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Second Church Estates Commissioner rejects govt’s gay marriage bill: The Church of England Newspaper, February 8, 2013 February 14, 2013

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The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, broke ranks with his party’s leadership this week and spoke against adoption of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

Rising to speak during the debate following the Second Reading of the Bill, Sir Tony stated that while he would vote against the bill, he wished to thank the government for their assurances that the legislation would protect religious freedom.

Speaking in his capacity as Second Church Estates Commission, Sir Tony said he wanted to “make clear to the House the views of the Church of England on the provisions that the Government have included to safeguard religious freedoms. Let me make it clear that I entirely accept the Government’s good faith in this matter and am appreciative, as is the Bishop of Leicester, who convenes the Bishops in the other place, and as are senior Church officials, of the attempts the Government have made.”

He noted the government was correct in ensuring that “every Church and denomination can reach its own conclusion on these matters and be shielded so far as possible from the risk of litigation” and he accepted the government’s pledge that the “quadruple locks” would protect the rights of the Church of England.

“The so-called quadruple locks are sensible and necessary,” he said, adding the “simple point” is that the Church of England and the Church in Wales “have not wanted anything different in substance from all other Churches and faiths—namely, to be left entirely free to determine their own doctrine and practice in relation to marriage.”

However, Sir Tony noted the Church of England was not a creature of Parliament. While it had a common law duties to marry all parishioners, the issue was rather “complex” as its “canon law remains part of the law of the land and it also has its own devolved legislature which, with Parliament’s agreement, can amend Church legislation and Westminster legislation.”

He noted that in changing marriage, the government was creating a “number of extremely difficult second-order issues. Although the failure to consummate a marriage will still be a ground on which a heterosexual marriage can be voidable, the Bill provides that consummation is not to be a ground on which a marriage of a same-sex couple will be voidable.”

“It also provides that adultery is to have its existing definition—namely, sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. It therefore follows that divorce law for heterosexual couples will be fundamentally different from divorce law for same-sex couples, because for heterosexual couples the matrimonial offence of adultery will persist while there will be no similar matrimonial offence in relation to same-sex marriage. The fact that officials have been unable to apply these long-standing concepts to same-sex marriage is a further demonstration of just how problematic is the concept of same-sex marriage.”

“There is an inevitable degree of risk in all this,” he said. While the “Government believe that this is a risk worth taking. The Church of England does not.” Sir Tony said.

Anti-Semitism inquiry launched by Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 6 February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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John Mann MP

The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (APPGAS) has launched an inquiry into electoral conduct in the U.K.

The member for Bassetlaw, John Mann (Lab.) the chairman of the APPGAS said the group would “investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of existing lines of responsibility and accountability in managing elections and specifically, charges of misconduct during elections with a particular focus on racism and discrimination.”

The member for Northeast Derbyshire, Natascha Engel (Lab), will chair the all-party inquiry. “I am convinced that in both learning from existing good practice and bringing new ideas to the fore we can change electoral conduct for the better. In doing so, we will give confidence to constituents, clarity to candidates and we will establish a British model of electoral best practice.”

The vice-chair of the group, the member for Ealing Central and Acton, Angie Bray (Cons.) said:Maintaining best practice in electoral conduct by preventing racist and anti-Semitic campaigning and literature is a crucial aspect in the fight against intolerance and I look forward to working with colleagues across many parties in both Houses to see how best we can join together to provide sensible solutions to these problems.”

Britain has come under criticism in recent months from Jewish leaders and civil rights activists for the growing culture of public anti-Semitism. The member for Bradford East, David Ward was disciplined by the Liberal Democrat Party last week after posting comments about Jews and Israel on his website to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Ward wrote he had “signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day” and describes Auschwitz as “the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history”.

But he added: “Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The comments have subsequently been taken down. A party spokesman told the Telegraph: “This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable.”

The inquiry will not be restricted to anti-Semitism, however, and “will focus on discrimination more broadly and is being supported by the APPGs on Equalities and Race & Community,” the announcement said.

Metal theft concerns raised in Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, March 16, 2012 p 7. March 21, 2012

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Tony Baldry MP

Concerns over the economic and social costs of metal thefts from churches and war memorials dominated questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry, in Parliament last week.

On 1 March 2012, Mr. Baldry answered four Oral Parliamentary Questions in the Commons and answered a written question on 5 March about metal thefts.  Last week’s questions follow on questions raised by MPs on 20 Feb and 19 Jan 2012 on the costs of the 0ver 2500 metal thefts from churches reported in 2011.

In response to a written question from the member for Ashfield, Ms. Gloria De Piero (Lab.) about the total costs of metal theft, Mr. Baldry stated that the “total value of cost to the Church of England” for metal thefts in “2010 was around £6.5 million of which around £2.3 million was covered by insurance.”

In 2011 the cost “was around £10 million of which around £4.4 million was covered by insurance.”

The previous week Mr. Baldry answered nine questions in Parliament, four of which dealt with metal thefts and related issues.

The member for Truro and Falmouth, Ms. Sarah Newton (Con.) asked “what steps the Church Commissioners are taking to ensure that cathedrals are able to access insurance.”

Mr. Baldry responded the Church Commissioners were aware of the “increasing demands that cathedrals are making on their insurance policies, especially as a consequence of metal theft. The majority of cathedrals are insured by Ecclesiastical Insurance and so far no Cathedral has ever been refused any insurance claim by Ecclesiastical, which is working extremely hard with all cathedrals to assist in reducing the problem of metal theft.”

Ms. Newton noted that she had read of instances where cathedrals were “unable to insure themselves.”

“So will my hon. Friend keep ensuring that cathedrals can afford insurance?”

Mr. Baldry responded that he believed her concerns were justified, but deflected her question. “Cathedrals have not been immune from thefts,” he noted, adding that each new theft “puts up the costs of insurance in all cathedrals.”

“That is why we have to bear down on metal theft,” the Second Church Estates Commissioner said.

The members for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Mr. Tom Blenkinsop, (Lab.) and Hexam, Mr. Guy Opperman, (Con.) rose to ask what steps were being taken to protect churches, churchyards and war memorials from metal thefts, and if there had been any consultations with the government over these issues?

Mr. Baldry said that he, the Bishop of London and the chairman of the cathedral and church buildings division of the Church of England, Mrs. Anne Sloman, have had “numerous detailed discussions with a number of Ministers on the issue of metal theft from church property.”

Asked by Mr. Opperman whether he would support stiffer prison terms for metal thieves, Mr. Baldry replied there was a “general desire across the House for the courts seriously to consider deterrent sentences for what is a despicable crime.”

The member for Leyton and Wanstead, Mr. John Cryer (Lab.) rose and asked whether grants might be available to churches to protect them from theft.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner responded that churches that had installed roof alarms or used SmartWater had seen a “substantially reduced” incidence of theft.  These steps were “necessarily that expensive and I hope that all churches will look at how they can improve security to deter metal theft.”

The member for Sherwood, Mr. Mark Spencer (Con.) rose and asked whether there had been discussion with English Heritage about “allowing fibreglass replacements of lead roofs so that the crime is no longer a temptation?”

While there had beencontinuous discussions with English Heritage” about replacing lead with fiberglass, some “60 per cent of grade-I listed buildings in this country are Church of England churches, and there are some restraints as a consequence of those listings,” Mr. Baldry said.

The member for Walsall South, Ms. Valerie Vaz (Lab) rose and asked a new question of the Second Church Estates Commissioner about the number of churches using marking systems to prevent metal thefts and the costs of such systems.

Forensic marking is “widespread and strongly encouraged” Mr. Baldry said.  “Some 12,500 churches have registered with the SmartWater scheme,” he said, adding that SmartWater had “been successful in a number of cases involving arrests and successful prosecutions.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay marriage ‘nuts’: The Church of England Newspaper, March 9, 2012, p 6 March 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage, Politics.
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The Church of England will be making a submission to the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry told Parliament last week.

On 1 March 2012, the member for Wellingborough, Mr. Peter Bone, (Con.) asked what “recent representations he has received on the implications for the Church Commissioners of the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage.”

Mr. Baldry stated the Church of England would be making a “detailed submission to the forthcoming consultation exercise, which will provide an opportunity for a more focused critique of what is proposed, including the proposal to distinguish in law between civil and religious marriage.”

In response Mr. Bone asked if it would not be simpler “just to write back and say, ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman so this is completely nuts’?”

The Second Church Estates Commissioner declined to be drawn over the sanity of the government’s plans, but noted that “so far as the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and many other faith groups are concerned, marriage is a union between one man and one woman. That is a point that we will be putting forward, I hope, responsibly and clearly in the consultation.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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