question is, where's my invite?

Jonathan Edwards said yesterday that C4M is deliberately spreading hysteria and ignorance, and the truth is that many chapel-goers will find it difficult to refuse signing a petition in public in front of their peers.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Alliance and CARE are pursuing their strategy of building up positions of influence in national and local government. In Wales, the Evangelical Alliance is doing that in part through its offshoot called Gweini. Gweini is busy taking on social service work for councils which are seeking to reduce costs by involving the so-called "third sector". The aim is to develop a network of influence in councils and to put local government in a position of dependency on the evangelical movement.

In Carmarthenshire, this strategy is starting to pay off. As we have seen, huge amounts of taxpayers' money are being channelled into Towy Community Church's projects, and at Christmas the council outsourced the distribution of toy boxes to three evangelical churches.

They are all signed up to Gweini and the Evangelical Alliance.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Carmarthenshire County Council is, probably unwittingly, funding and encouraging religious bigotry and hatred.


Thanks to 'Welsh Agenda' for alerting me to the antidote to C4M - the Coalition for Equal Marriage. You can find their website, resources and a petition here.


Unknown said...

It's amazing that when we try to show our tolerance we in turn become intolerant.

Where we find a message is abhorrent, it is far easier to place barriers around that message that confront it, as you have by writing ...

"Supporters of C4M are of course entitled to their views, but their tactics and the message of hatred they are spreading have no place in a civilised society."

... if, as we probably agree, the gay community should be afforded the very same rights in all aspects life as every other citizen, surely it is time to become vocal in explaining why the proposed legislation is the way forward rather than attacking the messengers of opposition.

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks John. I don't think there is such a thing as the 'gay community', but that's another issue.

I agree with you that ideally all debates should be conducted in the way you suggest, but when you're up against organisations like C4M which believe the end justifies the means, and which are happy to mislead provided they get the right result, it is naive to try to stay aloof.

Unknown said...

I think you might have misunderstood me Cneifiwr, I was certainly not advocating staying aloof, I would recommend putting a counter-proposition as an alternative view that challenges C4M in a public debate.

My personal view on the matter would be:

"... to abolish marriage completely in favour of a 'simple registration of intent', a legal registration, that is followed by whatever ceremony or celebration the participants wish."

... then everything is equal.

My use of the expression "gay community" would have been better put as "those excluded from marriage".

Anonymous said...

A little pedantic I think. Everybody knows to whom the term "gay community" refers.

Also, pointing out the defficiencies in arguments promoted by political opponents is a perfectly reasonable form of debate.

Welsh Agenda said...

Another great post.

I just wanted to spread the word about the Campaign for Equal Marriage, a broad based organisation putting the case for equal marriage in England and Wales.

It is supported by a range of community, religious groups and the mainstream political parties (but notably not Plaid Cymru).

They also an online petition that you can sign if you support equality under the law.

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks Welsh Agenda. I have updated the post to include the link.

Bratiaith said...

The simple answer to all this is for the State to cease recognising religious marriages. Churches/mosques/temples will then be free to say who can or cannot indergo their ceremonies. State recognised marriages would only occur in registry offices.

Cneifiwr said...

Da iawn, Bratiaith. Sounds radical, doesn't it? But that's exactly how things work in most European countries, and that's how it's been for a very long time. You have a civil ceremony first, and then, if you want, you can go to church, mosque, etc.

glynbeddau said...

The answer would be to follow the French Model .

Only State Marriages are legally recognised

The custom is to be married by the local official. (The Mayor).

Then if you are inclined go to a place of Worship and undergo a ceremonial.

You can have both or just the civil ceremony. But a Church wedding on its own is not a legal marriage.

Only the first is

Iestyn said...

I think that's how it works in the UK as well.

The Church (or chapel) wedding means nothing, legally, without the legal signmature, in front of an official registrar. OK, the official registrar is usually in the vestry, but it's still the state part of the wedding.

On the main point of the article, the odd thing about the "Christian" response to Gay marriage is that I haven't yet seen anyone quoting Christ or his teachings as to why Gay marriage is so terrible. It seems to be a human objection based on a restricted reading of the Old Testament.

Anonymous said...

Christ listed "Sexual Immorality" as an "evil." But you don't need to be a Theologian to realise that 39 million dead means something is wrong.