Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken out in defence of a church that cancelled a straight couple’s wedding because they support equal marriage.
It was reported last week that Ebenezer St John’s Church in Ballarat, Victoria had cancelled a couple’s long-standing wedding booking with just two months to go.
Church minister Steve North reportedly made the decision after seeing the bride had posted a message on Facebook in support of same-sex marriage ahead of a public vote on the issue in Australia.
Even though the couple is heterosexual North told the bride, who has many gay friends, that he would not officiate her ceremony or permit the marriage to go ahead in his church.
Incredibly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has waded into the row – to defend the church.
He insisted: “Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please. That is part of religious freedom.
“I mean there are many churches, including my own church, the Catholic Church, who will not marry someone who has been married before.”
He added: “Churches are free to marry whoever they like. You know, it’s not for me to… this gives me an opportunity to say something about the issue of religious freedom.”
He added: “I just want to reassure Australians that as strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, as strongly as I believe in that, even more strongly, if you like, do I believe in religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is fundamental and it will be protected in any bill that emerges from this Parliament.”
Mr Turnbull continued: “If there is a ‘yes’ majority in the postal survey when it comes back, the bill will include strong protections for religious freedoms, Australians should not be concerned about that.”
In letter to the couple, the church’s pastor had written: “By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct.
“Also, if the wedding proceeded in the Ebenezer St John’s church buildings, the same inferences could be drawn about the Presbyterian denomination. Such inferences would be wrong.”
In a response to the pastor, the couple wrote: “We feel this decision is absolutely disgraceful and is a disgrace to you and all the church, especially when we have been loyal and valued members of this congregation for 10 years.
“You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage?
“We understand we did agree with the teachings of the church in our marriage counselling but just because we agree with that for our own lives, doesn’t mean that we have to push those beliefs onto others.”
Elsewhere, a school in Perth infuriated parents by inviting an anti-gay marriage group to ‘teach’ kids about why gay unions are wrong.