IMMEDIATE 9.00 Saturday 17th June 2006
Marriage should be strengthened, and no-fault divorce and civil partnerships abolished, a prominent Christian think-tank has suggested.
Christian Voice, which has led protests over Jerry Springer the Opera, said that no-fault divorce, civil partnerships and calls for the legal recognition of 'live-in lovers' are undermining the primary social institution ordained for our benefit by God Himself.
Under their proposals, marriage would be recognised and strengthened by an additional 'married couples allowance' equivalent to the single person's allowance, and tax allowances would be transferable between husband and wife. Children's tax allowances should also be used by whichever of a couple is earning the more, the group believes.
The two 'no-fault' reasons for divorce - based on legal separation - would be abolished, along with the vague notion of 'unreasonable behaviour'. The current sole ground for divorce, the oddly-named 'irretrievable breakdown' of the marriage, would be replaced by adultery, desertion and cruelty.
Divorce settlements would be based on justice, in which property and any children would remain with the innocent party. Christian Voice believes that these proposals alone would 'cut the divorce rate by half overnight.'
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said: 'There is a lot of woolly thinking about the nature of human relationships. Human beings crave stability and are offended by injustice. The fact that one party can unilaterally break a solemn covenant and be financially rewarded for doing so flies in the face of justice and compassion.
'Jesus Christ Himself specifically supported marriage when He confirmed the creation ordinance, 'Have ye not read ... they twain shall be one flesh' (Matt 19:4-6) and by being a guest at the wedding in
. He specifically ruled against no-fault divorce and divorce on the grounds of 'unreasonable behaviour' in His discussions with the Pharisees (Matt 18:3,9). In
today we allow what Jesus Christ Himself forbad.
'The fact that when marriage takes place within the Church of England a man and a woman are simultaneously legally and religiously married illustrates the divine ordination of marriage,' he continued. 'Marriage is the first God-given social institution, it is intended to be for life, which the solemn vows made in front of witnesses reflect, and it is the foundation of a stable society. God gave the solidity of the marital union out of His love for mankind. The heart of God is grieved by the alienation, homelessness, deprivation, crime and anti-social behaviour which result from the breakdown of marriage in society. Successive governments have not supported marriage in a joined-up way or indeed at all and the fragmentation of our society we now see is the inevitable consequence.
'Replacing marriage with looser or do-it-yourself unions is an idea not grounded in the reality of the human condition. Those who propose such simplistic notions have to explain why they are prepared to accept more social problems, instability, poverty and misery as a consequence of their ideological departure from what God has put in place for our good.
'Superficially, it could be possible for other denominations to be able to register marriages as part of a religious ceremony, but we need to be careful before trying to fix what already works. I know many free-church Christians are uncomfortable with the current status of the Church of England as the 'established Church', but a moment's refection reveals that status to be the central plank of the British Christian constitution. Remove the establishment of the Church of England, and you remove the establishment of the Christian Faith itself, and the belief that our monarch and her government are not autonomous but subject to God. The understanding that our rulers are under a higher power is the main guarantee of our freedom.
'It is intellectually incoherent to say that our current divorce rate of around 40% is evidence that legal marriage 'isn't working'. More rigorous analysis would show it is actually because it is too easy to initiate divorce and be rewarded for adultery or desertion. Reverse that legal presumption against the solemnity of marriage, and we would cut the divorce rate by half - at least - overnight. But if we think marriage is in trouble, just wait until civil partnerships start being legally dissolved. Mankind thinks it is really clever to go against what God has ordained, but it always ends in tears.'