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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 3 3 Religious civil partnership proposal put forward 4 New faces at the Friend 5 Trade union wants better protection for God’s workers 6 Poverty breakdown
Peter Kenway 7 Comment
Peggy Heeks and Simon Beard 8-9 Letters 10-11 When Quakers began to shake
Rosemary Emmett 12 Venice: a city marked by genius
Paul Millward 13 Sacred heart
Ron Kentish 14 Not a job, more a way of life
Vicky Darling 15 Alternatives to violence work in the Ukraine
Mary Morris 16 q-eye: clerihews 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: A horse in the snow. Photo: Richard Ogden. Images on this page: Top right: Lesley Smith and Helen Charlton at Mosedale Friends Meeting House. Photo: Colin Smith See page 3. Bottom right: Vicky Darling (left) with Winchester Friends. Photo: Tony Philpott. See page 14.
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the Friend, 15 January 2010 News
Religious civil partnership proposal put forward
Religious groups including Quakers could be allowed to carry out civil partnerships for same-sex couples, if an attempt to change the law is successful.
The proposal appears in an amendment to the Equality Bill currently going through Parliament.
No religious element has been allowed in civil partnership ceremonies since they were introduced in 2005. This could change if Parliament passes the amendment proposed by Waheed Alli, a gay Muslim and member of the House of Lords.
However, the amendment falls short of allowing same-sex couples to marry on the same basis as different-sex couples, a call made by Friends at Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) last year.
Nonetheless, Alli cited Quakers as an example of a group that would be involved in civil partnerships if this were allowed.
‘It must be a matter for churches and religious organisations to decide for themselves but, having decided, the law should not stand in their way’ he said.
The government has taken a very different view, and rejected the amendment. A spokesperson said that ‘the issue was debated at length during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act and the government see no need to revisit it now’.
There have been a number of calls to change the marriage laws over the last year, with BYM’s decision in July being one of the most prominent. In August, the Christian thinktank Ekklesia urged an overhaul of the law to separate religious marriage from the legal registration of relationships. In November a heterosexual couple in London attempted to register for a civil partnership to highlight what they see as the unjust distinction between ‘partnership’ for samesex couples and ‘marriage’ for different-sex couples.
Alli’s proposal is one of many suggested amendments to the Equality Bill. Several conservative pressure groups have called for religious organisations to be exempt from some of the Bill’s provisions, for example those relating to discrimination in employment on grounds of sexuality.
In response, a number of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular organisations have launched the Cutting Edge coalition to campaign against exemptions for faith groups.
Snow no impediment to plucky Friends
Quakers down the centuries have faced arrest, imprisonment and even execution in their attempts to worship freely. But for British Friends in 2010, the biggest barrier to Meeting for Worship has so far been the weather.
Nonetheless, Friends have shown resilience, with a number of Meetings in the areas most affected by snow reporting surprisingly strong turnouts.
At Mosedale Meeting, Helen Charlton was so determined to get to the Meeting house that she took her skis with her.
‘We live about half a mile from the Meeting house but the road was dreadful with thick snow and ice’, explained Colin Smith, who accompanied Helen to Meeting along with his wife, Lesley Smith, ‘hence the necessity for wellies and walking poles’.
It is less than two months since the Meeting was cancelled due to floods, so the three Friends were pleased to be able to make it on this occasion. ‘We do confess to limiting our Meeting to half an hour’, added Colin. Meanwhile, the heavy snowfall led to a surprise visitor at Woking Meeting, when Darth Vader (right, photo by Irene Ridgeon) appeared in the garden, taking the form of a snowman.
‘One person thought we were exercising Quakerly tolerance in allowing it to remain’, explained Woking Friend Irene Ridgeon. ‘Another felt that it represented the ego, which, with greater selfknowledge and spiritual discipline, we could allow to melt away rather than fight in vain’. The most surprising comment came from a Friend who had seen the figure only sideways, and had mistaken it for an image of Elizabeth Fry, with Darth Vader’s helmet appearing as a Quaker bonnet.
the Friend, 15 January 2010