Jayne Ozanne, a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, and Reverend Graeme Halls, Superintendent of the Methodist Circuit in Jersey, have written open letters this weekend urging States of Jersey members to reject the so called ‘tolerance clause’ from marriage legislation that is due to be debated this week.
The Scrutiny Panel’s amendment to the Marriage Law that includes the ‘tolerance clause’ would permit the following to happen in Jersey: where an individual business owner on grounds of religious conviction objects to participating in an Equal Marriage, they may refuse to provide goods and services to the marriage ceremony and/or a social event or function associated with the marriage.
For Jayne Ozanne, an openly gay evangelical Christian, “anything that seeks to divide and separate us, that looks to demonise one group as the ‘other’ can only ever cause pain and suffering, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society.”
For Reverend Halls the line is clear: “This is a debate about how we ensure all of our community has equal rights and responsibilities, and that means that one group does not and cannot have the right to discriminate against another, and certainly not for that to be enshrined in law.”
Reverend Halls’ letter looks back at times when the Church’s view has shifted immeasurably on issues such as slavery and women’s equality, whilst Jayne Ozanne’s letter looks forward to the next generation of Anglicans, who support same-sex marriage overwhelmingly: “Virtually all main-stream denominations are now discussing how best to recognise and bless same sex unions, and many have gone further to enable same-sex couples to marry in church. Only last summer, the Episcopal Church of Scotland voted to allow same-sex marriage”.
Both leaders remind their readers of the Christian value of love for thy neighbour.
Revered Halls: “Surely we seek a world where all are respected, all are shown equal care, and all this because, whether we have faith or not, we are one humanity, and for those with faith, we believe all are equally loved by God, made in God’s image, one Body, many parts.”
Jayne Ozanne: “My prayer would be that we build a society that knits us closer together, that we enshrine the values that make us thrive and that we seek to embrace the diversity and equality of all. To do otherwise would be create a society that is defined by its divisions, which builds walls rather than bridges, and so opens the door to further discrimination against those who are our neighbours.”