LONDON — More than 1,000 Roman Catholic priests have signed a letter voicing fears that legalization of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during “centuries of persecution” of Roman Catholics in England.
The letter, published Saturday in London’s Daily Telegraph, said marriage equality for gays and lesbians would “severely restrict” Catholics’ ability to practice and speak publicly about their faith, and may even lead to Catholics being excluded from jobs.
“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 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 letter, which describes “traditional” marriage as “the foundation and basic building block of our society,” and asserts that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to legalize same-ex marriage could lead to Catholics being imprisoned for expressing their religious beliefs in schools, hospitals, prisons and the military.
“We urge Members of Parliament not to be afraid to reject this legislation now that its consequences are more clear,” it states.
The letter, signed by 1,054 priests, as well as 13 bishops, abbots and other senior Catholic figures, is believed to be one of the biggest open letters of its type ever written, said the Telegraph.
The British government announced in December that it plans to introduce same-sex marriage before the next general election in 2015.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said that the marriage proposal would “not change anything about teaching in schools” and teachers would “continue to be able to express their own, personal beliefs about marriage.”