Legalizing same-sex marriage in Denmark
2014: Confusion elsewhere over church freedom
to discriminate against same-sex couples.
2014-JUN: Widespread confusion and misinformation circulates in the U.S. about marriage equality in Denmark (Cont'd):
The misinformation published in The Telegraph newspaper was quickly picked up by conservative religious media outlets in the U.S. Many of the latter indicated concern that the U.S. federal government might follow the Government of Denmark's policy and pass a law requiring all faith groups in the U.S. to marry same-sex couples.
One example of the misinformation is found in an article in the American Family Association's the One News Now information web site. It is titled: "Churches ORDERED to perform sodomy-based wedding ceremonies." 11
Bryan Fischer wrote:
"According to the London Telegraph, a new law passed by the Danish parliament '... make(s) it mandatory for all churches [in Denmark] to conduct gay marriages.' No options, no exceptions, no choice. Homosexuals are to be married wherever they want, regardless of whose conscience is trampled and whose sanctuary is defiled in the process." 9,[Emphasis by us].
Although Fischer wrote his article during 2014-JUN, the "new law" to which he is referring was actually passed two years earlier.
Readers of the One News Now article posted 144 comments before postings were closed.
- "John" posted: "Currently the constitution protects churches, not the IRS, unless of coarse [sic] the constitution is overturned. Congress cannot make any laws regarding the church, period. Only if the constitution is altered or amended. Tax exemption is also not given by congress or the IRS, but again by the constitution. So we are not there yet.
- "GlenB" posted: "In Denmark, the Lutheran Church is the State Church, and as such, is run by the State. In the USA, we have separation of Church and State."
Almost all of the remaining 142 comments seem to have been posted by readers who accepted the article in One News Now as accurate and felt that the the U.S. federal government forcing churches to marry same-sex couples was imminent.
Other conservative Christian web sites picked up this misinformation, apparently without checking original sources. Many of their readers were frightened into believing that all denominations and faith groups in Denmark had to marry same-sex couples, and that this policy might soon spread to the the U.S. That is not possible, because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution creates a "wall of separation" between state and religion in the country. This prohibits the Government from creating a state church. It prohibits the government from imposing beliefs or practices on individual denominations. For centuries, priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc. have refused to marry engaged couples on many grounds: because they were an interracial couple, or were both black, or were judged to be immature, or of the wrong denomination, or interfaith, or of the wrong religion, etc. To our knowledge, no member of the clergy has ever been charged under any law with refusing to marry any couple for any reason.
During 2014-JUN, Niels Messerschmidt, the Information officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Copenhagen, said:
"For the moment we [the Catholic Church in Denmark] are not worried. ... There have been some discussions in the media where people said this legislation should also [include] other religious groups, but there has not been anything from the official level." 8
During 2014-NOV: The web site of the U.S. Embassy at Copenhagen - Denmark is in error:
"Civil marriage ceremonies are now identical whether or not the couple is of the same gender. The law also makes it mandatory for all churches to conduct same-sex marriages; however, the law provides for individual priests to refuse to carry out the ceremony. In cases when a priest declines to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony, the local Bishop is under the obligation to find an alternative solution." 2 [Emphasis by us]
Attempts to have factual errors in the media corrected::
As of 2014-DEC-01, the articles in The Telegraph, One News Now, Vatican Radio and U.S. Embassy at Copenhagen remain uncorrected. We have contacted each via email in an attempt to have the various web sites correct their articles:
- On DEC-01, we sent an email to The Telegraph's Customer Services team, stating:
"Serious error in 2012 article that caused major chaos in U.S. in mid-2014."
"Your article by Richard Orange titled "Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church" at: "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/9317447/Gay-Danish-couples-win-right-to-marry-in-church.html"
contains a serious error.
The author stated that same-sex couples "... won the right to get married in any church they choose ... mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages."
In reality, it is only the state church that must do this. Other denominations and other religions are free to choose whether to marry such couples.
Some U.S. conservative religious web sites picked this article up, and used it to generate fear in the U.S. that the federal government there might force all congregations, denominations, and religions to marry same-sex couples.
Please correct the article ASAP."
Response: Replied two days later asking for more information.
- Also, we sent an email to Vatican Radio:
"You published this article about six months ago, on 2014-JUN-10. Unfortunately, some of its information is garbled.
1) The vote by Denmark's Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage did not occur "last week;" it was two years earlier, in mid-2012.
2) The law does not go into effect on 2014-JUN-15. It went into effect on 2012-JUN-15.
The source of this error appears to be a 2012 article in a UK newspaper, the Telegraph."
Response: none yet.
- We also sent an email to One News Now at the American Family Association:
1. The link from your home page to the "Contact" section is broken.
2. On 2014-JUN-10, Bryan Fischer's article titled "Churches ORDERED to perform sodomy-based wedding ceremonies" contains a number of serious errors.
- "Churches in Denmark - and the U.S. will not be far behind - have been ORDERED to perform sodomy-based weddings whether they want to or not."
In reality, the government ordered the state church to marry same-sex couples as they marry opposite-sex couples. This is a Lutheran Christian denomination, and the order does not apply to any other Church or religious organization in Denmark.
- "No options, no exceptions, no choice. Homosexuals are to be married wherever they want, regardless of whose conscience is trampled and whose sanctuary is defiled in the process."
In reality, it is only the one state church that is required to do this.
- "How long will it be before American churches will be ordered, as a condition of maintaining their tax-exempt status, to host same-sex ceremonies? How long will it be before American pastors are ordered to perform them?
Unless America's pastors rise up as one, now, that day will arrive like a thief in the night, a day when each pastor will be told that he must solemnize sodomy-based marriages in his church or his church's 501(c)(3) status will be revoked. At that point, he and his church will effectively be out of business."
In reality, this is nonsense because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains a separation of church and state clause that prevents federal and state governments from interfering in church policies.
Please correct these error so that your web site visitors will not be needlessly alarmed.
Response: none yet.
- Finally, we sent an email to a webmaster at the U.S. State department, saying:
"You write: 'The law also makes it mandatory for all churches to conduct same-sex marriages; however, the law provides for individual priests to refuse to carry out the ceremony. In cases when a priest declines to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony, the local Bishop is under the obligation to find an alternative solution.'
I believe that this is in error.
Denmark has numerous religious faith groups. One is the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. The meaning of "evangelical" in this context is similar to "Protestant" in North America. The government now requires congregations affiliated with the state church to conduct same-sex marriages as you state. But all the other Christian denominations and other religious groups in Denmark are not under state control and thus can decide for themselves whether to marry same-sex couples or not.
Your present wording could cause, say a Roman Catholic, to approach a Catholic priest, ask to be married, and be immediately rejected.
I recommend that, in order to avoid misunderstandings, you replace the phrase "all churches" with "the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark"
I also recommend that you add a sentence after "solution" that says:
'Other Christian denominations and groups affiliated with other religions are free to decide whether to marry same-sex couples'."
Response: none yet.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Lisa Abend, "A Triumph for Love in Denmark," Time magazine, 2009-JUN-18, at: http://content.time.com/
- "Getting married," U.S. Embassy at Copenhagen -Denmark, undated, at: http://denmark.usembassy.gov/
- "Denmark To Consider Gay Marriage Legislation; Minister Hopes For Same-Sex Weddings By Spring 2012," Huffington Post, 2012-OCT-24, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Stehan Gray, "Denmark set to introduce gay religious wedding ceremonies 'in spring 2012'," Pink News, 2011-NOV-23, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- "Gay Marriage Around the World," Pew Research, 2013-DEC-19, at: http://www.pewforum.org/
- "Denmark approves same-sex marriage and church weddings," BBC News, 2012-JUC-07, at: http://www.bbc.com/
- "Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church," The Telegraph, 2012-JUN-07, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
- "Catholic Church not affected by new same-sex marriage law in Denmark," Vatican Radio, 2014-JUN-10, at: http://en.radiovaticana.va/
- Sarah Jones, "Rotten In Denmark?: AFA’s Fischer Distorts Danish Same-Sex Marriage Law To Scare U.S. Fundamentalists," Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, 2014-JUN-12, at: https://www.au.org/
- The web site of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark is at: http://www.lutheranchurch.dk/
- Bryan Fischer, "Churches ORDERED to perform sodomy-based wedding ceremonies," One News Now, 2014-JUN-11, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2014-DEC-03
Last updated 2014-DEC-03
Author: Bruce A Robinson