The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has now written on this subject.
See his article in the Scotsman The Most Rev David Chillingworth: A secular state should be prepared to defend religious freedom and his article on Thinking Aloud Church, state and the secular society.
…The suggestion has been made that the Scottish Government does not have a mandate to introduce legislation which is of such fundamental significance for our society. The implication is that these are “non-negotiable” areas. If the Scottish Government was proposing to legislate to enshrine in law discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, colour or race, I would publicly oppose their moral right to do so. But that is not the nature of these consultation proposals.
So what does this say about the relationship of church and state in modern society? I have often said that I am a supporter of the secular state because it sustains a proper separation between legislature, judiciary and church.
In my Irish background, I have experienced both the confessional state which was the Irish Republic in my childhood and the Northern Irish mirror image – the sabbatarian “lock up the playgrounds on Sunday” society. Neither was healthy. A secular state should defend religious freedom – but it will not make any assumptions about religious faith nor defer to it.
If, following the consultation period, the Scottish Government and parliament feel that they should legislate in this way, I believe that it is their right to do so. It is clear that there would be an “opt-out” protection for those who cannot accept this. Churches and faith groups would have to decide whether they wished to use or to stand outside the provisions of such legislation…
This has been reported also in the news columns of the Scotsman as Gay marriages backed by Episcopal Church* which is a most perverse interpretation of what the Primus has said. Which was this:
IN THE Scottish Episcopal Church, we’re thinking about our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage and other related issues. The definition of marriage set out in our Canons is that, “marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman”. That is the position of our church. It’s a difficult issue for us – as it is for all churches and faith groups. We have among our membership people who feel passionately that change is needed – and those who feel equally strongly that we should resist any attempt to broaden society’s understanding of marriage. The consultation period is very short. Among the things we shall say will be that if – and it’s a big “if” – we were to consider changing our canonical definition of marriage, that would require a two-year process in our General Synod, the outcome of which could not be predicted with any certainty.
We haven’t got involved in public debate about this. We’ve been asked for our view and we shall give it in a considered manner – believing that the time for public debate comes later…
* The Scotsman later changed its online headline to read Episcopal Church considers changing stance on gay marriages. Which is less of a stretch.