Dr. Paisley said,
‘The Bill is amazing in many ways. It comes to the House from the European Court. Without that Court's findings, the Bill might not have been put before the House. More and more, the House will be directed to act by similar cases, even though the bodies deciding them are not answerable to the people of this country.
I strongly hold the view that all people, however many, have rights and that those rights should be defended by all. I want to make that absolutely clear to the House tonight. However, if we give certain rights to people, we must be assured that it will not alter the ability of others to keep and practise their rights.
The Government well know that there are deep religious feelings about this matter. I welcome what the Under-Secretary said when he affirmed that he would look again at this matter—or words to that effect—because I do not believe that we can afford to leave it as it stands. There are fears in many churches — especially among those whose views on marriage are of the historic Christian faith—that the Bill could have serious consequences.
The Christian Institute issued a document in March entitled, "Christian beliefs on transsexualism". It referred to passages from the Bible and the works of Christian theologians to support the proposition that
"the body determines personhood, not just the mind",
"Biblical Christians hold that 'sex change' surgery desecrates a body made in the image of God."
The document also stated that
"the Bible teaches that the State should validate what is right and not what is wrong".
For those reasons, individual churches wish to be free to decide on many matters that they believe should be under their control. For example, who should join or lead a women's prayer meeting is a matter for the church; who should use the toilet facilities in a church is a matter for the church; who should be entitled to receive holy communion is a matter for the church.
Religious freedom is primarily a matter of individual conscience, but it also implies freedom to manifest one's religion alone and in private or in community with others in public and within the circle of those whose faith one shares. We must remind ourselves that we have to abide by that. It would be a sad day if the Government were to invade the believer's right to freedom of religious expression and so destroy something that lies at the very heart of true peace and true faith in our land.
These are serious matters, which must be pondered deeply and discussed in a serious way. Some religious rights—such as people's right to bear witness, and to act and enforce uniformity in the organisations that they join voluntarily—are held to be of particular importance. Any threatened interference with those rights by other people will engage the responsibility of the state, but no state interference with them at all can be justified.
As we enter the final part of the debate on the Bill, we must remind ourselves that any attempt to infringe, or do away with, people's religious rights and purposes must be resisted. Some of those rights are now in the melting-pot, and we must face up to that.
Marriage lies at the heart of society. Without it we would have no society. These days we must defend and uphold marriage, and anything that weakens it is very dangerous. No member of my party was on the Standing Committee considering the Bill, so we had no opportunity to express ourselves on these matters. That is why I am expressing myself at Third Reading.
However, some of what the Minister said offered a glimmer of hope. It is possible that the Government are having second thoughts; I hope so. Various religious bodies have spoken on this matter, and the Government cannot treat them with contempt or refuse to consider what they have said. Those bodies have influence: they are part of the warp and woof of our country, and give it stability and prosperity.”