I don’t normally write about sociological issues like this here, but followers of British poliutics may know that the Prime Minister is pushing forward a law to allow homosexuals to marry (rather than entering the current “civil partnerships”) in religious institutions. No church, he reassures us, will be forced to participate.
The media report that the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Evangelical (umbrella group) churches are firmly opposed to this, as are the Muslims and the majority of Jews. But, they say, “some churches are in favour”, such as the Unitarians and the Quakers. Or rather, just these two are in favour. The BBC evening news carried an interview with a Unitarian minister, which since that is not a common occurrence, prompted me to look up the statistics for membership of these two religious groups.
According to a reliable source, current affiliation to Christian churches in the UK is about 5m – a far lower percentage, as you may know, from the US but still nearly 10% without including the mosques and synagogues. The Quakers number around 17,000. And the Unitarians … just over 3,600, according to a source of their own. That works out at about 0.4% of Christians for both groups, if indeed the Unitarians can be considered Christians at all. Which does put the issue in a perspective not really made clear by the media.
Assuming (a) gay people don’t all undergo miraculous conversions to Quakerism of Socinianism in the wake of any change and (b) these churches have the national average proportion of homosexual people, ie just less than 2%, the historical redefinition of marriage is being proposed in order to benefit a maximum of around around 400 people. Or around 70 Unitarians, to define it closer.
Considering the matter democratically (though admittedly rather too loosely, from a statistical point of view) , that has to be balanced against 618,000 who have currently signed the petition organised against the changes by the Coalition for Marriage.
Strangely the Labour, Liberal Democrats and a big chunk of the Conservative Party are strongly in favour of the new law, it is said. You wouldn’t have thought that Quakers and Unitarians would be so over-represented in Parliament, would you?